Poets’ term for poetry inspired by art: Ekphrastic

The Poetry Society of Virginia group wrote for an Ekphrastic Day visit to VMFA. As you may know, ekphrastic means poetry inspired by art.


A square yellow box,

inside a square aqua box,

inside a square box, slate-grey,
inside a square box, russet.

(Their colors
a lush, blotched
mottle, like
fine linoleum.)

All four exactly centered
at the left and right;
all four heavily sunken
at the stripier bottom.

The set of them encased
in a very slim white border,
dead even on all sides,
like the thought of a frame.

There’s an actual frame also:
silver. And a cream-white wall
it hangs on, which becomes
a seventh box, though not square.

And around it, other boxes:
three more walls, this room;
its mauve carpet; its beige ceiling;
whose lights cast boxy shadows.

And hung beside the painting,
a square, colorless sign,
that is the exact size
of its anchoring box,

the yellow box:
center right, an arrow;
above it, left, a word:

–Derek Kannemeyer

And the arch and the pillars of the pont de Grenelle, My Paris, if I squint, is here.
See, obscuring the foot of the Tower, that little black smear?
That’s the Statue de la Liberté: we’re back behind her right shoulder,
across the Seine from the Île aux Cygnes.

those dark and pale blues at the horizon line? They’re clear as well.
Though it’s the demolished bridge, of course—
not the plainer, stiffer one there now.

But then the whole scene has a vanished grace,
or perhaps a never was grace, a painter’s fiction of pure surface,
of a splashed pastel paradise of sapphire skies,
and dim, light figures dissolving into it.

1912, huh? Two dark, slim, swaying trees
framing its world like gates. Messieurs, mesdames, this way, please,
into a gauze innocence. Mount my gold floating carpet:
here, down center. Watch out where

the blue smudge of your poodle
melts into my pink pavement… Bonnard
seeking less to capture a time and place than to blow a fat bright
bubble of it, and release it, into a burst of light.

–Derek Kannemeyer, July 18-20, 2013

Goose Landing Mask

 (19C Yup’ik Alaska)


This is how close I can come to being

the goose without benefit of rebirth.

This is how I disappear the girl I am

and unearth eternal memory,

and take on goose properties.

–or will I, like a child having her face

painted at a fair, fail to look out new eyes,

but stay me?—

This is an opportunity to walk on sand

with lovely red webs and free self

of a girl’s golden handcuffs. Am I honking

because I love Jesus? No—this is my reminder

of when soul took flight after the raped body

died. My feathered arms reach up for blue sky.

Susan Hankla





Open, obscene, opalescent bloom

wavy ruffle of rainbowed, gold glass,

fragile, greedy, vain vase,

no fleurs touch you.

Your blurred beauty

was obsolescence from conception.

Andre Groult


Flattened and lacquered squares of sharkskin,

dotted denticles now smoothed and glued to ebony,

fossil furniture,

a buffet beyond bounds,

the French feed.

Gustave Gurschner

Nautilus Lamp

Your dorsal fin like a fairy’s wing,

bronze, distraught mermaid,

face hidden in curve of arm,

your long slim tail wraps and winds

around a noveau lamp of tearshapes.

As you shelter beneath the the shade of a nautilus shell,

only a base brute would illuminate your sorrow with incandescence.

–3 poems by Julie Wenglinski

After Matisse,1959

Tom Wesselman

A nameless client digs in his pocket,

no longer interested in the flesh,

more intent on rummaging for cash,

while you, eyes closed, naked, sprawl

in the chair, too weary to care that

minutes away is the next.

Now eyes slit, panning the room, you

note its garishness: raw broken plaster

hanging off walls, torn linoleum, dry-

rotted, covered in grease a half-inch thick.

Strange odors assault the nose—you

want to bury your face in the blossoming

gardenia bush skirting the front stoop.

A burst of hot air breaks in through the

open window, briefly stirring your thoughts.

Sick of this fishing trip but out of habit,

you reach for a moment in another life,

one with genuine ecstasy, not faked,

where your painted lips hug a rich cigarette—

but more than this—seeing the entire you, nothing

dropped out—a billboard of complete success.

The familiar knock breaks the spell.

You hurl glory days to the floor, watch

them dissolve over the morning’s tread-

marked news, baggage claim stubs from a

forgotten bus trip, and five ten-spots offered

without concern. Glancing toward the bathroom,

its claw-foot, rust-stained tub sparks the mind

to flash a kind of Virginia Woolf escape. No, no,

no. You struggle to get up, forbidding

the suggestion a toehold.

–Linda Kennedy

Wesselmann Has Left the Building

(Montreal-curated show at VMFA, July 2013)

Men are from Mars,

Women, from Venus —

Quebecois think so

In Wesselmann’s work.

Men love their cars,

Women, men’s genius.

So Montreal’s show

Has nude gals that lurk.

None are modest

As they smoke cigarettes

In collages that reveal

More than they cover.

Females are hottest —

But where’s another sex

That he didn’t conceal —

Painting one after another?

The genie’s in a jar —

Lid cov’ring the penis:

Wesselmann’s not here —

He must be with Venus.

–Martha Steger

Sunset Nude with Matisse Odalisque

(Tom Wesselman – 2003)

Wanda in repose on Polynesian Isle

gazes at passersby on beach,

wonders why her friend Lucille,

pale with bleached blond hair,

covers flesh and shaves arm pits.

Inhibitions Wanda did cast aside

when first she stepped on South Pacific isle

and tasted fruit as succulent as her breasts.

But where is Paul Gauguin?

Does he seek another Bali nude

to paint his Odalisque for Matisse?

Such delights she enjoys each tropical night

when breezes blow on senses exotic.

So, where is Paul Gauguin

that he may be seduced again

by voluptuous tits and hairy hot arm pits,

to paint with rapid strokes of brush.

Wanda wonders.

Twiggy Munford