Writing and the Arts

July 25, 2018 at 5:36 pm | Posted in Australia, Culture, Poetry, Writing | 16 Comments
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At the June meeting of the Lake Macquarie Fellowship of Australian Writers, our guest presenter was Jan Dean, who is well known in the Hunter region. Jan is an award winning poet, and a former art teacher who loves to combine these major passions. She is a member of Poetry in the Pub, and was its first female president. Jan introduced the LakeMac group to a few new ways of looking at writing, particularly in regard to the crossover between poetry and art.

 

Firstly, we were introduced to the concept of surrealism in art, poetry, drama, etc. Surrealism concerns the unconscious or subconscious mind – “the plausible impossible”. We saw a picture of Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” and discussed the elements of surrealism within it. Jan shared two surrealist poems: Antonin Artaud’s “Dark Poet’ and Arthur Rimbaud’s “The Drunken Boat”. She also read a poem she wrote based on a surrealist painting, and these gave us an idea of what kind of writing to which we could stretch ourselves.

 

The Persistence of Memory (1931) Salvador Dalí

Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” 1931

 

Many of the group had not heard the term “ekphrasis”, i.e. writing stimulated by a piece of art, as in the poem “Ode to a Grecian Urn” by John Keats. Jan talked about how important it is to research the piece of art to get details correct. She read excerpts from her poem “Artemesia Reflects” (which is published in Paint Peels, Graffiti Sings, a pocketbook from Flying Islands Books, Macau). Artemesia Gentileschi was reputedly the first female artist to exist solely on the proceeds of her painting.

 

Jan pointed out that any piece of art – visual, auditory, performance – can provide stimulus for writing. She then gave us an exercise to do which involved linking surrealism and ekphrasis.

 

We each looked at a different, ordinary picture. Jan asked us to insert something grotesque into it that shouldn’t be there. We were to use the changed picture as a prompt to write a poem. My picture was of a woman and a man seated on opposite sides of a table. The woman’s face is sad, her arms rest on the table and she holds a disposable coffee cup in both hands. Her eyes are half-focused on the man, but his gaze is downwards, towards the cup. My insertion was a green emanation that rose from the cup and swirled around between the couple, touching neither.

 

The surreal aspect we gave to the picture was a great way to expand our understanding of any piece of art and how we could write about it. This is what I wrote about my picture:

Words, sickly, pastel-pale, swirl in the air.

Blue reaches for yellow, yellow for blue

trying to connect but,

unable to bridge the distance between them,

become absorbed into

amorphous green misunderstanding.

 

Surrealist overtones can be included when we write about still life pictures as well as any other. Jan gave us an exercise that showed how to put incongruous words together to create dream-like images that we can use in our writing. She introduced us to asemic writing too, images made up of meaningless words, beyond semantics, but which can stimulate the emotions.

Asemic-writing-necronomicon     Asemic writing

 

 

 

 

 

 

Examples of asemic writing

 

To complete the session, Jan reminded us of the Queensland Poetry Festival and encouraged us to enter its associated writing competition, the Philip Bacon Ekphrasis Award.

 

I left the session with my mind buzzing, words and images swirling, and a determination to use at least some of the writing techniques Jan shared with us. Perhaps I will even have a go at that ekphrasis competition.

 

Crazy, irrational things happen all the time in Surrealist literature. (Unknown origin)

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16 Comments »

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  1. Great report on what sounds like a great session by a very talented lady. I enjoyed your poem and encourage you to enter the comp.

    • Thanks Vicki. I can’t enter this poem, & we will be off to Tassie on Tuesday, so – another time perhaps. 🙂

  2. Your poem reflects the emotions of a young friend of mine and her 7 month partner who just broke up. Very well written.

  3. I’d love to have sat beside you at this seminar, right down my alley. First of all, I’d get to know you better and I’d have fun with the exercises. Thank you for introducing me to a new word, “ekphrasis”, writing stimulated by a piece of art.

    Actually, my students did this in my composition classes with art in the college art gallery. Who knew! 🙂

    • It’s amazing sometimes, that we do something that has an official name & don’t know it until later. Then we think, ‘How clever we were!’ 🙂

  4. What an interesting post and workshop, Linda. I love the example you gave of linking surrealism and ekphrasis. Your poem was amazing. I can understand how you left with your mind swirling with ideas. Fascinating.

  5. This is very interesting, Linda. I love the idea of art providing stimulus for writing.

  6. That would have been a great workshop to participate in. Loved your poem too.

  7. I’m so attracted to surrealism, but never thought of including the idea in my writing. This is a fascinating post – and I love your poem. Two years ago I visited a friend in St. Petersburg, FL, where she works as a guide for the internationally-known Salvador Dali Museum. it is so FANTASTIC it’s surreal. 🙂

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the poem, Pamela. Maybe you’d enjoy including surrealism in your writing and make that surreal too,! 🙂

      • I think I perhaps just did in today’s post. ;-0

  8. I love the relationship metaphor of your poem. Really nice. I can’t see ekphasis without thinking of the Girl with the Pearl Earring, a novel I much enjoyed.


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