imaginative contact

My OFFICE is up and running; warm and welcoming – and very quiet. I go there every morning, not bringing my mac. I write and read, undisturbed. Being off-line makes all the difference. In the afternoon I go back home, where I also have a work-station, and a computer, and this is the place I write my reviews, my blog posts and do all kinds of worldly things.

shedexplosion01Cornelia Parker: Cold Dark Matter, An Exploded View © Hugo Glendinning

I have two major writing projects going on. One top secret purely fiction, the other a book on art, which I’ve already written a lot about on these pages. But during the last two weeks I’ve gotten a better grip on it.

I’m writing a series of ekphrasis’ on contemporary works of art. My intention is to bring the reader into imaginative contact with the artworks I’m writing about, convey a feeling of being there, with the art – in it. Thats why I have chosen ekphrasis as method.


Greek ekphrasis, literally, description, from ekphrazein to recount, describe, from ex- out + phrazein to point out, explain

Ekphrasis of a work of art is an ancient literary practice. An ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. But one can also write ekphrastic in other genres. Through the act of narrating and reflecting on the “action” of a work of art, the writer amplifies and expands its meaning.

During the Greek period ekphrasis included descriptions of battle implements, as well as fine clothing, household items of superior craftsmanship (urns, cups, baskets), and exceptionally splendid buildings.


Cornelia Parker: Cold Dark Matter, An Exploded View © Hugo Glendinning

Today ekphrasis seems mainly to be connected to visual arts, which is also where I am writing from. My intention is to find a place to speak from in-between poetry and factual prose – the lyrical essay might be the best definition.

Writing an ekphrasis on for example Cornelia Parker‘s Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991), one of the artworks I will be writing about, will probably not have very much in common with Homer’s poem on The Shield of Achilles … but still, in one way, this is the tradition I plan to position myself within. (Always use the very best as your models -).

corneliaparker. manchester

Cornelia Parker: Cold Dark Matter, An Exploded View 

Cornelia Parker’s Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991) is on show in The Whitworth in Manchester until 31 May 2015

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Harold Rhenisch says:

    Do you know Christopher Logue’s exploded Illiad, or Alice Oswald’s even more exploded “Memorial”?

    1. Sigrun says:

      I do know Alice Oswald, but had almost forgot about her wonderful Memorial – will definitely recover it from the shelf.
      I do not (yet) know Logue.

      1. Anthony says:

        In the autumn, Faber are publishing the complete collection of Logue’s War Music, his reworking of much of The Iliad.

  2. Harold Rhenisch says:

    She reads a bit of it here, but, sadly, for such a great poet, not well.

  3. Harold Rhenisch says:

    Here’s a bit of Logue talking about his Iliad (War Music). If you click “read this poem”, you’ll get some poem.

  4. cynthia says:

    I LOVE the way you divide your writing day–wish I could make myself do that. Well, the seed has been planted. That’s a start.

    1. Sigrun says:

      I am very impressed by my own lack of control … when I have access to the www I dive in whenever I’m stuck (which to be honest seems to be a lot of the time -.)

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