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17 April 2023

Posted by Antosh Wojcik

Ode To Ekphrastic Corpse!

6 Attending

Our online writing group for years 18+ with Mayflower Engage, Writing for Stage and Page, has returned. After a short and successful first term, the group is back in swing for a summer of writing, exploration and sharing ideas. If you’re looking for a writing group that’s online, fun and welcoming of all disciplines, sign up here: https://www.mayflower.org.uk/whats-on/writing-for-page-and-stage-summer-2023/ 

We begin with a reflective check in, writing about the week we’ve had as if it were ‘something blended’ - a smoothie, a milkshake, a soup. The group each other with overpowered banana with ‘bit encounters’, grey smoothies with a tantalising smell, inconsistent brews of sweets and wrappers – and that overly thick milkshake straw blockage that happens when there’s not enough cooperation!


I thought it would be a nice idea to begin the term by honouring small things. Our first task was to write an ode to something not often celebrated. We used Sharon Olds’ ‘Ode to Dirt’ (from Odes, Jonathan Cape, 2016) as our poetic guide. You can read the poem here: https://www.loc.gov/programs/poetry-and-literature/poet-laureate/poet-laureate-projects/poetry-180/all-poems/item/poetry-180-134/ode-to-dirt/

The group offered some insightful readings of the poem; that it begins with an apology and moves to reverence. ‘It reads as though it is a coming to terms with dirt.’ The poem also stirred notes on the word choice: ‘I was curious by the use of the word wobble, especially for describing dirt, which I feel wouldn't usually be depicted that way’. An ode is a form that allows the writer to bring new language to something familiar. These insights match the intention of writing an ode: we write of a thing to celebrate or dedicate to its character.

We used this prompt as a way in, to write our own ode. Members of the group wrote to an ode to oxygen, to a tree, to their downfalls, to glancing blows.

Ekphrastic Corpse!

Our second writing task was to embark on writing an Ekphrastic Corpse! Combining two generative processes:

Ekphrasis – creating a new piece of art in response to an existing piece of art, often as a response. So in our case, creating writing from images and sounds.

Exquisite Corpse - a collaborative drawing approach first used by surrealist artists to create bizarre and intuitive drawings. In our case, a way of forming a body or figure of notes from different and surprising bodies.

Combining the two processes = Ekphrastic Corpse! The group were to write responsive notes (Ekphrasis) from different sources of inspiration that connected to the body, mind and setting (Exquisite Corpse).

Our note taking took place over three phases:

1)    Some Heads – 6 portraits, notes on their inner monologue, mindset, how someone is thinking, the day they are having.

a.    Weeping Woman (Picasso)

b.    Finn The Human

c.     Yellow Power Ranger

d.    CAT

e.    Biblically Accurate Angel

f.     Basquiat Skull

2)    Some Heartbeats – 4 songs were played, the writers to listen and note feelings, motions, presence, actions & interactions the songs provoked. Spotify Playlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6r4O0WsVNlbhRKEiL065Nw?si=8e94478cc22347ff

a.    Flim – Aphex Twin

b.    Welcome To My Island – Caroline Polachek

c.     Water Copy – Hiroshi Yoshimura

d.    Road Head – Japanese Breakfast

e.    (Bonus) Finish It – Carbomb

f.     (Bonus) Need A Hug – Gyrofield

3)    Some Footings – 6 locations for the writers to locate their characters/voices in and explore.

a.    Void

b.    Alley

c.     Cinema

d.    Fruit Aisle

e.    Park

f.     Swamp

The group were then asked to write a piece that brings together their three sections of notes, forming the corpse. They could write a little piece about the Head, the Heartbeat, and the Footing. They could use the mindset or Head, to define a character and then explore how they act using the Heartbeat, in a certain space, their Footing.

The results were marvellous, bizarre and so surprising. We had calm men falling through the void, touching, kaleidoscopic evocations in the fruit aisle, cats meandering the swamp on a gondola.

Reader – you are invited to write your own Ekphrastic Corpse!

Watch our blog space for any submitted writings from the group. Please consider joining us each week for this kind of writing fun and a safe space for sharing creative ideas. You can sign up here: https://www.mayflower.org.uk/whats-on/writing-for-page-and-stage-summer-2023/


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