“Substance” by Peg Duthie

Ekphrastic Challenge, December 2018: Artist’s Choice


Untitled by Kari Gunter-Seymour

Image: “Untitled” by Kari Gunter-Seymour. “Substance” was written by Peg Duthie for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, December 2018, and selected as the Artist’s Choice.

[download: PDF / JPG]


Peg Duthie


I blame the malevolent fairy
tales where the princess
always presents a creamy complexion—
porcelain, silk, satin, dewy
as unblemished petals—bah.
And fie on fathoming witches through
the coarse-and-homely-as-cartons pelts
of women earning their crow’s feet,
scaring thieves away without straw men.
The muscle and mastery needed to stir
sludge into sustenance, and then to scrub
the kettle clean enough for brewing cures—
why is it when boys play with powerful
powders and brines, it’s honored as chemistry
rather than cooed at as cookery
or cursed as conjuring? This is not
the province of unformed chicks.
Let me show you
a shape of a happy ending:
not the visage of a white washed egg
but the graying angles and curves
of a tested cradle,
the invisible hands
that clean up whatever’s after.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
December 2018, Artist’s Choice


Comment from the artist, Kari Gunter-Seymour: “Full disclosure: I was secretly hoping for a poem that was not so obviously about an egg or the carton, or for that matter a womb or chicken. Maybe a poem that discussed texture or extremes of angle and light, as those topics often come up in conversation about this image at exhibitions. A poem that was not above roaming beyond the edges of the photograph. ‘Substance’ does all that. It dances me in and out of the frame, asks the timeless question, discusses each element so cleverly ‘a creamy complexion—,’ ‘the coarse-and-homely,’ the ‘graying angles and curves’ and lands so solid ‘… a tested cradle/ the invisible hands …’ I could go on and on. Brava!”

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