Monday, January 31, 2011

"A picture is a poem without words"

Horace said that. But I think both picture and words can touch the human spirit more deeply than either, alone. Poet and friend, Caroline Gill, in Swansea, Wales, introduced me to the word "ekphrastic." I just knew the picture/word combo as an illustrated poem.

Ekphrasis: Writing that comments upon another art form, for instance a poem about a photograph or a novel about a film. Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn" is a prime example of this type of writing, since the entire poem concerns the appearance and meaning of an ancient piece of pottery.

Our latest snow was certainly not of any historic depth, but when I watched it falling on a small tree outside my window...which I did not photograph at the time and now, the snow is gone...Well then, strictly speaking (what a bore) this is not an example of Ekphrasis after all, is it? But too close to call--or a near miss? Perhaps, "A poem is a picture without...? No, well on with it...

During that first light snow last week before we received the real thing, I was struck at how the flakes appeared to be napping or sleeping on the more horizontal branches closer to the ground. Initially on my way out the door to do some errand, I turned around, sat back down at the round metal table, and wrote this, then edited it and posted on Moontown Cafe in the updated version.

The positive comments received there by other writers gave energy to my sharing it with you.

An Aside: More snow is predicted in the next day or two here in Ellicott City, Maryland, but only dainty flurries, mixed with a bit of dreaded ice. The mid-section of the country will be hit by a major storm, however, and we won't know if it inspires poetry about sleeping snow on branches. But I imagine a lot of pictures will be taken. Thanks, Horace!

Snow on Tree Branches

Pure offspring of sky,
on lower branch arms,
while above,
spiky newborns
reaching upward, hungry for
the breast of this pristine morn,
quietly drink their fill,
then pierce the winter air
with silent joy.


Blog post: January 31, 2011
Content and photos: Kay Weeks


Caroline Gill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Caroline Gill said...

Whoops, sorry!

Take 2: a very topical post, Kay. It's particularly cold here at present as we have workmen coming in and out, and consequently lots of wintry draughts . . .

I love the way in which Horace comes full circle in your post. What evocative photos, too. Thank you for sharing these with us. I enjoyed looking at the hoar frost crystals as we went out and about over the w/e - but, in all honestly, I will be glad when the temperatures rise a bit!

Anonymous said...

There are many ekphrastic poems from works of art.
I tend to gain inspiration when someone sends a postcard - and sometimes it sparks a poem.
A picture may speak a thousand words, but most ekphrastic poems are considerably shorter, but describe what is seen, together with a meaning or emotion that sparked the poet... of course, the photographer can also be sparked to frame the picture...

Anonymous said...

Great blog, Kay... the snow-covered trees make me feel peaceful and contemplative. we have them here, too...but they did sustain some damage.

Sharon Crain
Catonsville, MD