“Mantra” by Michael Harty

Ekphrastic Challenge, August 2020: Artist’s Choice


Painting of armless Roman statue and a blue bowl on a pedestal

Image: “Blue Bowl” by Liz Magee. “Mantra” was written by Michael Harty for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, August 2020, and selected as the Artist’s Choice.

[download: PDF / JPG]


Michael Harty


for Leonard Cohen, 1934–2016

A crack in everything, he told us—that’s
how light gets in. And yes, he always knew
that this included him. The sharps and flats
of life—he savored them and suffered through
them, shaped them to an art that calls the name
of every listener. The light that found
his inner world was like a healing flame:
revealing, not destroying, always bound
to show his truth. Lost loves, mistakes, regrets,
despair and fear, but hope as well, and praise,
and generosity, and tenderness—
all deeply shared, with ordinary grace.
A cracked bowl gathers light, a cracked bell rings,
and even facing night, a cracked voice sings.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
August 2020, Artist’s Choice


Comment from the artist, Liz Magee: “This is the poem that I would like to have written, and the more I read it the better it sounds. I am biased toward short, direct poems that I do not have to work too hard to understand and which yet manage to set up a painting in themselves. If I did not know Leonard Cohen, I would know him from this poem. It suits the sonnet form so well, the rhymes are not intrusive, and the final couplet gave me a bit of a shiver! There were poems that looked more closely at the painting, but I liked the focusing on the small detail of the crack in the bowl and giving it a whole new meaning that I did not intend.”

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