Seattle Erotic Art Festival & Ekphrastic Poetry

Well, I finally got one of my acts together last January and submitted five works to the Seattle Erotic Arts Festival.  They 29f5e5ecpicked up all five pieces.  It’s a pretty good payday for a poet although they don’t give author’s copies of the anthology.  Still it’s only first rights and if you’re selected you get a three day pass plus an invitation to the gala plus the credit of your submission.  So, while I am not well versed in publication questions, I do feel like I got more from my poetry submissions than I usually do.

One of the really interesting opportunities which has come out of this is their call for the invited poets to review the invited artwork and write a poem about the artwork.  When a person writes describing a piece of art, it is called “ekphrasis – a vivid description of a thing.”  This is a valid form of poetry with a tradition going back to the Greeks.  The Wikipedia definition 0300088329takes it further with: “a graphic, often dramatic, description of a visual work of art.”  But an ekphrastic poem need not only be straight description any longer.  In fact, one thing which defines the modern works is that they’re not solely descriptive.  In the essay I’ve hyperlinked here, the writer quotes John Hollander as saying that ekphrastic poetry includes “addressing the image, making it speak, speaking of it interpretively, meditating upon the moment of viewing it, and so forth.”  This is how I tend to work with my ekphrastic poems. In many cases, I use them as a jumping off point.


Fall by Amy Newman

In 2006, Amy Newman wrote a poetry workshop for The Guardian.  Here she describes in great detail about responding to a piece of work and makes for an excellent exercise.  Interestingly enough she references many of the same poems noted in the article, but in much greater detail.  In the piece I selected from the Erotic Arts Festival, I wrote from the POV of the characters in the photograph.  I was thrown by the captured power and the clarity of speed between the two men as they threw themselves into each other.  After the Festival, I hope to at least be able to share which artist it was.  Here’s the Newman workshop on writing an ekphrastic poem.

Here are some other links about ekphrasis:

Poetry Foundation
Bob’s Byway of Poetic Terms

And here are some links to read some modern ekphrastic poems.  If you like a poet, buy their book.  You know they’re NOT a NYTimes Best Selling Author.  They could use the buck or two.

Poems from
Poems hosted at the Poetry Foundation

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