More notes on Ekphrasis

I said in my last entry “By providing already processed material (ekphrasis) provides constraints but also different approaches for the writer and even new ways of thinking.”

One model I use is to consider the process of creative writing as utilising three different language processes:

  • Vocabulary, which provides a lexicon of words as descriptors
  • Semantics, which provides an understanding or meaning
  • Syntax, which offers structures in which words can be arranged to give meaning.

Recognising a framework such as this is useful when writing is based on another art form:

  • Unmodified description of items and actions provides a limited lexicon for use
  • The perceived subject of the source (including any title) and the response to that subject provides an understanding to be conveyed
  • The structure of the source and the techniques used can provide structure eg: repetition of motifs can be reflected as repetition of key words or phrases

In this way, writing can be creative, but limited by the source material. It is an author’s choice whether to supplement the constraints with additional material.

“So we all find the shore before sunset”, based on “War. The Exile and the Rock Limpet” by Turner attempts to limit the vocabulary to material presented in the painting, including shape and colour. The perceived supernatural and accusatory semantics of the painting have been reflected in the inclusion of the observer as well as the haunting guard and infantry. The structure of the poem includes cliche to reflect the subversion of the traditional “victory” painting by Turner and stanza break to reflect the balance of elements in the painting.

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