Report on The Last Ekphrasis

IMG_3748Last night we enjoyed one another’s company for the last time — at least, it was the last time that Ekphrasis will gather under my auspices with its regular purpose of sharing and critique, since I’m moving to Texas to start my PhD at Baylor. It was a magnificent meeting! There were food and flowers, hilarity and drama, literature and art. In attendance were myself, Sharon G, Devon W, Eric M, Richard B, Curt D, Laura W, Andrew S MacD, Betsy G, Jeff H, Amanda L, and two newcomers, Thaina D and Diante R.

Even though it was a sort of a going-away shindig, it was really just an ordinary hard-working meeting. Lots of people shared excellent work.

IMG_3744(1)At the beginning of the meeting, Thaina and Devon shared the hot-off-the-press Spring 2016 issue of Xanadu, Lehigh Carbon Community College’s literary magazine. Thaina and Devon, along with Diante, are student editors of the magazine this semester, and I’ve been a faculty adviser to it for six years. This semester’s may have been the most professional issue of the magazine we’ve ever produced: the design is streamlined and debonair. Diante has a poem published in it; Thaina has a few poems and several pieces of prose.

indexThen Sharon G read another chapter of her Robin Hood novel adaptation, Mercy and Justice. This chapter included a sad story of a poor, cast-off, single, expectant mother, helped by Marian and Robin, which was a good way of revealing their compassionate character. Sharon has completed about half of this novel and hopes to draft the rest of it this fall, after finishing her current novel-in-progress, Chrysalis!

13184680_1014038361966917_2053915199_oRichard B and Eric M each showed pieces of their artwork. Richard is writing and illustrating a comic book starring his Jack Windsword character. Eric is working on drawings he’ll bring to the Baltimore Comic Con. Their work is somewhat similar–both depict heroes, villians, mythic, archetypal characters with bold lines and swift action–but their techniques are quite different. The black-and-white image to the right is from Richard’s book. The colored images below from Star Wars and Star Trek are some of Eric’s works of art.

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Then we moved into a sort of stage-like area we had set up, in order to watch several theatrical scenes.

First up was a stage adaptation of a bit from a Brandon Sanderson novel, by Betsy G. It was a scene packed with secondary-world-building, lots of neologisms and names and cultural references. In it, an experienced con artist is teaching her apprentice how to fool her potential victims by posing as a foreign princess. The prize? Her dupe’s boots. 13184742_935769666536853_1112604979_o

Next up was a selection from Jeff H’s recent full-length adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows, which was recently produced by Players of the Stage. This scene was Toad on trial for causing a motor car accident–which is really just a cover for his enemies to lock him up and take his ancestral mansion.

Then came my short play, Galatea Awakes, which I wrote for my creative writing class at LCCC, and from which I previously posted a selection. It’s a retelling of the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea, and I’m exploring themes of the artist’s isolation and relationships, the idea of the art as a child, issues of voyeurism and objectification, questions about the nature of beauty, etc. It was admirably performed by Richard, Andrew, and Sharon, and much hilarity ensued–sometimes when it wasn’t in the script, such as when Pygmalion whispers to his animated statue to “scroll down, scroll down” for him so he can read his script!

We got to see another play from my creative writing class, too: this one by Thaina. It is a side-splittingly funny drama entitled Why Deals With the Devil Never Work (And You Should Always Read the Fine Print). I’ll give you just a tiny snippet here to give you an idea of how funny it is:

ASH: Look man, I just really want my soul back. Please? Pretty please? Have a heart.
SATAN: What part of Lucifer, Demon, King of Hell, do you not understand?
ASH: I know you’re Satan and all, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk!
SATAN: Do you listen to yourself when you speak?
ASH: Hm? Of course I do! My soul is gone, not my hearing!

Yup, it’s all like that. With a great twist at the end.

And we were treated to a performance of a powerful slam poem by Diante, a tale of troubles and salvation. It is meant to become his final project for Creative Writing class.

Finally, Laura W ended our evening with a mind-boggling 2-min mystery: a piece of flash fiction in 500 words. Since Laura won most of the weeks of Signum University’s “Almost an Inkling” flash fiction contest, you won’t be surprised to hear that it was magnificent!

There were some amazing conversations, too, about the “Artist-as-inspired-romantic-genius” myth, about the use of profanity and taking the Lord’s name in writing and drama, about anachronism and style and craft. These are the talks on which my soul feeds.

So, yes: a fitting ending for, what, eight years, I think, of Ekphrasis meetings. I’ll miss you guys, and I hope you carry on!

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Easter sonnet #4

Here is the last of these old poems of mine for Easter. Enjoy–and don’t forget to read the story I posted on Thursday, about what would happen to the Inklings if the Germans won WWII.

John’s Testimony

The whiteness of the cloth and of His skin,
His body’s after-image–piéta–
pressed cold and eerie on the daytime dark
when our fumbling fingers shrouded Him.
The heavy scent of myrrh and aloes drips
unholy incense in my memory:
it stank of death, dark brown and oily,
oozing past the fragrant linen strips.
That black afternoon brought Sabbath dread,
yet somehow in its aching mists, this dawn
brought us a strange desire to see the dead.
I went, I looked, I saw and understood:
the linen lay still wrapped as He had lain,
the little cloth no longer swathed His head.

Easter Sonnet #3

Here is another old poem of mine for Easter. Enjoy–and don’t forget to read the story I posted on Thursday, about what would happen to the Inklings if the Germans won WWII.

Joy: Mary Magdalene’s Testimony II

I stood insensate in the rain before
a heartless stone that sealed and tombed my Lord,
until a shining voice of white-hot power
echoed: “Stand aside!” I hardly heard.
I still stood, in a puddle tinted red
below a bleeding sunrise, when the rush
of molten feathers brushed and burnt my hand,
a silver swordflat felled me with a touch.
Someone stood near, flowing with a distant
speed of galaxies, and heaved the stone
to roll the sorrow open. Then the instant
passed in white light, like a flash, the tomb
stood open, gaping black impotent Death,
and Someone stood—was it the gardener?—and breathed.

Easter Sonnet #2

Here is another old poem of mine for Easter. Enjoy–and don’t forget to read the story I posted on Thursday, about what would happen to the Inklings if the Germans won WWII.

Grief: Mary Magdalene’s Testimony I

I, too, saw that absent shape. I stood
a while and watched a shadowed fear grow
in my companions’ eyes. One knelt and wept.
I thought I felt the vacancy that showed
on their faces, but scarcely had my heart
begun to empty of its faith when He
called me. I left my friends and knelt alone.
His hand rested on my hair; I breathed
the daily scent He wore of dusty walks,
sun-baked work, and hibiscus air. I saw
His wounded hands, His thorn-bruised head,
and His spear-torn side in my thoughts,
then raised my eyes and knew Him in the dawn.
My tears dampened His knee. This is not death!

Easter Sonnet #1

Here is an old poem of mine for Easter. Enjoy–and don’t forget to read the story I posted on Thursday, about what would happen to the Inklings if the Germans won WWII!

Peter’s Testimony

I was certain we had wrapped His body
tightly with embalming rites.  My hands
recall the chill flesh firmly swathed. Today
we stand in silence, gazing at the bands
of linen still outlining how He lay.
There, that point, was where His feet were crossed.
A sickness rises with the memory
of nail-wounded ankles.  There the cloth,
along that fold, had robed His legs; that stain,
the spear-thrust side we staunched. There the shroud
enfolded his strong shoulders. The mystery
is this: those humps and lines of linen sank,
just folded down on nothing. Here the head-
cloth shows an absent face. But where is He?

Speculation on the Crucifixion

Here is an old poem of mine for Good Friday. Enjoy–and don’t forget to read the story I posted yesterday, about what would happen to the Inklings if the Germans won WWII!

Speculation on the Crucifixion

How, when He had breathed tetelestai
and died forsaken, sinking into Hell—
the Three Who must eternally be One
somehow undone, and all created selves
down to their cells in fear of separation,
even death from life-beyond-death split
(witness these somnambulic saints in shrouds)—
did not creation fly to blasted bits?

Somehow the Three-in-One encompass Time
inside His timelessness, and thus that rift—
if rift it was, which Christ in God-forsaken
agony accused—
that mobiüs strip
that never split Them, split eternally,
is microcosm for the Triune Mystery.

The Sky is TARDIS Blue

As you know, I’m writing along with the students in my Creative Writing class this semester. Here is this week’s assignment: a sonnet. I decided to try a Terza Rima rhyme scheme this time.

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The Sky is TARDIS Blue

The sky above my birth was post-it sized:
a square of snowflakes, cube of clouds,
above a house of books with big insides.

Above the college quad, it opened out
its pages to the scope of human art:
a framing narrative for studied doubt.

Then came a grey-eyed wanderer whose heart
held distant vistas. We carved out a cave
and nestled in. Outside, horizon’s arch

expanded, gaining speed, a quantum wave
where future fields unfurl and plains arise
and roads go ever on and we are brave.

Beyond this earth’s adventures is the sky
that never ends: the heaven where we fly.