Ekphracsis (bless you!)

August 12, 2018

Today I had the joy of attending one of the smaller “Oak Bay Arts and Culture Fortnight” activities. This was the poetry and sculpture walk, supported by both Oak Bay Parks and Recreation (thanks Karen!) and the Greater Victoria Public Library (thanks Joy!). 


This was a celebration of “ekphrasis,” the process of description or commentary of visual art, often through poetry. 


The two great local poets, Susan Braley and Gisela Ruebsaat, provided prepared poems, each for two sculptures, and each followed by a short discussion on the poems, the art, the background and interpretations. The poems were powerful, evocative, and so very different for each piece of art. What was so interesting was how the concentrated consideration of both the art and poems forced one to think much deeper about both the art and the words, and took one away from the ordinary hustle and bustle of the street to far more contemplative thought. It made for a moment of stillness in an otherwise busy day, a mental refresh and a lovely experience shared with others.


After all was completed, the whole group retired to the library where we were asked to quietly (and quickly) create an ekphrastic work – to take time to describe the sculpture currently found in front of the Library: ‘M’akhotso (Mother of Peace) by Linda Lindsay. 


I have new appreciation for the power of this process – of taking the time to write down a description and meaning of art, rather than just considering it in passing. There were many better observations than mine, and more literary; I particularly liked one attendee's description of the sculpture as a female “Atlas” supporting the world, just with more grace and better technique.

I will share what I wrote down. I encourage you to take five minutes someday and create your own ekphrastic work.



'M'akhotso sculpted by Linda Lindsay


A young woman, 
Hands clasped in thrall of welcome,
Standing at the door of her home.


This home, every public library,
Welcomes, and belongs, to

Shares knowledge and access to the world.


An apt figure, this warm greeter,
This ageless mother,
Unconditional, joyous, and strong.


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 © 2018 by Kevin Murdoch