Happy National Poetry Month! Here’s wishing you a month of inspiration and a year of writing, reading and listening to poetry.

For a chance to write your own poems and read them at an open mic event, join us on one of the Friday Night Art Walks for an Art & Poetry Treasure Hunt this April or May. We’ll eavesdrop on what other people are saying in galleries, write love letters from one piece of art to another and take journeys inside of paintings and photographs to discover what it’s like to live inside a piece of art.

Here are the details:

Art & Poetry Treasure Hunts

Dates and Locations
Friday, April 14, 2017 — The ArtsCenter, 300 G East Main Street, Carrboro, NC 27510
Friday, May 5, 2017 — United Arts Council, 410 Glenwood Avenue, Suite 170
Raleigh, NC 27603
Friday, May 26 — Margaret Lane Gallery, 121 W. Margaret Lane, Hillsborough, NC 27278

6:00 to 7:30 pm — Art & Poetry Treasure Hunt
Drop by the galleries above during this time to pick up your treasure map, notepad and pen, and the secret directions to create your poems.

8:00 to 9:00 pm — Open Mic Reading
Return to the gallery to read some of the poems you’ve created in your gallery wanderings.

*   *   *

Ekphrasis. It sounds like something that calls for a heavy dose of antibiotics, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s just a fancy Greek word for poetry about art, though it may well become contagious this April and May on the Friday night art walks in Chapel Hill/Carrboro, Raleigh and Hillsborough.

As you might imagine, poets have been writing about art for a good long time. It started with Homer painting a word picture of Achilles’ shield in the Iliad. Later, Plato went on to describe the “bedness” of a bed in The Republic, and Socrates had a chat with Phaedrus about writing and painting:

“You know, Phaedrus, that is the strange thing about writing, which makes it truly correspond to painting.
The painter’s products stand before us as though they were alive,
but if you question them, they maintain a most majestic silence.
It is the same with written words; they seem to talk
to you as if they were intelligent, but if you ask them anything
about what they say, from a desire to be instructed,
they go on telling you just the same thing forever.

Plato, Phaedrus 275d


Long before the Internet, before we could even create reproductions of art in books and on posters, ekphrastic poems offered art lovers a virtual museum, where they could “see” art from the comfort of their own armchairs. In the Italian Renaissance, Ekphrasis became popular again, and in 1819, John Keats wrote one of the most famous ekphrastic poems in history, “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” which you can find here, at The Poetry Foundation website.



In more recent times, W. H. Auden described Bruegel’s painting, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus in this ekphrastic poem:

Musee des Beaux Art
W. H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.



In 1960, William Carlos Williams had his own take on the same painting:

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

William Carlos Williams

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field

the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings’ wax

off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning

from http://english.emory.edu/classes/paintings&poems/williams.html

You can discover links to more ekphrastic poems here and here.

I hope you’ll join us for one or all of the Art and Poetry Treasure Hunts, where you’ll be inspired by local art to write your own ekphrastic poems. Whether you’ve been writing poems all your life, or your poetry career came to an abrupt halt at “Roses are red,” we’d love to have you. Bring your family. All ages are welcome.