Ekphrasis

Vitruvian Man by Leonardo Da Vinci

When I’m traveling, I love finding unexpected connections between people and places and ideas. Like Ekphrasis — an ancient Greek thing that I learned about in Mexico for an event sponsored by Americans. (If, like most people, you haven’t been following along, I’m an American in Greece on my way back to Mexico). Ekphrasis is a literary work that’s about or inspired by a piece of art. Like everything Greek, the idea of ekphrasis goes deeper than that. But to keep things simple, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code is ekphrasic because the story is built around Leonardo’s paintings, including “Vitruvian Man.” John Keats’ poem, “Ode on A Grecian Urn” is also ekphrasic.

When I was in San Miguel de Allende pre-pandemic, a small group of author friends organized an ekphrasic event at a local gallery. We each read aloud what we’d written about one of the gallery’s artworks while our audience sipped chardonnay. My essay was about mysticism in the Mexican town of Chamula, inspired by a painting of abstract people and animals randomly placed around a church-like structure.

Libbe Dennard speaking at Ekphrasis event, Manuk Gallery. Photo by Catherine Marenghi

More recently, my San Miguel author friend, Bonnie Black, (check out her blog http://bonnieleeblack.com/blog/) suggested I enter a contest sponsored by the Ekphrasic Review. https://www.ekphrastic.net/. Many literary journals rely on this kind of fundraising in order to survive. They charge a fee to enter a contest, and offer winners a prize or inclusion in their publication. So I paid $10 and submitted three short essays. They’re not very good, but the exercise was fun.

The contest rules advised they were interested in “micro-fiction,” which is a very short story, often only a sentence. Here is the painting and the micro-fiction piece I wrote.

Fields of Bluebonnets by Robert Julian Onderdonk, 1920

She was like a butterfly,  joyfully resurrected and drawn to the wind, so I planted the fields with bluebonnets that bloomed on our wedding day. 

I’d been binge-watching Downton Abbey, and I think I was influenced by the romance between Tom Branson and Sybil Grantham. 🙂

And now, I will return to my much longer, non-ekphrasic writing project, Burden of Truth.

14 comments

  1. Amazing that you can get so much story into such a short piece…lovely. Good luck on the larger work as well and have fun for the rest of your stay in Corfu!

  2. Well done Kim! I’ve grown to really love your contest entry: it reads as poetically as a well crafted (albeit long-winded) haiku. 🙂

    Glad you found something to appreciate about DA. I sure did enjoy it (as a guilty pleasure).

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