Last weekend High Desert Poet Mary Langer Thompson taught a class on the Greek art form of ekphrasis. Imagination is the key component in ekphrastic art.
Study a toddler in playtime. Toddlers are amazing. For instance, watch a 2-year-old play with a group of stuffed animals. You hear comments, such as “You have to be quiet, Doggee”, “Don’t be sad”, “You gotta hurry”, “Come on, kitty”, “Come on, Elephant”, and “Go to sleep”. When it’s bedtime, the toddler can think of several reasons for not going to bed. The books come out, and the mom or dad reads with sleepy eyes. The 2-year-old still has energy left, however, and takes over the reading for the grownup. “Once upon a time” the toddler “reads” while observing the pictures and finishes each book with “The End!”.
Picture (or photo) reading isn’t for toddlers only. Adults look at photos and get an impression of what is taking place. That’s what happens when you read the comics, the ones without captions. Not everyone gets it, though. Could that be because, from toddler stage to adulthood, some are just more observant than others?
Ekphrasis, is a type of picture reading that is an old Greek art form. A story is told from impressions received by looking at a piece of art. Creative imagination and skill of the writer comes together in the literary art form of ekphrastic poetry. The goal of the poet is to make readers feel as though they are part of what is happening in the picture.
Take one piece of art and pass it around to a group of seven, and you’ll get seven different impressions of what was happening in the picture. It’s similar to the four gospels in the New Testament. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell the same story of Christ from four different viewpoints.
A person’s imagination and perception are formed by family life, events, conditions, and circumstances from the beginning of life. Naturally, each individual sees things differently. Otherwise, it would be a boring world.
Learn more about ekphrasis and other poetry from Mary Langer Thompson. Look for her upcoming poetry handbook coming out in 2016. For more information, you can contact Mary at her website and purchase her newest book Poems in Water.
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