“Listen, Steel” an Ekphrastic Poem about a Bridge

The San Jose Museum of Art has posted my poem, “Listen, Steel,” to their Tumblr site. I wrote this earlier in the year, and read it on Thursday, April 17, 2014 at their poetry and art invitational, based on works in the exhibit “Initial Public Offering.” I was invited to participate by David Perez, the Santa Clara County PL. It was a really great event, and I’ve been waiting for the photos and video (promised!) to appear.

Each poet was challenged to choose a piece of art and write an ekphrastic poem. I chose Stephanie Syjuco’s International Orange. The poem was inspired in part by research I did on the art piece.

Below are a few photos taken of the event by my husband and me. I particularly loved the rack of postcards. All international orange.

April 17 museum 1 international orange 1 international orange 6 international orange 7

And here is the poem, with the correct line breaks.

“Listen, Steel”

“Listen, steel,”
“listen,” said the engineers to the towers:

“Listen to the voices of the ferries,
and of the nearby hills,
even the ocean and the sky
speak in voices that count and measure.”

“Steel, you will have to stand
through the changing seasons.
Your name will be taken into the mouths
and onto the wings. Your song
will be highly pleasing
and unusual in the realm.”

“The black water, the grey sky,
the aluminum sea gulls
will look to you for a returned music.
One vermillion bird,
one terra cotta grain of sand.”

“Listen, steel, to the voices,
and with your molecular symphonies,
carry our message of admiration.”

“Our message,” said the engineers,
“will be in your voice for anyone
who wants the news.”

“The bridge news, steel, is you.”

 

Local National Poetry Month Events

Cupertino Poet Laureate April Poetry Events

April 1 “Unsung Holidays: April Fool’s Day” Poetry Reading with Jennifer Swanton Brown and Guest poets: Stephanie Pressman & Amanda Williamsen, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino 7-9 pm

April 4 Mary Avenue Dog Park Dedication, 5-6:30 pm

April 17 Art and Poetry: 5th Annual SJMA Poetry Invitational, San Jose Museum of Art “Initial Public Offering” poetry and art, 7 pm

April 19 Erica Goss & Friends Poetry Reading, Friends Bookstore, 110 East Main Street, Los Gatos, 2-4 pm

April 26/27 Cupertino Cherry Blossom Festival – Surprise poetry games and opportunities for the whole family! Memorial Park

Check out these local websites for all kinds of poetry month activities brought to you by my friends and colleagues.

Erica Goss: Los Gatos Poet Laureate
Starting with Book Launch Party for Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets, Come and meet Erica and the members of PushPen Press for a reading and book-signing, CB Hannegan’s Restaurant, 208 Bachman Ave., Los Gatos CA 95030, Wednesday, April 2 at 6:00 pm

David Perez, Santa Clara County Poet Laureate
“National Poetry Month is upon us, and here are my upcoming events! Also, as many have requested, here is the video of the speech I gave at my reception. If you have questions, email me at info@thedavidperez.com. If you want reminders as events get closer, follow my Twitter @dperezer. Enjoy your poetry month!”

San Mateo County Poet Laureate Caroline Goodwin
Including Tuesday, April 22 – 9:00 a.m., Poetry Reading at the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors Meeting, Board Chambers, 400 County Center, Redwood City

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