Tadich_Kangaroo_Ground

Camilla TADICH©, 6.23am Kangaroo Ground  2009, oil on canvas, 94.5cm. x 125cm. framed.

“Ekphrasis is a genre of poetry that explores works of art and seeks to ‘get inside’ its visual subject.”  Arguably the most famous example of this genre is John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn (1820).  Here’s the last verse to get you in the mood…

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede

Of marble men and maidens overwrought,

With forest branches and the trodden weed;

Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought

As doth eternity. Cold Pastoral!

When old age shall this generation waste,

Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe

Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty”—that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Ekphrasis_2

Mark PAGE©, Of soft mauves in the meadow, in the fairest of her years 1979, oil on canvas, 101.5cm. x 83.5cm.

The Nillumbik Shire Arts and Culture team have done it again! Their inaugural Ekphrasis Poetry Award is pure gold. It invites poets to respond to one or more of twelve diverse works of art from the Nillumbik Shire’s extensive collection (reputedly valued at four million dollars). There’s sculpture, ceramic, painting and jewellery to inspire poets to weave together some well chosen words. Three of the works are shown in this post. 

“Each poem must be no longer than twelve lines, and may be in any genre of poetry.”

Twelve poems will be selected by judges Helen Lucas, Fee Sievers and August Skipper.

First Prize: $500

Second Prize: $300

Third Prize: $200

Youth Prize: $150 (12-18 years old)

Entries close 30th April 2012.

Reproductions of all twelve artworks are available via the Nillumbik Shire website while the works can be viewed at first hand at the Shire Offices for the duration of Awards. What a clever, innovative way to draw attention to a fine collection.

Ekphrasis_1

Clifton PUGH©, White Choughs in the Landscape / Untitled, 1958, acrylic and enamel on composition board, 124cm. x 226.5cm. framed.

I could hear the crackle of the bush at Dunmoochin when I saw this Clifton Pugh.  Ahh Dunmoochin.

Ekphrasis_4Poet and Ekphrasis judge Helen Lucas read “Nude Descending a Staircase” by X. J. Kennedy (while artfully descending the stairs of the Nillumbik Shire offices) to mark the opening of the competition…sensational!

Nude Descending a Staircase by X.J. Kennedy©.

 Toe after toe, a snowing flesh,

a gold of lemon, root and rind,

she sifts in sunlight down the stairs

with nothing on. Nor on her mind.

 We spy beneath the banister

a constant thresh of thigh on thigh;

her lips imprint the swinging air

that parts to let her parts go by.

 One-woman waterfall, she wears

her slow descent like a long cape

and pausing on the final stair,

collects her motions into shape.

(Source: Poetry, January 1960.)

If, like me, you are tempted to revisit the poem’s inspiration, Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase”, you can do so via this link.

I look forward to enjoying the poetry that this project generates.  If possible, I’ll share some of the winning entries with you.

My thanks to the organisers, Irene Pagram and her creative team for their exemplary nurturance of the arts in Nillumbik and their assistance with this post.