Without a conversation there can be no art.
Both artists and audiences must keep company with or live amongst art in order for it to become familiar and known. I am compelled by the conversation that is generated by visual arts. Thus, it only seems natural that I would be drawn to a genre of poetry that engages with seen or imagined masterpieces.
Ekphrasis comes from the Greek and refers to the speaking out or offering a vivid description of art. Throughout time poets have engaged in the conversation provoked by visual arts; just as, visual artists have been inspired by poetry to create paintings and sculpture.
Visual art masterpieces are springboards from which the poet can prove that great art offers contemporary enlightenment and metaphysical transformation. Therefore, ekphrastic poetry is a rich and fulfilling way to listen to the conversation between the arts.
Max Ernst is one of my favourite 20th century painters. I came across his Attirement of the Bride and The Antipope in Peggy Guggenheim’s house on Venice’s Grand Canal. Despite the treasure trove of Pollocks, Cornells and Giacomettis I stopped at these two Ernst paintings and could not move.
My girlfriend was waiting for me outside and kept sending in messages for me to cease and desist (aka get the hell out of the gallery) but I couldn’t move.
If I was a poet of greater skill then I would have written something about the horror and beauty of betrayal painted in oil on canvas in front of me. I would have composed lines about the savagery and brutality of rejection. Husband to wife. Newly acquired lover poised and textured with avarice and pride. And I would have versified that primordial sense of being so absolutely alone and that there is nothing redemptive beyond this despair.
But that poem is waiting for someone else to compose …
Meanwhile, these two herculean paintings, Attirement of the Bride and The Antipope, continue to talk to each other – long after I have left, long after the lights have been turned off , long after security has closed up, and long after Max Ernst and his wife Peggy Guggenheim and his lover Leonora Carrington are cold in their graves.
Elizabeth’s first book, The Alchemy of Poetry, is available now! It would make the perfect gift for someone who is interested in the world of art and poetry and history and politics and love and death and war and the sublime – because the 160 poems selected in The Alchemy of Poetry succinctly and pitch perfectly offer all this and so much more!
Get your copy and send Elizabeth your review!
The Alchemy of Poetry by Elizabeth Guy
Published by Dreaming Big Publications
Paperback; 470 pages; ISBN-13 : 978-1947381414
Genre: Ancient, Classical and Contemporary Poetry; Education and Teaching; Non fiction