Ekphrasis

Ekphrasis

Here in Seattle, up on Capitol Hill, we’ve got a neat little place called the Hugo House, dedicated (as you’ve no doubt already guessed) to all things writing. Twice a year, they host an event called the Write-O-Rama, a sort of workshop buffet where you can sample (in 50-minute chunks) several of the classes they offer throughout the year.

Since the point of the poem below is to describe the image, I'll let it do the work this time.
Fire, by Guiseppe Arcimboldo

Needless to say, that means each session is a little rushed, and the writing you do is often fast and frantic, needing plenty of revision later on. Every now and then, though, after some on-the-fly tweaks and adjustments, you end up with a piece that actually sort of works1In your own judgment, at least.. I had one of those this past December, in a workshop called “Ekphrasis Across Genres,” ekphrasis meaning (in this case) a literary description of a work of art. Here’s what I came up with:

Arcimboldo's Fire
I know not of what his skin was wrought,
Of a tree's trunk or sculpted wax,
But his shoulder was a cannon muzzle,
His chest all jewelry of dazzling gold and silver,
Engraved with likenesses of ram's head,
Fur, and blooming flowers;
An Arabian lamp by a candlestick upheld
Formed the jaw;
His nose and ears were steel or pewter,
And his forehead metal wire.

A glorious king he seemed,
By God or gods blessed--
But a candle, overlarge with many wicks,
Set alight a crown
Composed of naught but sticks.

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