Ekphrasis, is a word I first heard three years ago in my Creative Writing class. By definition, Ekphrasis has been considered to be a response, where one medium of art tries to relate to another medium. It is used to describe the essence and form of something visual. A descriptive work of prose or poetry, a film, or photograph is used to bring a certain animation to what is shown in any of the visual arts. It’s a different take on art collaboration. Poets were the first to experiment with this art form. Maybe that’s why I didn’t think much of it. Cool word yes, but I’m a fiction writer…

Flash forward two years and I find myself thinking of this word everyday. Not only am I a fiction writer but I’ve been a photographer for enough years that I still have my film cameras and some remnants from the dark room I’d lock myself into. It took three years to figure out that my best stories are the ones I conjure in my head while taking pictures. The stranger the setting, the more obscure or hidden an object is––the better the stories.  In fact the image on the top of this blog is from a collaboration with my friend and talented artist, Susan Hulsebos.  It’s an ongoing project that is evolving as we go.

I’ve taken this collaboration thing even further, sending out visual prompts to my writers group each month. There’s something electric about seven writers starting with the same spark and seeing how many directions the flames can spread. We have never had two stories or poems resemble each other. What one writer might find as a trigger, the way the light falls, a pattern in a background, the texture of an object––all of these things are explored by the different women in my group. Of course not all writers have the same experience with something visual. For them it could be a word, they way they change or roll it around in their mouth. Or maybe music is the muse. But aren’t all these things a response? Aren’t we all responding to life if different ways and building on those experiences to create something meaningful or emotional or even something entertaining?

So now when I say I think of this word, ekphrasis and the cursed red underline shows beneath it every time I type it, I think how maybe one day it won’t be such an obscure word. It will be thrown around between all of us creatives as we share and respond to each others works, it will be sought out, collaborations will be made and maybe, just maybe that dreaded red line will stop showing up to tell us this isn’t a word or worse yet, we the writer haven’t spelled it right.

I guess I’m hoping this is the start to something bigger, a collaboration that could grow and inspire. What gets your creative mojo working? What triggers your stories or poems, paintings or sculptures? No really, I want to know.

  • I get juiced when I see a moment I have never seen before – I may have seen an object many times but maybe it’s the quality of light falling on it this time that just grabs me. I want to explore it, make an experience of it either with a painting capturing the essence of my relationship to this object/scene or with a poem resonating with felt experience of a moment. It’s the process of becoming entranced and overcome with lust over a color or texture or mood. I remember as a kid growing up in Cali, looking at a redwood tree or a golden rolling hill and wanting to somehow get it inside of me – like eating and digesting it so I could carry it with me. That’s what I seek to do – what makes my mojo flow -becoming dense with felt and visual experience and connecting it all into one sustaining truthful moment.

    Can’t wait for our upcoming Ekphrasis project Carmen!! And I promise i will TRY to not talk for then entire 5 days. (Maybe cutting it off at 4).

    August 24, 2016 at 3:23 pm
  • Andrea parrella

    I’ve been reading the book, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. She likes to think about ideas for her writing projects as objects floating around the universe—if she feels one of these ideas “nudging” at her, she grabs onto it and rushes in —but she feels there is a time limit-that if she doesn’t pay attention to it or if life gets in the way and she has to shelve an unfinished piece—-that sometimes she returns to it to find that the idea didn’t just wait around-but simply floated away to find someone else to nudge. I can soooo relate to the immediacy EG feels to capture an idea that I have “caught””—I’m often triggered by a sentence or phrase I hear that hits me a certain way–that won’t leave me alone-a few years ago, someone said to me, “well, she always was a hillbilly” and the absurdity and out of place-ness of such an old fashioned insult nudged at me until I built a character and a short story around it.

    November 10, 2016 at 10:19 pm

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