Ekphrasis

Learning to be a teacher is as contradictory as it sounds. In many seminars, we switch awkwardly between three modes: the students we are, the teachers we’ll be, and the students we’ll teach.

An example: last week our English group visited the Ian Potter Museum of Art, where we studied “ekphrasis” – the literary description of artworks. As we took part in the activities, we (a) observed our seminar leader demonstrate the lesson, (b) performed acts of peer-teaching and (c) imagined ourselves as students on an excursion led by ourselves.

This last mode is the funnest. Among Polish posters we projected ourselves into the images – what can we hear? what are we thinking? Then, in groups, we combined our answers into poems, lifting and pasting fragments onto card.

ekphrasis

Disturbing

I cannot help see, try as I might
the Lady in Red, mouth wide shut,
smiling on the inside.

Muted silence.

Teeth gnashes like guns of war!
A voice that’s not there:
“Take me home, country road.”

Out of place – is this the past?
Wind blowing through my empty mind
helpless, cold longing.

Is our conspiracy worth it?

Later, in another room, we stand around Tim Jones’s Covert City, collecting our words by observing the artwork and listening to what others have said. Then, silently, we form our own poems.

covert city

Melbourne

Wood dark as dirt; thread sharp as steel.
Like a Gothic window, towers lift my gaze
from unseen foundations of this buried city –
its heart a tinderbox, ready for the spark.

“Places exchange their form,” mutters Calvino,
flying up through the dust-storm
like a crane.

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