Ekphrastic Fantastic

I’m sitting in the window seat at Cafe Lemont and it’s sunny for the first time in days. Bright scrim of snow on the gravel driveway, and huge, vibrant, impressionistic oil paintings on the walls. These are new and I’m not sure I like them. Monet colors.  Cotton candy. And the one hanging directly in front of me, circus peanut orange.

The last time I was here writing, art was all around me, too. I’ve been trying to come up with a new poetry project because I’ve actually been in the mood to write poems, which is something unusual for me lately. It’s been at least a year since I’ve written anything besides prose and it feels good to remember this other part of me. The chapbook publications catalyzed this, I’m sure.

Reading a friend’s gorgeous chapbook of poems about the Italian painter and sculptor, Amedeo Modigliani (which I will be writing a proper review for very soon) also seems to have sparked something in me. I’ve always loved ekphrastic poems, and suddenly, sitting here, thinking about her project and how much I enjoyed the process of writing in response to Paul’s photos last year, I realized that maybe I have such a book in me.

(I am, of course, suddenly loath to describe it here in any great detail, even though I have in fact thought about it in great detail indeed. I can see it as a completed whole, but it occurs to me that–ha!–that’s not enough, is it? I need to actually write the poems! So describing its contours and textures will do one of two things: either inspire me to write them or else shut me down entirely…)

No. I’m not going to shut down. I’m excited to be beginning something. My new project will be a collection that includes both ekphrastic poems and autobiographical poems, and will draw its inspiration from the work of certain Post-Impressionist artists of Les Nabis–Bonnard, Vuillard, Vallotton, others–who took as their inspiration the space of the domestic interior. Domestic interiority being, of course, one of my principle interests and main threads in both my poetry and prose. And these, not surprisingly given our shared delights, are painters whose work I have always loved. It feels like an excellent match.

What draws me to these paintings (and those of Vermeer and Hopper and others who might also find a way into this project) is that quality of intimacy you encounter upon viewing them. It feels as if you have stumbled into the middle of someone’s private moment. Eavesdropper, you cup your ear to hear them better.

So, poems after paintings of rooms, and poems after memories of rooms–actual ones from my life– and the conversations (and soliloquies) that occurred therein. To me, that’s what ekphrasis is: more than simple description, it’s a conversation (negotiation, flirtation) between two pieces of art.

Yep. I’m excited.

I even have a (really good) title for the book. But I’m not telling you that, yet. Art-making requires a little mystery, no?

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