For me, art is a constant source of inspiration. I walk through museums and galleries with a petite notebook and matching pen in my back pocket to catch whatever comes to mind. When I look at a work of art—be it a painting, photography, sculpture, or mixed media—I try to imagine myself inside the piece, either as the subject or the person observing the scene. For example, here’s what I wrote in response to this photo of fireworks:
One hand gropes
in the dark
and finds its match.
Now fingers intertwine
like stacked wood
from pressed palms
to wrapped arms,
Then lips touch
and the miracle
of fire burns slow
through hips and toes.
Embers of shared
breath rise until reds,
purples, and golds bloom
and burst into fiery
I like photography because a photo is literally a snapshot of a moment, which goes along with the narrative elements of the poems I write. Former North Carolina Poet Laureate, Cathy Smith Bowers calls this, “shining a light on a moment in time.”
As a poet, I have complete freedom to choose which moment to feature. The unseen creatures are the focus of this haiku:
The receding tide
leaves sand crabs bare on the shore
Raucous seagulls snack
A good ekphrastic poem should be able to stand by itself—without the requiring artwork to provide the context. At the same time, the poem should complement the artwork, enhance the meaning of the scene beyond what you can experience just by looking at it. Here’s a poem inspired by the well-known painting, The Sleeping Gypsy (read the poem and then visit the painting).
The Sleeping Gypsy
And now she sleeps—
stretched—with her water jug
nearby and the moon standing
guard overhead. I’ve stalked her
wandering scent in the desert heat,
beheld her bedazzling garments
as if a rainbow wrapped its arms
around her dark beauty. The mandolin
silent, but still singing her deep
alto into my jaws, my paws. I long
to be that instrument—what she wants
near, what her arms can hold.
Special thanks to photographers, Manish Ahuja and Katia Singletary, for granting permission to use their work.