Last week I co-presented a Thursday Talk on ekphrasis at the Ian Potter Museum of Art. Hagan and I were just finalising our collaboration when someone said “Tim Jones”; and, sure enough, there he was, the artist of the piece we’d written poems about, ready to fold out a gallery chair.
It was heartening to see others interested in the possibilities that art shows to students of English. The group responded warmly to our poems, but took the discussion much further, asking about how we encourage different types of students (boys and girls; extroverts and introverts) to develop and express their love of poetry.
I’ve described ekphrasis itself over here. At the event, I wondered about the technique’s success, proposing that poetry might help overcome the awkwardness of talking about art. Even when I’m with close friends I find it difficult to verbalise any response to an artwork. When I’m deeply moved, language falls short until it’s a poem. Exercises like this also make potential real. Instead of projecting words into our future (the things we’ll say; the books we’ll write) we kneel down on the floor with sticky notes, arranging words that are already written, further completing an artwork.
“Can you send me your poem?” asked the artist, afterwards. This was already heaven; but then he said “I’m really glad you’re a teacher.”