Prompt #25 Ekphrasis : Poetry Confronting Art

I love ekphrasis. I love saying it, and I love writing ekphrastic poems. Simply put, ekphrasis is the the process of writing about a piece of visual art: a dramatic or poetic response to a painting or sculpture. I like the way the Academy of American Poetry discusses the process: as confrontation. Poetry confronting art. If you click through to their site, you can read all about the history of the form (back to Homer) and check out over a dozen examples.

The following ekphrastic poem will appeal (hopefully) to everyone: “Stealing The Scream,” by Monica Youn. The painting is so famous it has become a pop culture icon — The Scream, by Edvard Munch. There are several versions of the painting (lithographic prints) and, as Wikipedia, explains, “The Scream has been the target of several high-profile art thefts. In 1994, the version in the National Gallery was stolen. It was recovered several months later.” Monica Youn’s poem contemplates the irony of something actually happening to the painting — and to the people involved in the theft and its alarming discovery — as being suddenly worthy of the horrified check-slapping image we all know so well.

Stealing The Scream
by Monica Youn

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.

Isn’t that fabulous? Your challenge today, is to write an ekphrastic poem. If you’re not at a museum, look up art on the internet or open a book. I’m going to be writing an ekphrastic poem based on an art exhibit “Initial Public Offering” I visited yesterday at the San Jose Museum of Art. It’s a special poem for a special event, coming up April 17. Come back and read the poem later this month. Now, get writing!

 

 

Stealing The Scream

by Monica Youn

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.

– See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16477#sthash.qS5hIPDk.dpuf

Stealing The Scream

by Monica Youn

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.

– See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16477#sthash.qS5hIPDk.dpuf

the figure’s fixed hysteria rendered suddenly ironic by the fact of something happening; – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16477#sthash.qS5hIPDk.dpuf

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