|Photo: Kevin Barber|
We're inside the main reading room of the Library of Congress' Jefferson Building in Washington DC to introduce you to a TLD VIP— the one and only "sprinkler hose of poetry". . .
How lucky we are to have Diane Mayr as our newest TLD contributor! Her extensive knowledge of library and online resources has proven invaluable to me time and time again. Her prowess as a researcher and artful competence as a poet makes me certain that she is the perfect person to sit at Today's Little Ditty's virtual information desk.
Diane is no stranger to Poetry Friday. Many of you will recognize her name associated with two terrific blogs: Random Noodling (her poetry blog) and Kurious Kitty's Kurio Kabinet (her library blog). What you may not know is that Diane is the author of five fiction and nonfiction books for children, and serves her community as the Adult Services Librarian/Assistant Director at the Nesmith Library in Windham, NH. She is also the only person I know who possesses an honest-to-goodness Poetic License. No kidding—see for yourself!
As part of her "Ask a Librarian" series on Today's Little Ditty, Diane has agreed to address readers' questions and offer tips, tools, and insights on a variety of topics for readers and writers of poetry. If you have a question for Diane or would like to suggest a topic for a future post, please email her at TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com.
In the meantime, let's give a warm welcome to the eclectic, ekphrastic, and extra-fantastic Diane Mayr!
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Thank you, Michelle for inviting me to post today! The fact that I've been a public librarian 30 years this August gives me an air of authority, I guess. Rather than as an authority, think of a public librarian as a partner in unleashing your curiosity and creativity.
With that in mind, I'm going to tell you about one of my favorite types of poetry--ekphrastic poetry. Poems about art. Poems inspired by a work of art. Poems about a creator of art.
Ekphrasis, simply stated, is art about art. (See note below.)
The term is being used a little more often than it used to be, although you still won't find it in some dictionaries. Here's what you get if you look up ekphrasis at Dictionary.com:
Poets have been writing about art probably as long as poetry and art have existed. We can go back to the Greeks for early examples (the term ekphrasis is from the Greek and is translated as "description"). Here's part of Homer's description of Achilles shield from The Iliad:
Then first he form’d the immense and solid shield;
Rich various artifice emblazed the field;
Its utmost verge a threefold circle bound;
A silver chain suspends the massy round;
Five ample plates the broad expanse compose,
And godlike labours on the surface rose.
Read more here.
"Ode on a Grecian Urn" by John Keats for a class somewhere along the line.
Poets of the recent past, and poets writing today, use art as inspiration. From Amy Lowell to Lawrence Ferlinghetti to Edward Hirsch.
Ekphrastic poetry takes all forms from long, as Homer wrote, to short, shorter, and shortest (think haiku). Amy Lowell wrote haiku-like poems such as this one on a print by Hokusai. I've included a work by Hokusai, but I'm not sure which of his prints Lowell had in mind when she wrote the poem:
One of the "Hundred Views of Fuji," by HokusaiInterested in short poems? Peruse this collection of contemporary five-line Ekphrastic Tanka.
From "Lacquer Prints" in Pictures of the Floating World (1919)
I filled a cup with water,
And, behold!--Fuji-yama lay upon the water,
Like a dropped leaf!
If you take a look at the Ekphrastic Tanka page, the editor wrote, "Links were valid at the time the Special Feature was edited. We have attempted to find stable links for the art, but alas, the links are decaying faster than we can update." That's one of the reasons why I often incorporate my ekphrastic poems into the work of art. You, too, might consider this option using a free online photo editor like PicMonkey https://www.picmonkey.com/ or Canva https://www.canva.com/. As a public librarian, though, I must ask that you only use works within the public domain. Public domain is usually work created prior to 1923, however, if the artist lived well into the twentieth century, the work may still be under copyright. I can hear you asking, "how would I know?" Use art work that you can find on Wikimedia Commons (the urn, and the Hokusai print are both from Wikimedia Commons) or The Athenaeum, where rights are clearly stated. Or, you can ask your local public librarian for assistance!
(Note: art is a broad term, so the art could be 2-dimensional, sculpture, fountains, poetry, dancers, etc.)
Diane Mayr is a long-time public librarian and a freelance writer. She is the author of a storyhour favorite picture book, Run, Turkey, Run! (Walker & Co., 2007). Since 2007, she has concentrated on haiku and other short form poems, and works to improve her graphic skills by illustrating them. Find out more about Diane at her website.
last week's interview with Diana Murray, her DMC challenge for August is to write a poem about an unlikely hero. Thanks to Rosi Hollinbeck and Jessica Bigi for getting things started! Post your poem HERE.
To Read To Write To Be.