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An update from our thirteenth Writing Workshop with Conner Bassett

A summary of the workshop held on Saturday September 18, plus some of the output published below

For today's workshop, Conner chose to focus on "ekphrasis," meaning a creative interpretation, response, or translation of another work of art. Because ekphrasis has historically referred specifically to the transformation of visual art into poetry, we began class with this concept. First, we looked at Peter Bruegel's Landscape with the Fall of Icarus followed by William Carlos Williams' poem written in response, "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus." Next, we turned to Keats' classic poem "Ode to a Grecian Urn" in order to see clearer the benefits of ekphrasis. Then, having seen two examples of visual art being transformed into poetry, we looked at an example of the opposite in Charles Demuth's painting of William Carlos Williams' poem "The Great Figure," and William Holman Hunt's painted rendition of Alfred Lord Tennyson's lyrical ballad "The Lady of Shalott." To further illustrate ekphrasis' power to transform and translate, we looked at painted examples of famous creation myths, one of biblical origin and the other of Japanese. Our final example was Michelangelo's rendition of God giving life to Adam on the Sistene Chapel. By workshop's end, we came to the conclusion that, in the words of student Olivia Rhee, ekphrasis "paints words into something new that lets the eyes see instead of imagine."

The Participants: Nova, Audrey, Simran, Emma, Josh, Clara, Penelope, Lina, Alice, Ethan, Ellie, Svitra, Sinan, Shilla, and Olivia

The Challenge: Write a story or a poem based on Peter Bruegel's painting The Fall of the Rebel Angels.

Emma Hoff, 9
(Bronx, NY)

The Price of Free Will

Emma Hoff, 9

People are foolish.

While fighting,
those great grey things
climbed onto our heads
and begged for air.

Eyed from above,
clouds were meaningless,
wings that had sprouted
from spines of swords.

A magical thing
went limp
and floated.

Eyed from above,
claustrophobic screams
and gasps
and chokings,
wide open mouths,
slit open mouths,
eyes appearing

Little soldiers,
clockwork hearts
that wish for nothing
but blood,
blood for new
stained wood

Mussels find hiding
in their own kind,
they are the moth
wings of fishtails.

All the instrument plays
is a march by Shostakovich
or any kind of Tchaikovsky.

I hope these composers
did not mean
to be programmed
to the minds of battle,
they only dreamed of battles
like this one,
a woman of candy,
climbing up a tower
of others.

The court jester
thought this would be a good
place to try out
his jokes,
but all that is left of him
is his hat,
his precious hat.

Baskets of fish
and rice
and things,
and baby chicks
are squishing people
(and the baby chicks).

The clouds released
or puffins,
nobody's sure,
the sun has burned them
too quickly.

People that die look up,
they see their
last visions of
a sunny day,
and even that is clouded
by fog and red
and people blocking other people,
and when you are lying
on your back
while people are stepping
on your chest
and ignoring you,
it is hard to see
anything but twisted feet,
jumping women
in dresses,
you think you saw an apron,
but it could
have just been
your warped point of view
showing you
the sky
that lifts itself higher.

You thought you
also saw the sky
puff its chest,
but it was just a shape,
like an egg,
with eyes
where the eyes of a hammer-head
shark would be,
with teeth
and a grin,
snatching wings,
fairies were here, too.

Audrey Tzeng, 12 (Rocklin, CA)

The Box Opened

Audrey Tzeng, 12

The Box Opened
The box must have opened.
What else could produce such things?
Yes, there’s no better word for them,
Some man and some animal.
Some half-and-half
And some neither at all.
They cannot be ordered, cannot be named.
Angels stabbing and hacking
As man, that fiendish beast, serenely plays on.
Who fights for who?
They eat each other
And yet they are each other.
Now my head spins.
For we may not even be sure of the supposed “moon” in the background.
This painting turns day to night
And night to day.

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