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Ekphrasis

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
Ekphrasis derives from the Ancient Greek words áź�Îş and φĎ�ÎŹĎƒÎšĎ‚ and has come to denote a written  description, usually literary or poetic, in response a work of art, most usually a painting. However, in Ancient Greece it was as likely simply to refer to the skill of describing something in vivid detail. Think of it as a reversal of the saying "a picture paints a thousand words". 
Ekphrastic poetry usually, but not always, combines a vivid description of the work of art along with some element of the poet's emotional response to the artwork.

Ekphrasis

Bathers and Rocks by Dorothea Sharp

I love art, paintings in particular. Art and English were my favorite subjects at primary school and I used to enjoy painting as a child almost as much as I enjoyed reading. At secondary school we were only allowed to take 3 A-levels and so I had to sacrifice Art for English (always my first choice) because of a timetabling conflict. (Geography and History were my other two A-levels.)
I have painted sporadically over the years. At university my friends bought me a fabulous set if oil paints and later I got into airbrush art. Some of my paintings still hang on friends' walls. I loved the smell of oil paint almost as much as I loved the smell of ink.
I've always enjoyed going to art museums, both in the UK and abroad (France mostly, but also Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Russia and USA), and reading about the lives and works of painters I admire. I've built up quite a large library of monographs over the years about my favorite painters, mostly Impressionist and later (see the image below). 
I used to go to exhibitions and galleries and when finances have allowed it, I've bought paintings of works that I like, almost always by relatively unknown artists with an affordable price tag.

Ekphrasis

my bookshelf of monographs about my favorite artists

Given my enjoyment of reading, writing and the visual arts, it has always seemed quite natural to me to write poetry in response to artworks. I suppose I was doing it even before I realised that's what it was or that it was a recognised poetic form. Sometimes I've written in response to a specific painting. On other occasions it's been more a response to the way an artist works; for instance my poem "On Viewing Jackson Pollock" which you'll find in the 2016 blog linked > here
Today I thought I'd write a haiku inspired by the theme of sea-bathing off rocks. It's based on not one but two paintings. The first is by Dorothea Sharp (1873-1955), a little-known English painter much influenced by the Impressionist Monet (about whom I blogged earlier this month), and most regarded for her landscapes and depictions of children at play. She combined them both in 'Bathers and Rocks' above. The second, 'Bathers on Rocks' is by her much more famous Norwegian contemporary, Edvard Munch (1863-1944), who was heavily influenced by the Post-Impressionists, Gaugin, Toulouse-Lautrec and Van Gogh in particular. He is probably best known for his painting 'The Scream'.  

Ekphrasis

Bathers on Rocks by Edvard Munch

Both paintings remind ne to some degree of of seaside holidays on rocky coasts in two separate eras: my boyhood summer vacations in Cornwall and Devon, and then holidays with my own young children some thirty years later in Brittany. I may extend the haiku when time and tide permit. đŸ˜‰
Bathersrocky sea kids allbaptised in the brine of joylimbs fresh from the swell
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