Sunday, April 19, 2015

Notebooking Daily Writing Exercise April 19, 2015

Daily Exercise Genre: Ekphrasis.

Painting by Yary Dluhos
About today's writing prompt genre: Ekphrasis is from Greek meaning the description of a work of art as a rhetorical device. That's actually pretty straight forward, but another way to look at it, is it's highfalutin fan fiction, usually about paintings or pieces of music, but it can be about virtually anything. Look at or listen to the following piece of art and write a piece of prose or poetry that is inspired by some aspect of it.

Today's artwork is...

The poem "Boulevard Slick with Rain" by Jennifer Grotz. This poem is from Grotz' first collection Cusp (2003) which won the Bread Loaf Bakeless Prize, and is one of the few poems that wasn't originally published in a literary journal first but it was my favorite.

Boulevard Slick with Rain

In the blue light, each of us looks
        For a place we belong.
We don't know how far
        We'll have to walk to catch the metro.

Our shoes scrape against the sidewalk,
        Jan's hand squeezing mine. We fight
Over who carries the suitcase, my black dress
        Stuffed inside for her father's funeral.

Jan wants the weight in her hand.
        Like the painter who carried his portrait under his arm,
As if he might revise it anywhere. Not his fresco
        Fixed in a monastery, where a woman

In a surgical mask studies the palimpsest of dust
        And candle smoke, tries to undo
The damage of hundreds of years.
        It is twilight, all boundary, and the boulevard

Is ribbon winding slowly lighter—entre chien et loup.
        Pigeons strut at the iron gate, restless,
And the boulevard is slick with rain.
        Jan searches her coin purse for francs.

The street funnels the headlights
        From cars, holds them, arranges them in long lines,
Red and white and yellow, our shoes
        Extinguishing the light beneath the sfumato air.

The sidewalk glows metallic—I could go on:
        It silvers, reflects sky. And the artist
With his rolled-up canvas, his brush and egg yolk,
        Perhaps he wanted to preserve this light

Our shoes press into or
        The way we watch a man
Walk to his car, unlock the door,
        Light in his hair as he climbs in,

Gesture of stretching seatbelt, door slam.
        How can we preserve any of this?
Coughing of engine, white reverse lights,
        His head twists backwards as

My lips try to brighten Jan's face with a kiss.
        A woman restores the fresco, one square
Inch per month, and we see the entrance to the metro
        As the boulevard unravels beneath our feet.


Whatever it is that strikes you about this poem, run with it. Whether it's the painterly descriptions, the use of French terms (here are some other popular ones), the vignette of a walk, consoling someone who has recently lost a relative, the restoration of art (the infamous attempt to restore Ecco Homo by Elías García Martínez is one thing that immediately comes to mind), specifically the term sfumato is intriguing if that might be something you are sparked by. Perhaps the jagged quatrain structure has struck a chord with you during this, National Poetry Month. Maybe it's something as small as the act of searching for change, or something as large as being unable to distinguish between dog and wolf—innocent and dangerous. Have fun!

For an explication of the poem check out the page Between Dog and Wolf.


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