Cambridge-based poet Michael Brown discusses ekphrastic poetry. He reads poems inspired by various pictures and other artworks particularly the work of Francis Bacon. Michael explains how he translates pictures into words and invites listeners to write an ekphrastic poem:
Go to a gallery or find a piece of artwork that really speaks volumes to you in an art book. Perhaps wonder in the gallery first then read what you can about the piece and have it visually present when you write. The traditional way would be to recreate the image or imagery through the written word. However whatever the piece inspires let the poem take you to where it needs to.
Patrick responds to the prompt with a poem inspired by Melancholy III by Edvard Munch.
Please share your ekphrastic poems via email or on social media using #poetrynonstop. Please also use the same hash tag to share pictures which would be good for ekphrastic poems. Who knows what poems they might inspire.
Michael also reads poems from his upcoming collection Meet Me at the Harbour which evoke memorable images with a few well chosen words.
Michael Brown was born in Manchester in 1983. He completed Meet Me at the Harbour whilst staying in his favourite place in the world, Charlestown, Cornwall, and in lighthouses owned by Trinity House. He lives in Cambridge with his husband and their adopted son. Michael is currently working on his short novel on climate change The Cage.
Twenty years after he died, Sally Festing inherited an archive of her father’s letters and diaries. Through these she learnt how her aunt and uncle, who she never knew, had been destroyed by schizophrenia. The suffering of his brother and sister drove her father, the neuroscientist Derek Richter, to establish the Mental Health Foundation. Sally talks with familiarity, respect and affection for relatives she got to know largely through studying her father’s records. Her poems vividly capture the lives of people whose suffering led to greater understanding and support for those suffering mental illness.
Sally also offers a writing exercise for writing poems from letters:
“Look at a few letters from the same person. He or she doesn’t need to be family, lots of poets write letters. I suppose they could equally well be emails.
“I’ve books of letters by Keats, and WS Graham. The last has always been an inspiration to me. His letters are pure poetry.
“A method I suggest to come up with a poem, is to copy out lines that interest, on a large page and read through until gradually, a form suggests itself that sends a message.”
So find some letters, see where it takes you and do share the results. Email here or share on social media using #poetrynonstop. The best will be featured on the blog and future podcasts.
On this week’s podcast Sally Festing discusses her latest collection My Darling Derry. It’s a sequence of poems based on an archive of Sally’s father’s letters and diaries which she inherited 20 years after he died. It explores the impact of mental illness on her family which led her father, the neuroscientist Derek Richter, to establish the Mental Health Foundation.
Here is a poem from the collection.
A Poetry of Release with a debt to WS Graham
My father’s efforts ran unhindered as the rain.
Those dearest to him from childhood
gone, he thought grief a gift he should earn.
There’s relatively little words can do for grief
but what else did he have?
There were, he knew, huge worlds to share. Explore.
Let this poem be a still thing, a mountain
constructed from glass. I begin with
the ghost of an intension which blasts itself
to nurture a new collision.
Perhaps the shape of us – the wreckage,
the shame and the dance – is in our language.