Am I a crack pot? Do I own a crockpot? Well, maybe both. Poet Mom January O'Neil's blog post "Cooking in My Sleep" got me thinking about the need to get my dusty crockpot dusted off. I cracked open my trusted cookbook, Crockery Cookery, and found a trusty recipe for Corn Tortilla Casserole. The great thing about this recipe is that most people have all the main ingredients in their cupboards: a can of green chilies, a can of tomato sauce, some garlic powder and oregano. All you need to go out in buy is some chicken and 1/2 a dozen corn tortillas, and maybe some sour cream to dollop on top. You layer the tortillas with the chicken and the sauce, then smother the whole thing with grated Monterey Jack. Along with a pot of brown rice, it's 100% guaranteed comfort food. Ole!
I wanted dinner preparation out of the way, so I dumped the ingredients into the Rival at 10 am, set the timer for 4 hours, and headed down to the Frye Art Museum for Speaking Pictures: A Poetry Workshop co-taught by two wonderful Seattle poets, Susan Rich and Lillias Bever.
When I saw who was teaching it I knew it was going to be a great workshop, but these two fine ladies outdid themselves. I heard excerpts from the very first ekphrastic (Homer describing Achilles' shield in The Iliad), learned of Edward Steichen's advice on looking at visual art ("look at it until it becomes alive and looks back into you"), and got to take a stab at writing not one but two ekphrastic poems . . . one based on a Chagall painting, and the other inspired by a painting in the Frye's permanent collection.
Susan shared her initial skepticism toward ekphrasis. She quoted Valery, who stated "We should apologize that we dare speak about art," then she compared ekphrasis with trying to make a delicious pastry or an evening gown out of words. I loved that!
Valery later concedes, stating that each work of art demands a response. And Rich, too, pushes past her own initial reluctance with the (lucky for us) outcome of sharing, along with Bever, a breadth of knowledge using poems by Hart Crane, Elizabeth Bishop, Rainier Maria Rilke, Robert Hayden, John Ashbery, Mark Doty, Yusef Komonunyakaa, and Natasha Trethway to discuss the way poets have successfully approached this sub-genre. After their workshop, I felt buffeted on in my own attempts at writing poems that respond to visuals.
I left the museum with these helpful suggestions:
1. Pose questions to the object or painting;
2. Enter into the work of art;
3. Participate (don't just examine);
4. Let the art talk back to you, change you;
5. The more subtle about the artist/title, the better.
Much thanks to Susan and Lillias!