Creating Ekphrasic and Erasure Poetry
As a poet, it is only natural to experiment with different poetry forms. By doing so, it gives you the freedom to discover what words can really reveal about your feelings and what you are trying to convey. The last poetry forms that I had a chance to work with were the Haiku/Senryu. I used these forms for my last poetry book Spring’s Tepid Breath because it was the simplest way to express myself about my trials and tribulations in the time of my mother’s death. For my upcoming collection, Sketches, I am exploring Ekphrasic and Erasure poetry forms.
In Ekphrasic poetry, you look deeply into the artwork for the story the artist is telling. The artwork—that I am using for Sketches—is from my late sister’s collection.
My sister drew mostly faces and figures. A lot of her work seemed unfinished (with missing faces or body parts on the figures—ie. Testimony: A Collage Poem) or very abstract (she would draw multiple faces integrated into one face or a facial feature like an eye off by itself). All of these renderings have voices that need to be heard.
The example below is a picture of a lady sitting in a park preparing to eat her lunch (this one and another example I used for the Erasure form are very simple and standard). My sister never named her work, so I have taken liberties in naming this piece, Lady in the Park. The poem that accompanies it shares the same name.
Lady In The Park
As I sit waiting and waiting, the fruit of life has lost its sweetness and bitterness. It has metamorphosed into a bland fossil—brittle and crumbling. Even a dog’s bark is muted. He stares out looking for his voice. And the roses and tulips know their life span will be stunted when the first frost comes. The ducks waddle in the pond until the cold, murky ice covers their playground. And I still will be waiting, and waiting, for life to spit out its seed to start anew.
(First published in the Newtown Literary Journal Issue #4 Spring/Summer 2014)
The Erasure poetry form is a kind of Found Poem, which means it is developed/created from an existing work. The way in which you create an Erasure poem is you find a written work (ie. Newspaper article, blog post, a passage/page from a literary work) and you pull certain words/phrases from it to create your poem. The original text can double as a piece of art because you can highlight the pulled text by either blackening or whitening out the rest of the unused text.
In my example, I have used both the Erasure and Ekphrasic forms. I paired another one of my sister’s drawings, this one I entitled Boy, and I used a page from A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines for inspiration to create the poem (the boy with the worried eyes 2).
In (the boy with the worried eyes 2), instead of formatting the poem in tradition stanzas, I left spacing similar to when I blackened out the rest of the text. With this method, the eyes can float with ease to each word and it also matches the quiet white heaven- like background of the facial image.
Excerpt: (the boy with the worried eyes) 2
i wake up
all ther e
I admit that I have fallen in love with both the Ekphrasic and Erasure poetry forms. They have stretched me to another creative plateau. Some people say that poetry is a dying art but how can something that is dying breathe life into other art forms and make it new and vibrant.