August 4, 2007
Take a Picture, It Will Last Longer
Two elements that dominate my life are art and poetry. So following last night's Austin Poetry Slam at the B scene, I thought I'd blog a little bit some intersections of poetry and art.
My favorite ekphrastic is John Ashberry's Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror based on Parmiganinio's painting of the same name. I love the poem because it reinterprets a classic work of art in a contemporary manner, focusing on craft and language rather than being bogged down by the creation of meaning. I think this is the way I look at art. I'm always interested in how art obscures meaning rather than reinforces it, how art reinterprets and teaches us about our lives while not hitting us on the head with a lesson. In the case Self-Portrait, the poem stands as a fully developed work in and of itself, which I don't believe is true of most ekphrastics. Many ekphrastics need the reader to be familiar with the work of art in order to work properly, and that bores me. The poem becomes like copy text for the painting.
Try this: Read Auden's Musee des Beaux Arts without looking at the painting. Now try reading it again with an image accompanying the text. Notice any difference?