Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Literary Incantation - On Ekphrasis

William Congdon, Piazza Venice 12, 1952 Museum of modern Art, New York



I read not long ago (I think I linked to it via Lemon Hound) that Vanessa Place (the author of Dies: A Sentence) is writing an ekphratic novel. This is what she says on the website What Are Your Working On?

"My current project is an experimental novel composed of assorted stories and ekphratic objects: the stories are told in various narrative forms, everything from short stories to stories-within-stories and novel chapters; the ekphratic objects include iconical and imaginary artworks.

I have no formal background in art or art history, and that is exactly the point of the project: ekphrasis (the most famous examples include Homer's description of Achilles' shield, Shelley's On the Medusa of Leonardo daVinci, Rilke's Torso of Apollo, Keats' Ode to a Grecian Urn) has been mostly poetry's attempt to trump visual art. But as words put to music become lyrics, words put to art can become another literary incantation."

I'll be eagerly awaiting the Place book, her literary incantation, though she says, "I've no hope of finishing, though expect I will finally stop in three to five years. I don't have a contract, or prospects, for this book, but am dedicatedly unconcerned." My first two books (All the God-Sized Fruit, Against Paradise) dabbled with ekphrasis, the first moreso than the second. I was interested in playing with the conventions of ekphrasis, in escaping the ekphrastic moment and also in reconfiguring it. I'm not done with this particular obsession - my current project will quite possibly contain a further exploration of ekphrasis via art forgery (another long time interest). Like Place, I have no prospects. Not a bad place to write from.

Once an obsession always an obsession, perhaps. I've noticed a lot of web resources on the subject. When I was writing ATGSF I relied a lot on Picture Theory by W.J.T. Mitchell and John Hollander's The Gazer's Spirit. There's so much work that's been done, so much written, since then. Among the blogs that I've looked at on ekphrasis are: Poetry, Poetics and the Arts, Ekphrasis: Poetry Inspired by Art, and a good piece on the conventions of ekphrasis here. More as I find them.