Wednesday, October 21, 2009


During our discussions of ekphrasis, Maria asked an intriguing question: What's the difference between intertextuality and allusion? There's no one answer to this question, and depending on who you ask, you'll get a different answer. But this doesn't mean that there haven't been worthwhile explorations of intertextuality, allusion, and distinctions between the two.
Here are some resources:

Julia Kristeva's Desire in Language (JK credited with coining "intertextuality")
This webpage is okay for various ways in which the two terms have been defined, as well as for providing examples in visual texts
William Irwin, "What is an Allusion?"
William Irwin, "Against Intertextuality"
A good introduction to intertextuality (and example) on YouTube here


Ariana mentioned the beautiful lyricism of Neruda's poetry, which of course is lost (or at best changed) in translation, so I thought I'd post the original here. Note for example the off-rhyme/eye-rhyme between "sombra" and "hombre" in the third stanza. There is sense in sound--intelligence and feeling in sound--and it's worth looking into various translations of poems to see how each translator handles the sound of the original.
If you don't have Spanish, you can listen to various readings of "Walking Around"--some better than others--on YouTube.

Walking Around

Sucede que me canso de ser hombre.
Sucede que entro en las sastrerías y en los cines
marchito, impenetrable, como un cisne de fieltro
navegando en un agua de origen y ceniza.

El olor de las peluquerías me hace llorar a gritos.
Sólo quiero un descanso de piedras o de lana,
sólo quiero no ver establecimientos ni jardines,
ni mercaderías, ni anteojos, ni ascensores.

Sucede que me canso de mis pies y mis uñas
y mi pelo y mi sombra.
Sucede que me canso de ser hombre.

Sin embargo sería delicioso
asustar a un notario con un lirio cortado
o dar muerte a una monja con un golpe de oreja.
Sería bello
ir por las calles con un cuchillo verde
y dando gritos hasta morir de frío.

No quiero seguir siendo raíz en las tinieblas,
vacilante, extendido, tiritando de sueño,
hacia abajo, en las tripas mojadas de la tierra,
absorbiendo y pensando, comiendo cada día.

No quiero para mí tantas desgracias.
No quiero continuar de raíz y de tumba,
de subterráneo solo, de bodega con muertos
ateridos, muriéndome de pena.

Por eso el día lunes arde como el petróleo
cuando me ve llegar con mi cara de cárcel,
y aúlla en su transcurso como una rueda herida,
y da pasos de sangre caliente hacia la noche.

Y me empuja a ciertos rincones, a ciertas casas húmedas,
a hospitales donde los huesos salen por la ventana,
a ciertas zapaterías con olor a vinagre,
a calles espantosas como grietas.

Hay pájaros de color de azufre y horribles intestinos
colgando de las puertas de las casas que odio,
hay dentaduras olvidadas en una cafetera,
hay espejos
que debieran haber llorado de vergüenza y espanto,
hay paraguas en todas partes, y venenos, y ombligos.

Yo paseo con calma, con ojos, con zapatos,
con furia, con olvido,
paso, cruzo oficinas y tiendas de ortopedia,
y patios donde hay ropas colgadas de un alambre:
calzoncillos, toallas y camisas que lloran
lentas lágrimas sucias.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Here's a dog walk poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Note how the speaker isn't walking but observes a dog walking and imagines its thoughts and perceptions and so forth.

("democratic dog / engaged in real / free enterprise") A politics of transportation: what is it that connects walking to democracy, as if it were somehow more egalitarian than, say, riding regal? And what about the politics of animals: a "democratic dog" as opposed to, say, an elitist cat?

For the digital music generation, it may be helpful to note that "his head cocked sideways / at streetcorners / as if he is just about to have / his picture taken / for Victor Records / listening for / His Master's Voice" refers to Nipper, the dog featured on Victor RCA records.

Although not a walk poem, James Merrill's "The Victor Dog" is also about Nipper. Click here for an annotated version of Merrill's poem.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Devon DiMatteo

Being an art major, writing an ekphrastic poem sounded like it would fun and easy because of my experiance being able to annilyze art. That was not the case. I actually had trouble writing this poem. i knew when i got the assignment that I wanted to do the "LOVE" sign because it is my favorite piece of art in Philadelphia. I knew I wanted to write a poem dealing with the "O" and why it is slated compared to the rest. The process I took to write this poem was different from the process i took to write my object poem because instead of describing an object, I was making up a story about the piece of art. When I started to write the poem, for some reason all that came to mind was rhyme. I liked having a rhyme scheme because the statue to me is a "feel good" statue and the poem I wanted to create had to do with imperfect love. About to give up for the night working on my poem, something came to me. It was short and sweet, and exactly what I was going for.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ekphrastic 2

Never even hearing of an ekphrastic poem before right away I was intrigued as to what kind of poem it actually was. When I learned that an ekphrastic poem was a poem relating to a piece of art and for our assignment we had to choose a piece of artwork in the Philadelphia area, I immediately thought of the fresco on 17th and Montgomery. Writing this poem was somewhat difficult for me at first because I was unaware of what the artwork actually meant. I knew the story I believed the mural was telling and I wanted to make sure I got the point across in my poem. After I began to put words to my interpretation, the poem began to simply flow. After the initial hardship of the first line, my overall experience writing my first ekphrastic poem was very enjoyable. I really liked having the opportunity to critically view the mural and express my thoughts in the form of a insightful poem. I honestly think that although I never met the artist of the fresco, having the chance to truly reflect on the piece made me feel close to the painter. I believe I gave the mural words and a voice.

Poetics 2

Because I’m from Philadelphia, before I went out to any museum or studio to look at art work that moves me, I sat and thought about artwork, murals, and sculptures around the city that had already inspired me in some way. I immediately thought about the freedom sculpture that is on 16th and Race streets. As I child, when I first saw the sculpture, I thought that it was scary and very unattractive. But now, I realize the passion and beauty behind it. I revisited the sculpture and decided that when I write my poem I would focus on each stage. I felt that writing about each stage individually would be easier and more effective.
When I actually began writing the poem, I felt like I was writing an object poem. I wasn’t sure is I was completing the assignment correctly, and putting it in the right format. I decided to write down and review all of the notes I took on the sculpture and then refer to the sample poems to see how they were written. Landscape of the Fall of Icarus was the poem that gave me the most inspiration, and the idea on how to format my peom.

Poetic 2

In complete honesty the ekphrastic poem proved to me to be very difficult not because i had nothing to write about the subject but because i had so much to write. The painting "Large Bathers" made an overwhelmingly large impression on me when I visited the Philadelphia Art Museum. I sat there at odd ends with it, just staring deeply into it, attempting to figure out what it meant to me and then what the artist's intended meaning. I wrote about seventeen poems about the work, while sitting there. One about the trees, the other about the body of water, the next about the barely visible church steeple that you have to squint to see. When I left, I came home and still stared the piece going through each work I did, in an attempt to figure out which one I felt closest to. To be honest I felt distant to them all, and I ended up chosing one that I chose just because I thought i may fill the requirements the best. Now in retrospect I wish I could have spent a just a couple more days on it. Besides the frustration and the lack of space left in my notebook, I really did enjoy my experience with the poem. I felt as if it really brought sense of enlightment that weekend, and humbled me tremendously.

Poetics 2

I thought writing the object poems first was a good preparation for writing the ekphrastic poems. A lot ofthe same concepts that I used in writing the object applied to the ekphrastic one, except the difference with the ekphrastic poem, for me at least was that I put a little bit more of how i felt and how the piece of art work made me feel. I wrote about a sculpture of two hands joining together. To me it reminded me of hands that were joining together in prayer. I brought out a lot of emotions in me that I couldn't even believe. Art is very moving and this piece in particular struck something within me the second I layed my eyes on it.
I set for a good hour just examining it. I looking at every angle just letting the feeling wash over me. I think i could have done a little more decribing of the actual sculpture in my poem, which i plan to do in my revisions. But, i truly enjoyed writing this one. I think i ran into a little difficulty with exactly how much emotional aspects I can add into the poem because the first one was just a description of an object. Also was hard not to speak during the discussion group and explain ourselves. Overall, this was my favorite so far.

Poetics 2

When I began the ekphrastic poem I viewed it as a communication with the art. The artwork I chose was a new mural in the business school called, “Illumination of the Mind”. It is a huge work and unable to be seen as a whole, so I focused on the right half. I wrote first about what struck me first, the bright colors and shapes. Then I focused on the forms those shapes and colors organized themselves to represent. At one place was a girl and at another a man. I then ventured into what the painting would physically say if the characters were alive. In other words I extracted the meaning in words, as it communicated to me in visual stimuli. What worked was the thought more than the execution. The wording was tricky and the structure hard to understand. Without the work itself the poem was difficult comprehend. Though Anne Sexton’s poem “The Starry Night” was the most influential sample I had read, the poem I came up with did not reflect my preference. The clear reference to the art work and my vulnerability to it were not expressed. I approached this poem with too much of an objective poem mindset. To rework it my imagination must delve into self and relate it to the physical painting. Instead of a commentary, the poem needs to be a conversation.

Poetics 2

While I was writing my ekphrastic poem I sat in Love park and just watched the statue. I have always admired this statue and was very excited to start my poem on it. There is just something about the statue that gives off a great emotion, just looking at it reminds me of my childhood, my family, friends, etc. I believe it is the structure of the statue that says so much, because it takes a word that is a perfect feelings and shows it so imperfectly. No type of love is perfect, everybody has there ups and downs with people they love and the statue reflects that.
Because I took in emotion when I was writing and related the statue to personal relationships, The morning picture inspired me the most. This painting was just so deep and the poem matched it perfectly. It was also about a personal relationship, I really like things with a personal touch so it inspired me to bring my parents into the poem.
Writing the ekphastic poem was similar to writing the object poem because it was a process of just looking at an object and writing about it. However, my ekphrastic and object poems were different because while writing the ekphrastic poem I brought personal relationship into the work and I made it relate to me while when doing the object poem I strictly wrote about the object not including my feeling of relationship toward it.
The ekphrastic poem was a very imaginative process because instead of just looking at a work of art and describing it, it is more like telling a story where a person can put his or her own personal twist on the work. Every person may see or feel something different while looking at the same artwork, and that is what makes ekphrastic poems so interesting because reading one poem may open up someones eyes in a way they never looked at the artwork before.
Writing a poem and creating a piece of art are both similar and different. In the sense one is visual and on is a voice they differ. However both works can speak, for example while reading a poem a person may be able to picture what he or she is reading and while looking at a painting, sculpture, etc. a person may be able to create their own story behind it.

Poetry 2

The experience writing the ekphrasis poem was much more enjoyable then writing the object poem. The poetry I tend to write and that I am comfortable with writing tends to be about the world around me or how I am feeling at that particular moment. My subject for the ekphrasis poem was the LOVE park statue in Love Park. Since the statue is a large part of Philadelphia and the statue is part of a park. Instead of looking directly at the artwork itself I looked at how the artwork reacted with its environment and the environment in turn reacted to the artwork. I looked at the park as the canvas. This added a unique look I believe on the outlook of the poem. The style of ekphrasis poem is without a doubt much easier then an object poem as you can bring yourself into the experience.

Poetics 2

The King

In an unfamiliar room
of a strange country,
we are both foreigners.

He came from far away,
the country of tough wind
and hot sands

The words were written,
but I could not read them.
He was sitting in front of me,
but he did not say anything.

He lost his arms.
His waist got broken.
And his face was worn out.

However, he was pretending
to be indifferent.

I chose the statue of Ramesses II in Penn Museum because the statue gave me a deep impression. When I saw the statue at the first time, I thought why that is here not Egypt. Then, I suddenly recognized that I have kept asking the question to me since I came in America. I felt I did not belong to here, and I thought the Ramesses II does not belong here either. Therefore, I wrote about this feeling.
First of all, I observed the room that the statue in. Ramesses was the greatest king in Egypt, but the room was look shabby to him. The statue was in the middle of the big room, and people just pass by it. There is nothing to protect it.
Next, I observed the statue itself. There were the letters on the chair that the Ramesses was sitting, and there is vague explanation about that. There is a big crack on its waist. The arms were gone, and the face was worn out. I wrote about these observations.
Writing this ekpharastic poem, I focused on the connection between the statue and me. It left its country, and it is broken. I left my country, and I was wounded in my mind. I think that is the different from an object poem. I personified the statue of Ramesses as a person. Also, I could express the surroundings of the statue. Therefore, I could write more vivid poem.
However, that was just only my feeling about the statue. I wonder everybody could sympathize with me, and that is the difficult part of writing this ekpharastic poem to me.

Poetics 2

My process of ekphrastic poetry was quite the experience. In fact, I had been possessed by the throws of either real and/or imagined passion. I took liberties to allow my self to become fully engrossed IN the art piece, and consumed BY the art piece. I pondered, stared, approached the piece in a focused way, approached the piece in a willy nilly and loosy goosy sort of fashion, held consideration for communicating to the community, held ‘inconsiderate’ and selfish states of being, I described the piece detail/specificity by detail/specificity in a tight and concise manner in one sitting of late night and morning, and in another sitting reflected upon the art’s origins.

I had discovered the wonderful piece of artwork in a stranger’s trash in center city. It was in a bag. Upon first sighting, I was in love. It was lovely; a shark on a surf board, surfing the waves, backed by a gorgeous sky. I crossed out the “origin section” that I wrote for “what’s reason,” and eluded to the poem’s own peculiarity of having a crossed out section, within that very same crossed out section. Aside from merely the origins of this Sharky trashed found art, I also tapped into an almost impetuous and ‘emotional’ sensibility. I packed it full of subtext, a bit of intertextuality, and clichés/preconceived notions after thoughts; stream of consciousness styled, yet very much edited and thought out: in FACT, meditative. One part of my ‘ego’ thought of the crossed out section as inferior to the first descriptive section, another part thought of it as a separate piece, another thought of it as something extra, like a secret track on an album or a little extra ‘neato’ sort of thing. I also wanted to subversively gesture at the entire notion of trash vs. treasure, correct vs. wrong, focused vs. unfocused, serious vs. funny, adult/mature vs. childish/immature, etc. (dualities). I felt that presenting a piece that is seemingly unfinished and/or faulty in ways, would further knock down the fourth wall so to speak. I tapped into a sense of truth in fiction based upon this art piece; an art piece which is no more than a material covered with lines and points and colors in such a fashion as to form a picture that fools the mind into the belief of a shark and surf board (and so on and so forth) that is truly non-existent, some or many might say.

It might also be said that the picture also looked a bit cartoonish. I wrote of it in a serious sort of way, yet old children’s story style as well. In ways, I planned. But in other ways, simultaneously, I let go, relaxed, and let the poem flow though me; revealing itself, as if I were a vessel being spoken through or possessed.

My poem was the product of my interpretation of the sharky art piece, broken down to its lowest common denominator as to feel in the first person perspective as if I were not merely my own perspective, but the objective art’s internal subjectivity. This gave rise to a feeling of altruism and genuine care. It was truly spectacular. It is in this way that, for me, writing the ekphrastic poem was similar to the object poem.

I learned a great deal IN and THROUGH the process and productivity of the ekphrastic poem. I had a blast, honestly. At times, it was if I had been big banged.

Lecture and class discussion were very helpful, as were all of the sample poems (particularly the one by Anne Sexton about Van Gogh’s Starry Night, which struck a heavy chord in me).

Poetics 2

For the Ekphrastic poem, I decided I would walk around the Philadelphia Art Museum until something caught my attention and then wrtie about that piece. I really wanted the art to catch my attention so I purposely walked around the museum at a normal pace, just glancing at the art as I passed. When the art finally chose me, I was standing in front of Winslow Homer's "The Lifeline" in the early-American exhibit. In a gold frame against a deep-red wall, I knew I had found my poem. I took a seat in front of the painting and began to write. My style of writing involves no stop-and-think. I just write what comes to me as it comes to me. The first thing my eyes went to was the first thing I wrote. Begining with the title, I incorporated the word "lifeline" into the first stanza. From there, I became the man in the painting to give it voice. As my eyes moved, my focus changed. The toughest thing about writing this poem was finding a painting to write about. I spent more time looking around the museum then writing. The other difficulty I had was finding the right words. I wrote it the way it came to me and I didn't like some of the phrasing but I had trouble finding another way of saying it. My main goal of this poem was to give the character in the painting a voice and I think I achieved that.

Poetics 2

While walking through the museum I was feeling tired and uninspired until I saw this sculpture of a girl. Sculptures don’t usually “move” me, but this one stayed in my memory while I walked through the rest of the museum. I finally went back to the sculpture and began scribbling down my immediate emotions while examining the girl. As I was examining her I began to feel sympathetic towards the inanimate object. I began to wonder why she is covering herself—hiding her face from everyone. So, when I wrote the poem I knew that I wanted to include the question “What is she hiding from?” But I began to see myself in the sculpture so I changed the question to “What are you hiding from?” I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going with the poem, and I am still not satisfied with it. I know that I felt so much more than this while looking at the girl, but as I examined her I found myself becoming less poetic and sounding more like an art historian.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Poetics 2

The Ekphrastic Poem was my favorite so far. I really enjoyed interpreting a piece of artwork and "re-interpreting" it into words. I didn't want to merely describe it, I wanted to speak to it. Give it words, metaphor, and voice. I decided to write from the second person. Seeing as how I am the outsider looking in I wanted to tell her story from my perspective. I didn't want to speak for her. Writing and painting are very similar in my opinion. However, I think that poetry gives more leeway to the reader. It allows the reader to create their own piece of art in their minds (given enough imagery). The picture is already there with a painting. The brightness and colors, the strokes, the texture- everything is provided.

While writing the poem I learned that images work well with my imagination. I learned that I easily build stories when given images. Adding the poetry came easily. I picked a picture that I felt I could really relate to, and just started writing. It was great!

Poetics 2

My poem was inspired by a favorite painting, in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, “At the Moulin Rouge: The Dance” by Henri de Toulouse Lautrec. At the museum, I walked around looking for some of my favorite pieces and explored some new exhibits, searching for something to catch my attention. I have always found this painting very inviting and fun. The movement and the lady with the red stockings catch the eye and capture a world of dance and entertainment. I began by reading the note along side the painting, about the author and subject. The subject of the painting is said to be Valentin le Désossé, a well-known cabaret performer, nick-named the “Boneless Man”. I also discovered that the painting was actually hung over the bar at the Moulin Rouge for years. The painting then seemed to me to serve as a window, as most paintings do, into a different time. I was intrigued by this and began to examine the painting closer, noticing the flow of the characters and colors. From here, I began to jot down what I saw and imagine how that night may have felt to someone entering the Moulin Rouge night club with bits and piece of French culture hanging in the air. I did not want to just describe the painting, but rather comment on it in a way that would give it personality, or different dimension, without bringing the poem to a place that was too fictional. The writing of a poem in response to a painting should complement that painting and give it voice by putting colors and the emotions which they evoke into words.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Poetics 2

Within the process of writing my ekphrastic poem, I found that it was much different than writing my object poem. I found the object poem much more difficult to write than the ekphrastic, because I thought it easier to speak as a piece of art, than to poetically explore and write about an object.
With the ekphrastic poem, your imagination has the ability to run ramped. This adds both positive and negative elements to your writing. I found that if you go with your wondering imagination, you can go too far and misinterpret the art work, or even take it for granted. If you ignore your imagination you can potentially take away from the work, not giving it the justice it deserves. This challenge in disciplining your imagination can be very difficult, but forces you to really pay attention to your language.
Being a film major, I have found that the visual arts, and language go hand in hand. While studying the elements and aspects of film, I have been able to incorporate those same elements in my writing, especially in poetry. Line, symmetry, pattern, shape, form, color, repetition, are all elements of both artworks. There is definitely more to do for a poet than just describe the visual arts. For one, participate in the visual arts. Second, collaborate with another artist to bring your poem to life and share it with a more broad audience. The ability to share your works, literary or visual, is such a vital part of being an artist, and why not use each other to collaborate?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ekphrastic Poem (Vietnam War Memorial) -Brian Boyle

"Reflection on the Vietnam War Memorial"
Jeffrey Harrison (1987)

Here is, the back porch of the dead.
You can see them milling around in there,
screened in by their own names,
looking at us in the same
vague and serious way we look at them.

An underground house, a roof of grass --
one version of the underworld. It's all
we know of death, a world
like our own (but darker, blurred).
inhabited by beings like ourselves.

The location of the name you're looking for
can be looked up in a book whose resemblance
to a phone book seems to claim
some contact can be made
through the simple act of finding a name.

As we touch the name the stone absorbs our grief.
It takes us in -- we see ourselves inside it.
And yet we feel it as a wall
and realize the dead are all
just names now, the separation final.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Love is Imperfect
As most of us know

Proof found not only in us
But also in the “O”

Tilted to the right
On top of the “E"

The second letter in "LOVE"
Sits imperfectly

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

At the Moulin Rouge: The Dance

At the Moulin Rouge: The Dance
by Henri de Toulouse Lautrec

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Secret Girl

What are you hiding from?
I see your cracks, your uneven surface—all imperfections

What are you hiding from?
the unsatisfiable eyes that examine you

What are you hiding from?
the artificial world that surrounds you

Why are you hiding?
don’t hide— for it is impossible.

We are all on display.

Ramesses II

LOVE Park Statue

A copy of the draft of the Poem.

VE Park

Oh. How ironic.
Oh. How delusional we all must be.
In this city of Brotherly Love


On its pedestal, judging our every move.
Our broken...


There is no love.
There is no love,
on this canvas of a city
that we call Philly.

Representing LOVE
Couples in LOVE
A City in LOVE
With poverty and starving and murder

Holding hands smiling for the camera
Cheese! Kissing! Laughing!

Only to ignore their brother
Suffering! Shivering! Starving!

Deceiving, meaning LOVE
and Blood
Red is for the LOVE

But this red, OUR red

Red for the Blood that has been shed
Only if our LOVE
Was no longer broken into pieces but together we all could LOVE again, only then


Monday, October 5, 2009

Lauren Siliani
(Ekphrastic Poem)

Poet Girl

Alexis Kaczka Moby Dick

I visited the Brandywine River Museum and they had works by printmaker and woodcarver Rockwell Kent. If anyone wants to visit this museum, it's only a short drive from the city, and for students admission is only $6, definatly worth checking out.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Freedom by Zenos Frudakis
Sculpture located at 16th and Race on the side of the Glaxo Smith Kline building...

Friday, October 2, 2009

"The Life Line" -Winslow Homer


As we move from talking about ekphrastic forms to a more general discussion about the politics of ekphrasis, it may be helpful to do some research on intertextual elements in the poems by Rita Dove and Elizabeth Alexander.

Click on the links below to connect to some basic online resources:

Venus of Willendorf

Sara Baartman

There are also many good YouTube videos on both the Venus and Sara Baartman.