Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.
—Leonardo da Vinci
Painters and poets both compose something out of nothing, texturing lush worlds and forms onto blank canvases and pages as they try to open up portals of provocation, evocation, paradox and the sacred for viewers and readers. Robert Creeley argued that both poetry and painting “shift [our] emotional center”; Wallace Stevens asserted that poetry and painting are manifestations of “a universal poetry,” both concerned with efforts of the mind on form. In its earliest sense, ekphrasis referred to the description of a visual representation, but contemporary ekphrastic poems generally shrug off antiquity’s obsession with description and instead interpret, inhabit, narrativize, challenge, lyricize, embody and speak to artworks. In this six-week, online workshop, we’ll look at paintings to learn to see subjects in a new way, defamiliarizing our relationship to the world and ourselves. We’ll experiment with potent imagery and color in our poems; generate new approaches to articulating what’s observed; and open ourselves up to the new insights, unforeseen feelings and connections that paintings arouse in us. Encounters with paintings will also provide us an opportunity for inquiries into political, historical and aesthetic dimensions and challenge our diagnostic and logical nature, provoking in us new modes of experiencing and processing the world. New ways of seeing will offer new ways of saying that ideally will offer new ways of being. Readings will include poems by W. H. Auden, William Carlos Williams, Frank O’Hara, Adam Zagajewski, Monica Youn, Richard Siken, Vijay Seshadri, Angel Nafis, Jorie Graham, Mary Jo Bang, Roger Reeves, Matthew Olzmann, Diane Seuss and more. Most weeks we’ll read and discuss a sampling of poems, do painting-inspired exercises and workshop one another’s poems, offering attentive, considered feedback. We’ll also enjoy virtual studio visits with a few working contemporary painters! Class sessions will meet synchronously via Zoom, and assignments, poems and critiques will be shared via Wet Ink.
dawn lonsinger is the author of Whelm— winner of the Idaho Prize in Poetry, Cornell’s Freund Prize, and a Shelf Unbound Notable Book of the Year. Her poems have appeared in the American Poetry Review, Colorado Review, Guernica, Los Angeles Review and elsewhere. Lyric essays have appeared in Black Warrior Review and Western Humanities Review. She is the recipient of the Corson Bishop Prize, Smartish Pace’s Beullah Rose Prize, a Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets Fellowship and a Fulbright Fellowship to South Korea. She has also won the Scowcroft Prize, an Academy of American Poets Prize, three Utah Arts Council Writing Awards and four Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prizes. lonsinger holds a BA in studio art and English as well as an MA in literature from Bucknell University, an MFA in poetry from Cornell University and a PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Utah. She is an associate professor of literature and creative writing at Muhlenberg College, where she was recently awarded the the Paul C. Empie ’29 Memorial Award for Excellence in Teaching.