June 29, 2012
Wait a minute-- what poetry isn’t ekphrastic? I couldn’t write another poem without the other poems I’ve read. Without the arts there would be no arts. I consider all poetry ekphrastic in some sense. So let’s day it’s about “ Gurenica ”. Fine, ekphrasis. Or about Michaelangelo’s “ David ” or a Turner sky , Grieg’s Piano Concerto , something from Elvis’s Sun sessions , Burl Ives “Blue Tailed Fly” or “I Want You to Want Me” . All ekphrasticisms.
Ekphrasticism has morphed into ekphrasticitis, has taken over more workshops than loosestrife in Minnesota (watch out sestina) and I’m sick of it. I think people like the word. It’s hard to spell, difficult to mouthe and impresses others a lot. Poets around the world are having ekphrastigasms in groups and in public. There’s even the thought that our poems derive shiny particles of greatness from their ekphrastic gods.
I bow before art, worship the ones whose work went before, the ones I cannot measure up to. I write because of them, sometimes in response to specific works. This is not unique. If ekphrasis causes you to ponder, deepens the pool you dredge your poems from, then good-- great. Incorporate this into your practice of writing and living.
Otherwise I propose to ban the word for five years, or maybe twenty. Re-name the seminars with something like “The Importance of Stuff that Came Before” or “Plagiarizing Passion”, or “Stealing Wallace Stevens’s Jar”. Honor the art. Don’t cheapen it with haute demotics. And when you go to poetry camp refuse to write ekphrastic poems. Instead, watch films of Sam Snead swinging a golf club or Joe Dimaggio running the bases . Your poetry will be better for it.
Yes, I’m still going away the 7th through the 14th.