Two years ago, for an ekphrastic exercise for Tweetspeak Poetry's Image-ine Poetry feature, I wrote a series of poems that responded to artworks by painter Lisa Hess Hesselgrave. I was very much taken with Lisa's wonderful artworks, whose narrative qualities were perfect for ekphrasis, which The Oxford Classical Dictionary defines as "the rhetorical description of a work of art." My effort produced six poems for five of Lisa's paintings: Girl in Street (two poems), Plywood Archer #1, Jumprope, Pink Room, Hot Sky, and Bedsheet. All are in the Image-in archives at Tweetspeak.
My poems, I'm delighted to say, are featured along with the paintings that inspired them in an exhibition, "Words & Images", in the Ives Gallery of New Haven Free Public Library in Connecticut. The exhibition continues through September 6.
Here is one of the poems in the exhibition:
Lisa Hess Hesselgrave, Girl in Street, 1991
Oil on Canvas
Pure as Sarin
after Lisa Hess Hesselgrave's 'Girl in Street'
The milkweed pods scattered
when the moon split. The sky
smoked, rust-rubbed; clouds,
cottony cockleburs, stout with
the seed that is the last thing
the girl in the street saw fall.
It was black rain that came,
no warning from the belly
of the bomber.
You don't get time to be more
than the victim with no name.
You run in whatever you have
on, a too-hot blue-paved street
quieting behind every foot fall.
My poems in the exhibition and the paintings (listed in italics) they respond to are: "Pure as Sarin", Girl in Street; "Artemis", Plywood Archer #1; "Learning to Jump Rope", Jumprope, Pink Room; "Closing In", Hot Sky; and "Apprentice", Bedsheet.
In addition, Lisa has mounted ekphrastic poems by Alexandra Caselle (Jumprope, Pink Room), Annell Livingston (Jumprope, Pink Room), Lynnediane (Hot Sky), Elizabeth W. Marshall (Girl in Street, Plywood Archer #1, Jumprope, Pink Room, Hot Sky, and Bedsheet), Richard Maxson (Girl in Street, Jumprope, Pink Room, Hot Sky, and Bedsheet), Darlene S. (Plywood Archer #1), and Marcy Terwilliger (Girl in Street), as well as Sheryl Bedingfield (Plywood Archer #1), Tom Nicotera (Plywood Archer #1), and Megan Thomas (Plywood Archer #1).
Tomorrow, August 24, Ives Gallery is hosting a reception with Lisa from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. A poetry reading will take place.
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A selection of Lisa's work, including prints, watercolors, and figure drawings, is being shown at Madison Art Cinemas, Madison, Connecticut. That work, too, will be on view through September 6.