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30 November 2021

Ekphrasis

Tests are going on this week and a lot of the regular group were absent revising for them, but we still managed an enormously talkative and creative session, beginning of course with describing our weeks, this time as ‘rucksack contents’. In one case that meant rotten food being emptied out and the surrounding pink tissue paper being restored, and in another it meant a rucksack within a rucksack within a rucksack within a rucksack…

Antosh introduced us to the Ancient Greek term ekphrasis commonly used to describe the act of making art from another piece of art, usually with the new art being a comment on the older piece or trying to capture its essence and form. Instead of being paralysed by the blank page, Antosh suggested we can build a formless bank of ideas via an ekphratic process.

We were tasked with listening to three soundscape tracks (‘表 1’, ‘表 7’, & ‘裏 9’) from the album Mudai Version by Fumitake Tamura & Dakim, one after another without pausing to discuss, thinking less in terms of emotion but with each track individually compiling textures, as per our texture-jam session, which we felt the audio invoked.

Before these textures could come into play though, the remit of our ekphrasis was extended to the two opening ‘portraiture’ poems from Selima Hill’s collection “Bunny” – ‘Little Dogs’ and ‘Fun’. Connecting lines to our own experiences, we got a sense for each poem and felt the two in series told a narrative, describing an ideal in the first (with the poet ‘proud’ and ‘entrusted’) which is deflated in the second (‘What she gets is’…) – a story of expectation-vs-reality.

Antosh cited these poems as vignettes – a term we recognised for its use in photography (from Instagram especially). In literature though, a vignette means short descriptive writing typically about a brief period in time which belongs to a larger narrative series.

Our prompt was to write portraiture poems or vignettes, about a character created by MAST Collective (19-25 y/o group), pulling from the pool of textures we had invented earlier in the session. Here is what the group came up with:


Libby’s Poem “Trash Man”

He lives in the drains

Glaring out from beneath the grate

Cursing loudly as muddy water dribbles

From the gutters and the clouds

Into his tangled beard

Where it finds home

Amongst crumbs and blobs of jam


Vic’s Vignette

There’s something to be said about the figure who stands just beyond the streetlight, shadowy and indistinct beneath the ruins of a historic archway. There’s something about the way they move, slowly, shakily, like an unoiled machine, from shadow to shadow, like a fugitive. They are trying to avoid the rain.


We looked at a final pair of poems, one of which was addressed to “you”, which Antosh called the ‘lyric-you’ in poetry - where the somebody ‘you’ represents becomes constructed by association with the poem’s contents, and had a fantastic go writing our own versions of these too.

We ended with a notice about an opportunity to write for BBC New Frequencies, which we will extend to the larger group when we meet next week.

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