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Art Confronting Art For your next reading response and poem Im asking you to explore ekphrastic poetry.

Ekphrasis (also spelled "ecphrasis") is a direct transcription from the Greek ek, "out of," and phrasis, "speech" or "expression." It's often been translated simply as "description," and seems originally to have been used as a rhetorical term designating descriptive prose or poetry. More narrowly, it could designate a passage providing a short speech attributed to a mute work of visual art. In recent decades, the use of the term has been limited, first, to visual description and then even more specifically to the description of a real or imagined work of visual art. Reading Response Due Friday September 20: The poems that follow all take their inspiration from visual art, film, photography, and a national landmark. In addition to the guiding questions from you syllabus, some additional questions you might explore for your reading response include: - Whats the relationship between the poem and art object? - Does the poem extend, confront, subvert, contradict, offer a new explanation, or detour entirely from the object of inspiration? - How do the poets use the art object as a springboard for their own writing? Choose a specific poem and analyze this departure. Poem Due Tuesday Sept 24: I want you to write a poem inspired by an art object of some kind. This can include paintings, photography (personal or public), sculptures, landmarks, structures (bridges, buildings, roads), graffiti, found objects, film, television shows, ballet, opera, or youname-it. Only caveat: you must bring an image to share with the class. Grab someone from class and make a day of it; visit some museums in NYC: Put an image of the art object on the dropbox of Sakai by Tuesday before class. Bring 25 copies of your poem to class on Tuesday. As a wise man once said, make it work.

ANTIQUITY CALLING Looking at Mapplethorpes Polaroids, I learn that he liked shoes and armpit crotch-shots of men and women, both shaved and unall giving a good whiff to the camera. But best of all are his pictures of ordinary phones which convey a palpable sense of expectancy as if at any moment, one of the fabulous, laconic nude men strewn about might call. One could pick up the receiver and hear the garbled sound of ancient Greek and Roman voices reveling in the background. But even when silent, the dingy phone is a sex organcock asleep in its cradle.
Elaine Equi

A few Robert Mapplethorpe Polaroids: For more, google image search Robert Mapplethorpe Polaroids


That does not keep me from having a terrible need ofshall I say the wordreligion. Then I go out at night to paint the stars. Vincent Van Gogh in a letter to his brother

The town does not exist except where one black-haired tree slips up like a drowned woman into the hot sky. The town is silent. The night boils with eleven stars. Oh starry starry night! This is how I want to die. It moves. They are all alive. Even the moon bulges in its orange irons to push children, like a god, from its eye. The old unseen serpent swallows up the stars. Oh starry starry night! This is how I want to die: into that rushing beast of the night, sucked up by that great dragon, to split from my life with no flag, no belly, no cry. JOHN WAYNE'S PERFUMES In Cast a Giant Shadow, John Wayne wore Claiborne Sport; in Flame of the Barbary Coast, Femme; Dakota, Diorissimo. In The Undefeated, John Wayne wore Unzipped; in Overland Stage Raiders, Opium; Stagecoach, Snuff. In The Alamo, John Wayne wore Anas Anas; in Jet Pilot, Joop Nuit dEt; Chisum, Charlie.

Anne Sexton

In Barbarian and the Geisha, John Wayne wore Baby Doll; in Wake of the Red Witch, White Diamonds; Baby Face, Boss. In How the West Was Won, John Wayne wore Hugo Deep Red; in His Private Secretary, Halston Sheer; Rio Lobo, Realities. In Lady Takes a Chance, John Wayne wore Lucky You; in Sands of Iwo Jima, Sun Moon and Stars; Hatari, Happy. Wayne Koestenbaum (2006)

STEALING THE SCREAM It was hardly a high-tech operation, stealing The Scream. That we know for certain, and what was left behind-a store-bought ladder, a broken window, and fifty-one seconds of videotape, abstract as an overture. And the rest? We don't know. But we can envision moonlight coming in through the broken window, casting a bright shape over everything--the paintings, the floor tiles, the velvet ropes: a single, sharp-edged pattern; the figure's fixed hysteria rendered suddenly ironic by the fact of something happening; houses clapping a thousand shingle hands to shocked cheeks along the road from Oslo to Asgardstrand; the guards rushing in--too late!--greeted only by the gap-toothed smirk of the museum walls; and dangling from the picture wire like a baited hook, a postcard: "Thanks for the poor security." The policemen, lost as tourists, stand whispering in the galleries: ". . .but what does it all mean?"

Someone has the answers, someone who, grasping the frame, saw his sun-red face reflected in that familiar boiling sky. Monica Youn WHY I AM NOT A PAINTER I am not a painter, I am a poet. Why? I think I would rather be a painter, but I am not. Well, for instance, Mike Goldberg is starting a painting. I drop in. "Sit down and have a drink" he says. I drink; we drink. I look up. "You have SARDINES in it." "Yes, it needed something there." "Oh." I go and the days go by and I drop in again. The painting is going on, and I go, and the days go by. I drop in. The painting is finished. "Where's SARDINES?" All that's left is just letters, "It was too much," Mike says. But me? One day I am thinking of a color: orange. I write a line about orange. Pretty soon it is a whole page of words, not lines. Then another page. There should be so much more, not of orange, of words, of how terrible orange is

and life. Days go by. It is even in prose, I am a real poet. My poem is finished and I haven't mentioned orange yet. It's twelve poems, I call it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery I see Mike's painting, called SARDINES.
Frank OHara (1971)




As Rembrandt saw it (the boys posterior bare, fleshier than a mans; the black air, Macedonias smoke, the rosy Trojan all in a tizzy, his rags hitched up, urine yellowing his left foot, the jut of his white gut), myth is a hoot. Look in the eagles eyes: hes lightly amused at the size of the brats fat hands, the fact of Ganymedes deathgrip on a pair of dangling cherries, both of which are overripethe eagle knows the weight of thugs, of thunderbolts, of Eros.

Randall Mann (2009)

FACING IT My black face fades, hiding inside the black granite. I said I wouldn't, dammit: No tears. I'm stone. I'm flesh. My clouded reflection eyes me like a bird of prey, the profile of night slanted against morning. I turn this way -- the stone lets me go. I turn that way -- I'm inside the Vietnam Veterans Memorial again, depending on the light to make a difference. I go down the 58,022 names, half-expecting to find my own in letters like smoke. I touch the name Andrew Johnson; I see the booby trap's white flash. Names shimmer on a woman's blouse but when she walks away the names stay on the wall. Brushstrokes flash, a red bird's wings cutting across my stare. The sky. A plane in the sky. A white vet's image floats closer to me, then his pale eyes look through mine. I'm a window. He's lost his right arm inside the stone. In the black mirror a woman's trying to erase names:

No, she's brushing a boy's hair.

Yusef Komunyakaa (1988) The Vietnam Veterans War Memorial in Washington D.C., built in 1982, is a huge black granite wall carved into the ground. The over 58,000 names are not listed in alphabetical order, but in chronological order of death or capture.

june 20 i will be born in one week to a frowned forehead of a woman and a man whose fingers will itch to enter me. she will crochet a dress for me of silver and he will carry me in it. they will do for each other all that they can but it will not be enough. none of us know that we will not smile again for years, that she will not live long. in one week i will emerge face first into their temporary joy. Lucille Clifton (1993)

june 20 was inspired by a photograph of the poets parents STUDY





I knew that James Whistler was part of the Paris scene, but I was still surprised when I found the painting of his mother at the Muse d'Orsay among all the colored dots and mobile brushstrokes of the French Impressionists. And I was surprised to notice after a few minutes of benign staring, how that woman, stark in profile and fixed forever in her chair, began to resemble my own ancient mother who was now fixed forever in the stars, the air, the earth. You can understand why he titled the painting "Arrangement in Gray and Black" instead of what everyone naturally calls it, but afterward, as I walked along the river bank,

I imagined how it might have broken the woman's heart to be demoted from mother to a mere composition, a study in colorlessness. As the summer couples leaned into each other along the quay and the wide, low-slung boats full of spectators slid up and down the Seine between the carved stone bridges and their watery reflections, I thought: how ridiculous, how off-base. It would be like Botticelli calling "The Birth of Venus" "Composition in Blue, Ochre, Green, and Pink," or the other way around like Rothko titling one of his sandwiches of color "Fishing Boats Leaving Falmouth Harbor at Dawn." Or, as I scanned the menu at the cafe where I now had come to rest, it would be like painting something laughable, like a chef turning on a spit over a blazing fire in front of an audience of ducks and calling it "Study in Orange and White." But by that time, a waiter had appeared with my glass of Pernod and a clear pitcher of water, and I sat there thinking of nothing but the women and men passing by mothers and sons walking their small fragile dogs and about myself, a kind of composition in blue and khaki, and, now that I had poured some water into the glass, milky-green. Billy Collins (1999)

THEY KNEW WHAT THEY WANTED They They They They They They They They They They They They They They They They They They They They They They They They They They They They They They They They all kissed the bride. all laughed. came from beyond space. came by night. came to a city. came to blow up America. came to rob Las Vegas. dare not love. died with their boots on. shoot horses, dont they? go boom. got me covered. flew alone. gave him a gun. just had to get married. live. They loved life. live by night. drive by night. knew Mr Knight. were expendable. met in Argentina. met in Bombay. met in the dark. might be giants. made me a fugitive. made me a criminal. only kill their masters. shall have music. were sisters. still call me Bruce. wont believe me. wont forget. John Ashbery

(2010) Poem constructed of old movie titles AVE MARIA Mothers of America let your kids go to the movies! get them out of the house so they wont know what youre up to its true that fresh air is good for the body but what about the soul that grows in darkness, embossed by silvery images and when you grow old as grow old you must they wont hate you they wont criticize you they wont know theyll be in some glamorous country they first saw on a Saturday afternoon or playing hookey they may even be grateful to you for their first sexual experience which only cost you a quarter and didnt upset the peaceful home they will know where candy bars come from and gratuitous bags of popcorn as gratuitous as leaving the movie before its over with a pleasant stranger whose apartment is in the Heaven on Earth Bldg near the Williamsburg Bridge oh mothers you will have made the little tykes so happy because if nobody does pick them up in the movies they wont know the difference and if somebody does itll be sheer gravy and theyll have been truly entertained either way instead of hanging around the yard or up in their room

hating you prematurely since you wont have done anything horribly mean yet except keeping them from the darker joys its unforgivable the latter so dont blame me if you wont take this advice and the family breaks up and your children grow old and blind in front of a TV set seeing movies you wouldnt let them see when they were young Frank OHara (1960) n.b. not an ekphrastic poem, but its about the movies and a favorite Frank OHara poem.