Ever since Carol introduced me to the painting by Brughel of Icarus falling and the same-styled poem by Williams, I have been fascinated with the idea of how paintings can evoke people to pen poems about them. I did some research and found that there is a term for it, called ‘ekphrasis’, which means the imitation in verbal art of a work of visual art. It is as if we are given another opportunity to make sense of the painting, by going into the mind of the poet, who himself or herself sought to express the emotions and thoughts that the painting had evoked within him or her. We are given double vision to appreciate the painting and the poem; to understand the painter and the poet. So while I am transfixed by Matisse’s Red Studio and Snodgrass’ haunting words that “there is no one here”, I am similarly spellbound by Picassos’ The Blind Man’s Meal, and deeply moved by Engle’s description of colours and their links to emotions in his poem. Ekphrasis then is the beauty of how pictures, images, lines, words, rhythm all combine to touch our senses and invite us into the worlds of the artists. It’s quite interesting, like a mass MSN session among the painter, the poet and the audience!
“All the others translate: the painter sketches
A visible world to love or reject;
Rummaging into his living, the poet fetches
The images out that hurt and connect,
From Life to Art by painstaking adaption,
Relying on us to cover the rift…”
W. H. Auden, “The Composer”