I Don’t Usually Write Ekphrastic Poetry, But…

I was really happy with my Day 4 poem for the APPF, “How the Cypress Came to Be” (although there are a few iffy lines that could be improved).  I like “origin” poems, and in this one the speaker addresses Cyparissus about (accidentally) slaying the deer that Apollo gave him, and who, in grief, Apollo turns into a tree.  

In Dubufe’s picture, Cyparissus is draped over the deer, and Apollo is gazing at him rather tenderly.  (Well, this was in the Hidden Love postcard book.)  I was looking online for that image so you could see it, and  so far I haven’t found one in color, but you can see it  here in black and whiteBoth of the figures are slender, hardly muscularly developed at all ( youths, I guess you’d say), though Apollo is clearly older, and the concern–love, maybe–that he shows Cyparissus is evident in the way he holds the younger man.  

The Apollo in Dubufe’s picture is much more emotional than the  disdainful Apollo who appears in Pietro Perugino’s Apollo and Marsyas, the image on the postcard I sent yesterday.  I like this painting because it’s from the Renaissance, with a beautiful orangey patina and lovely depth of field.  And the appearance of castle and the mountains in the background amuses me, if only because it strikes me as anachronistic, as if this scene from Greek mythology happened in medieval Italy.  Perugino was known for his more Catholic art, though I seem to recall vaguely that Michelangelo  called him a hack.  Still, there is something almost sweet in the way Perugino has painted Marsyas as he plays his aulos-reed pipe.

In my poem, “Competition,” the speaker addresses Marsyas’s eagerness to engage in a music contest with Apollo, and is critical of him, particularly because in the myth, the Muses are the ones who judge this contest AND Apollo is basically the Muses’ choir master (a slight conflict of interest).  Clearly this is a myth about the perils of hubris, although I like to think in my poem I hint that the reason that Marsyas dies is not simply because the Muses choose Apollo as the winner, but rather because Marsyas was indeed the superior musician, and Apollo was jealous.

However, I am neither a scholar of art nor mythology, so I’m sure there are errors in what I have written here.

I know that the point of the APPF is to try to write a poem that somehow communicates what people usually use postcards for–to write about place.  According to the website, we’re to write about:

. . . Something that relates to your sense of “place” however you interpret that, something about how you relate to the postcard image, what you see out the window, what you’re reading, using a phrase/topic/or image from a card that you got, a dream you had that morning, or an image from it, etc. Like “real” postcards, get to something of the “here and now” when you write.

Perhaps I should make my poems more personal?  Postcards are generally personal, focused on the I.  Although, I have to say, in both of these last two poems, I’ve used direct address, so in a way, I am in the poems.  (Yes, I know, the speaker of a poem isn’t necessarily the poet–please, I wasn’t born yesterday.)  We’ll see.

Tomorrow I think I will choose the postcard of Donato Creti’s painting, The Education of Achilles by Chiron.  I hope the poem will turn out well.

On Prose Poems

I was reading Christine Swint’s blog; she had posted her Day 6 Poem of the APPF, and I marvel at how she responds both to a poem she read by Lucia Perillo and takes ideas and creates a wonderful new prose poem about, as she says, “crows, sort of about women and what they wear.”  

In the poem, the blackness of crows comes in “black jeans and a sooty vest” and in “shoe-polish” hued hair.  Black is fashion and danger; crows themselves are often considered harbingers of death in mythology, and they eat carrion.

And twice the word “murder” appears in Christine’s poem,  which is interesting because it highlights the connection between death and crows, but it is also characterized as belonging to “her,” the female “crow” on the poem.  Is this crow a victim, or has she committed murder?   But she is not dead–indeed this crow “dances the Merengue with the others.”  

Christine’s poem is wonderful and strange, which to me is always the hallmark of a strong prose poem–a form that is completely mysterious to me.   I’ve tried writing prose poems.  They are, like my attempts at fiction, not to be borne.  And yet I am drawn to them–prose poems will usually quickly find a home in Chickenpinata (although we haven’t received many of them).  I probably ought to read some books about them as a form and educate myself. 

I’m not really sure why I like them–except, I wonder if it has to do with the fact that they are generally chock full of things–it’s a little bit harder to be abstract, I think, when you are writing a kind of paragraph of words that all have to be poetic.  I really admire those, like Christine, who can write them well.  You should all check her blog and read “This Crow is Not a Fashion Model.”

Speaking of the APPF, I sent off my Day 3.  I realize, when I mentioned in an early blog post about a “starter poem,” that was really Day 1.  So instead of having written 4 poems by today, I’ve only written 3.  That’s ok, as long as I come up with something for tomorrow.

I bought this postcard book called Hidden Love:  Art and Homosexuality, which has some really amazing art prints in it, and which I’ve decided will comprise the majority of the postcards I send.  (Some pictures are basically crotch shots of male genitalia, which is less impressive, and actually I worry that I could even send them in the mail–with my luck, they’d be flagged for pornography.)

But the poem I want to write for tomorrow is based on the painting Apollo and Cyparissus by Claude -Marie Dubufe (1790-1864).  If I’d been thinking, I would have written down the titles of the art on the two other postcards I’ve already sent, but alas and alack.  Anyway, I’ll keep up with it now.

I still haven’t received any postcards yet, but then when it comes to the USPS, I am cursed, so I won’t start worrying that I’ve been forgotten by other Poetry Postcard people until Friday.

So far, here are the titles of the poems I’ve sent:

8/1  “Folk Tale”

8/2  “Garden Variety”

8/3  “Competition”