An update from William's forty-second Writing Workshop
William started off the Writing Workshop by explaining the concept of Ekphrasis, which typically refers to translating one piece of art from one format to another. As an example, William highlighted the poem "The Ambassador" by Emma Hoff, which was published in the January 2021 issue of Stone Soup. Emma's inspiration for the poem was a painting by Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico (picture to the right). Additionally, William discussed Homer's description of Achilles's shield, Lucian of Syria's description of a painting lost in ancient times, and later Boticelli's painting that interpreted Lucian of Syria's description.
The Challenge: Write a piece that utilizes the technique of ekphrasis by reimagining a visual work of art into words.
The Participants: Sierra, Mahika, Charlotte, Madeline, Julia, Lina, Reese, Nova, Mia, Hanbei, Iago, Reese, Peri, Gia, Jonathan, Nami, Sage, Lena A, Wesley, Rachael, Angela, Audrey, Grace, Delight, Jaya, Lena, Helen, Chelsea, Leo, Margaret.
The Face of Time
Nami Gajcowski, 11
I took out my violin and played a drawn-out and mournful tune. She didn’t notice, or she didn’t care. I wasn’t sure which. I was impatient. I couldn’t teach music to a student who would only stand motionless. So, I sent her away a half-hour early.She didn’t move, but she said the first thing I heard her say during this violin lesson: “I will leave when I want to.”
She wasn’t being defiant. Or maybe she was, but she used her words and twisted them into an innocent tone. So, I let her stay. I let her stay and stare at her violin. I made stabs of conversation. She never responded.
I tried playing a lively tune. She continued to look like stone. Out of the blue, she stood up. Still holding her violin, she went to the coat hanger and grabbed her brown cloak off the golden hook. She set down her violin to fasten her cape.
“Are you going?” I asked.
She finished fastening her cape and grabbed her violin. It was eerie the silence that she made. Her footsteps didn’t make a sound. Her cape didn’t rustle.
She opened the red doors, and quietly stepped outside my house. I stared at her. Something was intriguing. I knew that there was more to uncover to her. I felt that her silence held a secret. Maybe deep loss or unbearable pain.
However, when her mother had dropped her off at my house for her first violin practice, she had maintained a stiff smile. That was probably for her talkative and over-eager mother. But when her mother left, her lopsided smile diapered, and she took a seat in front of my desk. She swiveled the chair to face my direction, and she picked up her violin as if she were about to play. She never did, though, and then that’s when I began to speak even though I wasn’t sure if she was listening.
I stared outside my window. She walked down the street that was wet from rain, her violin in hand. I didn’t know where she was going, but there was something peculiar about her footsteps. Unlike when she was in the house, her footsteps made an ominous and echoing sound. I could hear her footsteps from across the street.
The rain wet the ringlets of her brown hair. Though it wasn’t the brown I saw in my house. It looked a different color. Though if it were a color, what color was it? It seemed to change with the wind. It was unpredictable. It was changing.
She looked like the corpse of time. Or maybe she was time itself. Her figure suddenly changed from a 12-year-old girl to an adult with a broad stance. She seemed to be ageing by the minute. Then, she disappeared. Had she died? No, now she was a baby. An innocent and gentle baby. There was nothing more to her, but she kept on crawling down the street as she began ageing again.
However, there was something odd with the street. I had walked down it many times before, but something was different. It stretched out and into the rain. It was never-ending. The cheery buildings turned a drab grey. I could still see the girl. She was walking, but instead of going farther down the street, she seemed not to be moving forward.
Suddenly, she turned back into the girl in my house. When I was teaching her the violin. She was the 12-year-old girl with brown hair that matched the color of her cape. I touched the window. Its smooth glass was now somewhat bumpy.
Smoke billowed out of the girl’s cloak.
The street turned to normal. The window became smooth. The girl disappeared.
I never saw her again, but little did I know, she would change my life.
Horses in the Snow
Lina Kim, 11
The two majestic horses plunged through the snow, tossing snowflakes off of the ground. The mare on the left had fur the color of a chestnut and a mane and tail the shade of peanut butter. A light sprinkle of snow coated her back. Beside her, on her right, was a stallion, black as night. Both had a small streak of white starting on their foreheads between their eyes, reaching down until it touched their muzzles. Snow-covered trees reached up to touch the light orange-pink sky. One tree’s thin trunk had bent over. The red-orange leaves coated in white reached to the ground desperately, but the trunk refused to give in, resisting gravity as much as possible. The horses raced into the rising sun.
Madeline Kline, 13
I stand in the museum among my classmates, staring up at this small piece of history. The image stands out to me, drawing me from the group. My artist’s eye catches even the smallest of details, lists in my head the materials needed to recreate this piece. Blue paint, brushed steadily back and forth across the top of the canvas, creating the background of the sky. The second layer, white is swirled on top, lazily pushed around with the brush, mixing with the blue it touches, to create layers of clouds. Waiting for the sky to dry, I would take a smaller brush, and barely touch the paper as I draw hundreds of small curves, grass bending in the wind. While that dried, I would gather the deep, natural browns and greens needed for the next segment of my work. Using a thick brush, I would start at the bottom, creating the base of the tree, turning the brush to make the lines thinner as I carve out the roots. Then, I would work the brown paint up to when the tree splits into its many limbs. Taking a smaller brush, I would extend the limbs outwards, turning like arms, waving naturally in the wind. With even a smaller brush still, I would revisit the trunk of the tree, carving lines in the bark, swirling around a dark hole where some animal, barely visible, lives. Working with my tiny brush, I would do the same for each limb, too small a groove to even be visible to the untrained eye. After the wood is painted, I would start with the leaves. Coating a brush in green, I would apply the first layer of paint, gently pushing the side of the brush against the paper, creating the shape of the leaves. After the first layer is finished, I would wait for it to dry, then using my tiny brush, would carve out veins in the leaves using a lighter shade of green. Then I would start the next layer, and repeat the same steps over, and over, and over, until only minuscule shreds of brown are still visible. For the final layer, I would use a green that was almost white to show the sunlight reflecting off of the leaves.
After completing the tree in my head, my eyes wander to the smaller details. The gray, fuzzy shape curled up in the hole in the tree. I would need to mix that with black paint while it was still fresh on the page, creating the creature whose fur blended with the darkness. My eyes scan the painting, searching for another hidden detail the creator only meant to be seen by true artists. As I do, I can hear my class walking off to the next part of the museum. I sigh, and turn around. No painting is worth being left behind.
Mia Money, 8
Iago Macknik-Conde, 14
Fire engulfs everything. Everything becomes fire. Chaos rains down from the sky. Horses neigh and whinny as they break free from their stables and frantically clop down the Basque streets, looking for a shield from their impending demise. Mothers cry out, searching for their children, trying desperately to find anything to contradict what they already know is true. Soldiers are ripped apart, their weapons futile against an enemy fought from above. Grandmothers peek their heads out from their windows, shining lanterns out onto the road below, ignorant of what hell they are about to suffer.
Nova Macknik-Conde, 9
You stare at the ice in front of your face, so close, so real... but not. The painting beckons you. It seems to say, “Come. The painted world is waiting. You can meet Mo, or, as you call her, Mona Lisa. You can see the eternal nighttime sky in The Starry Night. Come. We people of the paintings can’t wait to meet you. You are the only human other than the window-makers, or as you call them, artists, who knows us to be true. The only human who can enter our painted depths. We need you.”
You blink and shake your head a few times as though you were a dog trying to rid itself of water. You step one tantalizing step closer. Your nose is almost touching the paint. You stare at the painted dark blue sky with the white freckles spattered across it. You look down at the pale blue ice of the skating rink and the minuscule ice-ballerinas dancing alone unaccompanied by others, practicing their choreography. The males in all shades of blue, which is the same for the females. You see some children as well, with a few reporters, photographers, and other humans learning, or just enjoying, the gentle, bold, soft, hard, dominant, and awe-inspiring majesty of skating inside the blue-tinted black of the circular walls under the nonexistent roof and dark sky.
The Gift of Love
Angela Tang, 12
She armoured her husband with the gift of love, reminding him that this was the calm before the storm. She watched with fear as her husband ran at the enemy, knowing that truly, the only thing he ran at was death itself.
The fair maiden poured her a cup of tea, with a gentle clinking that reminded the wife of perhaps her last tea with him. She thus drank none of it. None of it without the only man that she knew she loved.
Years passed as the wife’s bones wore away, skin deflated and sagged, but she still sat every day with the same poise at the old, now rusted circular table, waiting, longing for her husband to come back from war. But he never did.
She stood by the window, the translucent window that shone iridescent onto the little dirt path, where the wife had still imagined her supposedly late husband’s footsteps, rising plumes of ash. But they were now covered with the soot of the present, the love in every stride now belittled by the picturesque landscape, as if it was straight from a pastel painting.
The wife took a step into the gentle breeze of late autumn, careful to always lay eyes on what was ahead of her, not her past. She walked and walked until she came to the beautiful willow where she would always put her hands against, pressing deep into the thick trunk, now armed with experience and love. The wife believed the willow was her husband, strong, beautiful, but barely recognized. She scrunched her hands, lacing them together, and bowed her head into the peeling bark of the willow.
The wife prayed that she could let go of her past and move further, further away into the future. Her essence soon disintegrated into another place- her mind. She was trapped in the sorrow she had accumulated as she sat at the tea table, pouring herself a cup but yet, not drinking a drop of it.
She then felt a pair of warm hands on her back, and heard the clink of old armour and the spark of love in the heat of the hands.
The wife blinked once again, and peered behind her. Behind her stood a man, grown way taller past her shoulders, hair matted and partly burnt, and the old rusty weaponry that the wife immediately recognized as the armour she had carefully placed with perfection. But it was the face that sent her soul away. The warm smile and the beautiful eyes that she could get lost in at the first gaze. The man spoke with a gentle expression dripping with the honey in the wife’s tea.
“Hello, my princess.”