Comment from the editor, Megan O’Reilly: “As the title indicates, the poet imagines Lou Storey’s colorful and complex piece as depicting a ‘precursor’ to our current world (‘the disappointed world’), a more pure and essential civilization, and after viewing it through that lens, I can’t see it any other way. I found the language here to be irresistibly interesting, effortless lines that so aptly describe a place that doesn’t quite exist but is simultaneously more real than reality. I was particularly struck by ‘the houses all speak / a language before language, / that tuneful hum above / the shapes in a board-book,’ which I interpret as an incredible expression of the primitive way we experience the world as pre-verbal children, and a passage that will stick in my mind for a long time.”
Comment from the artist, Lou Storey: “I don’t paint to know myself better, but the poem ‘Sestina’ somehow excavates a hidden (and true) foundation of emotion beneath my painting ‘All of Us,’ offering a narrative fueled with longing, a need to be free of all unjust measures, to be someplace ‘where boys run naked by the sea, and laughter / tumbles forth from the carnelian huts in town’—a place unreachable, like the ‘candy apple’ house, a landscape of if only. This poem prompts a kaleidoscope of feelings and I love that.”
Image: “Lighthouse at the Edge of the World” by G.G. Silverman. “Selah” was written by Kristene Kaye Brown for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, March 2023, and selected as the Editor’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)
Kristene Kaye Brown
Waves wash over the beached shells. Searching in a way
that will not fail.
Strange how soft water shapes hard rock
with its ancient lunar language.
I wish I understood the pyramids. I wish I understood
what holds together all the unlit spaces of a night sky.
I came to the shore to see what it might teach me.
The ocean lays down her rhythm and I float
above the noise of my mind. Today the moon
is as close to earth as it will be all year,
but his is beside the point. A wise saint once said:
There is no truth without first becoming truth. It’s true,
we become what we love. I love this silence
above all else. This is where I learn
to be alone. This is where I learn
all desire is the desire of God in disguise.
Just listen to the hush of a slow moving wave. It is
the sound of a body emptying itself. It is the world
Comment from the editor, Megan O’Reilly: “There is a surreality to this poem that reminds me of the dreamlike quality of G.G. Silverman’s image. The silence and loneliness the poet references are what I see and feel when I look at this ‘lighthouse at the edge of the world,’ but there’s a vitality to this visual, too, which is reflected perfectly in the beautiful and apt last lines: ‘It is the world/dreaming itself awake.’ Silverman’s piece gives me the sense that something mysterious is stirring under the surface, and ‘Selah’ gives a voice to its secrets.”
“I Asked the Chatbot to Write about a Lighthouse, but It Generated Lies” by Pamela Lucinda MossPosted by Rattle
Image: “Lighthouse at the Edge of the World” by G.G. Silverman. “I Asked the Chatbot to Write about a Lighthouse, but It Generated Lies” was written by Pamela Lucinda Moss for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, March 2023, and selected as the Artist’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)
Pamela Lucinda Moss
I ASKED THE CHATBOT TO WRITE ABOUT A LIGHTHOUSE, BUT IT GENERATED LIES
You need to be human to know about lighthouses.
You need to know what it feels like to wait in the dark for your teenager to come home, with your weighted blanket and your dachshund stretched long against your side, your brain spinning with worry, flashing beams of fear into the blackness of your bedroom.
You need to feel old. You need to mis-hear things, mis-state things. Mess up the arithmetic when you add a tip to your check at the 65th Street Diner. Write a note to your kid that says: You rip what you sew. Write in your journal: I am in the throws of motherhood.
You need to feel fear and rigidity as you stand on your metaphorical windy promontory, poised at the point where land and sea and the rest of your life meet, but maybe not so much fear that you write reviews like: This book is too pointy. When my toddler fell on this book, he scraped his cheek. I give it one star.
You need to know about being alone, about reaching into a popcorn bag in a second-run movie theater and never touching other fingers. When the movie ends, you walk through the doors into the audacity of so much sky, so much light. A flyer on a telephone pole reads: Do you miss singing? You take a picture of it, and the possibility of joining a choir recedes into the vastness of your camera roll, along with pictures of stray cats, of recipes you’ve never cooked, of your bare toes on sand on the first day of spring when there was light on the water and so much joy, spinning and shining from the tall, round room of your heart.
Comment from the artist, G.G. Silverman: “The humor in the title grabbed my attention (I laughed out loud—well done!), then the poem took me on a gut-felt emotional journey, where the reader lives the mother’s anguish for her child’s well-being via wonderfully immersive, scenic lighthouse metaphors. I love how the imagery in the poem takes on a sensuous, dreamy blur toward the end, and we, as readers, become the lighthouse itself.”
Comment from the editor, Timothy Green: “The best ekphrastic poems expand on their source image, pushing the experience in a new direction. ‘Joy’ does that by finding all-too real grounding for the rich symbolism of JoAnne Tucker’s painting. Rather than describe the woman dancing in the frying pan, the poem describes the emotion she represents—and through the otherwise unrelated metaphor of the train. As a result, the poem enriches the painting while the painting enriches the poem, as if the two pieces of art were bound in their own dance together, exploring the complex transition from the darkness of grief back to the brightness of joy.”
“The Rebirth of Venus” by Luisa GiulianettiPosted by Rattle
Image: “The Kitchen Goddess” by JoAnne Tucker. “The Rebirth of Venus” was written by Luisa Giulianetti for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, February 2023, and selected as the Artist’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)
THE REBIRTH OF VENUS
I blew that half shell. Took to the waiting shore
found new digs and never looked back. Feet
happily calloused and belly full. In this kitchen
I reign supreme. Stir my own pot. Garland
my tresses with wild rosebuds. My monarch
gown wings marigold as I glissade
across the maple floor to the awaiting catch.
I hold a fanned scallop between my thumb
and forefinger, slide the knife and twist. Prize
open the hinge. Free plump flesh from its frilly
skirt. Rinse, dry, salt. Sear the lot in cast iron.
Tang their sweetness with fresh orange. Pair
with earthy fennel. Create counterbalance.
Like dancing. Like mercy. Arms boughed in offering
Comment from the artist, JoAnne Tucker: “I was delighted and surprised at the range of emotions and different journeys that were expressed in the poems which I reviewed. The pastel painting was part of a show calling for work on the theme of the kitchen goddess. I approached the painting from a whimsical point of view placing a dancer in a frying pan. The poem that I have selected captures the playfulness of the painting. It is called ‘The Rebirth of Venus’ and the opening lines refer back to the painting ‘Birth of Venus’ by Botticelli. I have fond memories of seeing that painting when I visited the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. I laughed with delight with the phrase ‘found new digs.’ While the Botticelli painting was not on my mind when I created my kitchen goddess, the reference shows how two paintings inspired the poem, and I love that. In the poem, the poet has the dancing goddess opening a scallop and of course the original Venus is standing in a scallop shell. In addition, the poet also captured so well the feeling of the dancer in the kitchen ‘reigning supreme.'”
Comment from the editor, Megan O’Reilly: “I can’t quite wrap my head around Sandra Nelson’s poem ‘Cut Out,’ and that’s what I love about it. Each stanza feels almost like a koan, surprising and meditative; they seem to invite the reader to understand with the soul rather than the mind. There is a lovely contradiction in Susan MacMurdy’s piece, in that the image feels highly textured and full of depth while also strikingly, beautifully simple. I sense a similar contrast in the images of ‘Cut Out’: ‘A blizzard of nothingness,’ ‘paper house shudders.’ Both poem and image fascinate me, and I appreciate the way they add new layers of intrigue to one another.”