06 September 2013

the our lost jungle poetry form challenge: challenge #5 results

OLJ Poetry Form Challenge: Challenge #5 Results
Today ends the fifth challenge of the 2013 Our Lost Jungle Poetry Form Challenge. This week's challenge write an ekphrasis poem in which you wrote less what was "in" a piece of visual art and more what you saw "above," "around," or "under the piece ... in other words, don't just tell what's happening in a painting or other piece of art, but breathe new life into it. As an added challenge, participants were given the option of choosing a piece from Exploding Dog, a site where artist Sam Brown draws a graphic based on a phrase provided by fans.
was to

I often use ekphrasis as an "easy" exercise-- "easy" only in that part of the "vision" that shapes a poem is at least already sketched out for the poet, quite literally. But the truth is, there's nothing all that easy about it. It can be hard not to get caught up in what we see. One student in the past tried to write what he saw happening "above" a painting by Bob Ross ... but he wound up getting so caught up in describing the "happy clouds" we wound up with a cloud poem. I think that's often what happens with ekphrasis: we try to see beyond the main image, and get caught up in some detail of another part of it. If you ever fall into this trap, try what I recommended to this student: write "behind" the art. What's going on behind those happy trees and clouds? What horrible nightmare did Bob cover up with this happy country scene? Or, shift beyond the canvas: what's happening outside Bob's window, or in Bob's apartment, or in Bob's head, as this painting is coming together? The big point of this exercise is always learning to both see and unsee: to stop writing base only on what we see with our eyes (whether in a painting or in the world), and learn to "see" beyond, to stretch an experience from sighted to sensed, and experience the familiar (and even the unfamiliar) in new ways.

Now on to this week's winner. The winner of the ekphrasis challenge is De Jackson, who took a picture by Sam Brown and created a whole new world both in and around the piece of art. Here's just a snippet of her poem (I won't copy the whole thing since she posted it to her own site):

Hiding somewhere in the branches
of her darker side there lies a man
tossing ivory confetti. [... Read the rest of De's poem here]

What I love about this piece from De is the way she gives life and second life to a relatively simple piece of art. What we see in the graphic is a big moon and a man flying towards it with wings. Yet in De's poem there is sudden a she, and a darker side to her, and a place in which some other man exists, and ... The narrative of her poem moves and breathes beyond the original canvas in a stunningly unique way. And while so many of the words chosen to begin the poem seem "grounded" (hidden, lies), as the poem progresses the word choice seems to literally take flight ... in essence making the poem itself the winged man soaring above us all. Kudos to De, and kudos to all of you who gave this task a shot (including those who found it particularly challenging ... this is, after all, a challenge, so never feel bad for struggling through--or even hating!--an exercise).

Stay tuned for next week's challenge, and in the meantime ... Happy Writing!


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  1. Way to go, De. You are very imaginative and so good with words. It is always fun to read your work.
    Thanks Khara for all your wonderful prompts - I might bellyache sometimes but I DO love the challenges!

  2. Congrats De! Magical poetry, (as always)!! :)

  3. Awwww. Thank you guys, so much. THANK YOU, Khara! Been lovin' the challenge! :)


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