This blog post will talk about two aspects of this poem both of which relate to choices made in the making of the video as well.
The first is this is an ekphrastic poem. Ekphrasis, Poetry Foundation tells us, is:
“Description” in Greek. An ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the “action” of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning.
This poem is a response to a photograph I took of a winter scene in Port Dover Ontario. Often in ekphrasis we are responding to someone else’s art. It actually can be any art form involved in either the subject or the art chosen to do the response. But there is a long history of ekphrastic poetry, perhaps because poetry is often digging for what’s underneath the words, and images are so inherent to the art form of poetry that it’s a natural medium for this type of response to other’s work.
But in this case because it is my own photograph it brings up memories for me associated with the time around when that photo was taken. And the poem explores that direct connection between the image that was captured and the mood I was in and what was happening. So “objective correlative” is another term that could be used to describe what is going on, a phrase discussed by T.S. Eliot in an essay.
Eliot suggests that there needs to be connection between the image the poet uses and the emotion the poet is trying to evoke. Not everyone agrees with him on this as the readers may have very different experiences in life so not all images evoke the same thing for all people. In this case I do believe the poem and the image are in close emotional conversation and that readers will also relate.
And that now brings us to the second thing I wanted to talk about and that is the title of the poem is very long and essentially a lyric description of the photograph. That was a deliberate choice, thanks to a suggestion in a workshop, the lyric nature of the title could be lost if it was just another section of the poem. By moving up to the title it is elevated and the enjambment of the lines in the title serve to highlight it as its own poem, linked but separate to the material that follows.
This “poem title” then prepares the reader for the entry into the prose poem which is more personal in content than the title which is only descriptive.
The video is structured to highlight those components of the poem. While there is an intro and outro of me reading a book in a bar the core of the video is that section that is the title and then the section that is the body of the poem. The photograph has been brought in to assist the poem and it also shifts movement and colour between those two sections. The two different treatments of those sections relate to how different the two sections of the poem function.
This poem was part of a suite of poems that was a finalist for the 2016 CBC Poetry Prize.
Hope you enjoy the ekphrastic poem.