Ekphrastic poetry has come to be defined as poems written about works of art; however, in ancient Greece, the term ekphrasis was applied to the skill of describing a thing with vivid detail. One of the earliest examples of ekphrasis can be found in Homer’s epic poem The Iliad, in which the speaker elaborately describes the shield of Achilles in nearly 150 poetic lines:
And first Hephaestus makes a great and massive shield,
blazoning well-wrought emblems all across its surface,
And he forged on the shield two noble cities filled
with mortal men. With weddings and wedding feasts in one
And he forged the Ocean River’s mighty power girdling
round the outmost rim of the welded indestructible shield.
(The Iliad, Book 18, lines 558–707)
In addition to the descriptions of a work of art, an ekphrastic poem usually includes an exploration of how the speaker is impacted by his or her experience with the work. This week, I encourage you to test out this fun poetry form!
To get you started, here’s some of my favorite paintings I studied in my Art History class this semester.
Written by Ellie M.
This will be the last R2 blog post of the spring semester, as classes are now over for the 2016-2017 school year. We'll have more blog posts after the summer. Thank you for reading! We've loved sharing our thoughts with you.
Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.
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Rice University's undergraduate literary magazine. Here you can find event updates, monthly writing contest winners, and opinions by the R2 staff on what's new, interesting, or subject to discussion in the literary and arts world.