Ekphrastic Challenge, May 2018: Artist’s Choice
Image: “Message in a Bottle” by Jen Ninnis. “Starfish” was written by Michael Strand for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, May 2018, and selected as the Artist’s Choice.
—from Ekphrastic Challenge
May 2018, Artist’s Choice
Comment from the artist, Jen Ninnis: “The depth of this poem touched me in ways not easily explained. Both the poem and my painting have mystery. Who is this colorfully dressed and face-painted person on the beach and what is the message in the bottle? Is she sending or receiving it? I love the questions the poem asks, how we each have multifaceted history, stories, memories, and how these are not always knowable, explainable or revealed, but nonetheless shape us. The reference to hoping for solutions to wars and violence and the consequences of not finding solutions—if my painting was a starting off place for the poet to have these thoughts, that is remarkable. The poem has a quality of unknowingness; perhaps it is this unknowingness that sparks creativity. I love the line, ‘Did they know you are toxic to those who try to catch you, eat you, but grow stronger every night submerged?’ Perhaps grasping to know is what’s ‘toxic’ and shouldn’t be a goal, but questions and the search is what opens the mind to almost anything. The line, ‘abandoned children in need of cradling,’ in light of current events, made me think about the horror of our government’s decision to separate children from their parents at the border. I don’t know if the poet was thinking about this while writing it but it has resonance today, sadly. It is very gratifying to think my painting somehow evoked these thoughts and themes All of the poems were wonderful to read; it was difficult to choose just one. Poetry and visual art complement each other in endless ways and I’m thankful my painting was one of those chosen to be part of the Ekphrastic Challenge.”