• Bill

Reading Art

What does Reading Art mean? You'll see when you watch the video. Now we just need a series called Writing Art. This calls to mind a word I learned recently--ekphrastic, or the noun, eckphrasis.

It means using art to describe (usually) another art form, For example, in the poem below Auden describes painting, His poem is often termed an excellent example of ekphrasis. The definition has been broadened to include painting, music, or writing that describes one of the other art forms, or even other human activities as (I guess) reading in the video above.

Writers use ekphrasis, at least metaphorically, all the time, As an awkward example: "She blew hair out of her eyes after Johan said he loved her while looking at his watch," She wanted a clearer view of what J was telling her while undercutting what he was saying, Words are describing her action indicating a desire to see more clearly what J was saying, but by his action, seemingly not meaning, Words describing actions signifying disparate feelings,

Musee des Beaux Arts

W. H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong, The old Masters: how well they understood Its human position: how it takes place While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along; How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting For the miraculous birth, there always must be Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating On a pond at the edge of the wood: They never forgot That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky, Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Breugel's Landscape of the fall of Icarus, Pieter Breugel the Elder, about 1558. Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels.

In case you missed the fall, that's Icarus's leg behind the ship. It's as if the whole world continues what it is doing when we writers get another rejection. "Why didn't the damn thing fly this time? I thought it was perfect!"


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