Ekphrastic Responses to The Visible Turn

This semester, poets from my Poetry 2 course wrestled for a couple of weeks with John Keats’s idea of “Negative Capability”—the “capability of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason”—and explored ways they might incorporate Keats’s idea into their own poetic practices. Their project, when they visited the USF Contemporary Art Museum, was to be in the presence of art without trying to explain it or make logical/traditional sense out of it. They were to engage with the art they encountered intuitively and to write poems that would be in conversation with it.

Professor Jay Hopler


Word Problems and Science Tests (p. 191)
By Jenesi Henning

3.14

Calculus taught me to
be as pissed off as Pi.
Why write me off as two points,
when my capabilities reach as deep
as the back of a black hole?

Biology taught me human
anatomy limits minds to skeletal
frames and plasma. Crushed
is my existence against panels
of skull, afraid to leave its skin.

Physics taught me Isaac
was right about a lot of shit.
All because an apple fell on his head.
A seed of an idea. Waiting to
knock some sense into a fool.


All that is Left Ekphrastic
         Based on vitrine “All that is Left” by Tavares Strachan
By Jenesi Henning

Burning
neon. I take a
look. A twitch.
A quivering chin.
Light bear…
A brightness blinds
my eyes. Patterns
imprint icy paws
against human strides.
Tinge your outline
in the sight I hide.
Blister me so I scream
what you confide.

Tavares Strachan
All That is Left, from Taxonomies, entomolgies, and evolutions, 2018
2 min. video loop, cast calcium monitors and LED screens, neon, glass, calcium carbonate sheets, acrylic boxes and tanks
25-1/8 x 18-1/8 x 18-1/8 inches


Blue Ice in Arctic Night

by Louis Greto

 

Ekphrastic response to Tavares Strachan’s installation, “Taxonomies, Entomologies and Evolutions,”

                  “As I rose to the higher reaches,
                  Dazzled, blinded was my vision,
                  And in an utter darkness won
                  The hardest of my victories;
                  I took a blind, unknowing plunge
                  Because the venture was for love,
                  And went so high, so high above
                  I caught my quarry on the wing.”

From “A Quarry of Love” by John de Yepes y Álvarez (St. John of the Cross), translated by Lynda Nicholson

The blue-bright of an iceberg
sails in the purple sea under
the clear skies of the Arctic!
Is the same sight more
beautiful as seen from the sky
of a lightless night?

On the deck of an ice-blue ship,
the happenstance of weather and water,
I feel the subtle rolling gears
of the great sea under me.  Yet so much
water I cannot imagine.  What is there
to find within its protean flesh?
So much sky I cannot imagine —
the snowy owl skates the icicle
air, flecks white the masts,
the hull, the stiff sails of ice.

The polar bear rubs its body
on the blue surface before sleep,
smells the cold with the same intimacy
as I sniff the folds and skin of my love.
For with what else, other than our own
ecstasy, do we realize we are here?
The white arctic fox yelps at the sky
hoping to be heard by someone
other than herself.  What reason to sing
if only the singer can hear?

Still sing — I am here!  I am here!
What would I risk to see everything
about me all at once?  Fall to my knees
with arms outstretched, whoop
at the sharp pain of the ice on my caps,
feel the freeze’s slow flow up my thigh.
And the cold with its octopus arms reaches
into me, and I am heavy with sleep, deep
as whales dive for krill.  And I become where
I stand, the figurehead.  I see what the ice sees.

O, what will I always look at
that I am not seeing?!  And will I
have faith that however little
there is of time, it is in the night
flight of the dream-of-things
where we find all the time there is?

Tavares Strachan
Taxonomies, entomolgies, and evolutions, 2018
2 min. video loop, cast calcium monitors and LED screens, neon, glass, calcium carbonate sheets, acrylic boxes and tanks
variable dimensions

 


Sonogram
         After Jorge Tacla’s Sign of Abandonment 34 (Homs)
By Megan MacElroy

A waxy autumn sky reveals
dark window paned frailty, framed
by industrial strength steel.

Inside, a distorted photograph-
waves rendered still,
discarded amidst blood stitched grout.

Left corner kitchen tiles soak up
smeared visions of a self-constructed future.

How can hollow be so heavy?

Jorge Tacla
Señal de abandono 34 / Sign of Abandonment 34 (Homs), 2018
oil and cold wax on canvas
80 x 320 inches


How to Make Something Invisible1
According to Tavares Strachan’s 5th Grade Class
By Zoe Lennox

1. Avoid changing the light on its path from source to eye2

Keep the light3 constant

“There’s no money for free college

                                                  raises for teachers

                                                  an arts program”

Don’t let the eye4 see

“look how far we’ve come since slavery [156 years ago]

                                                            Jim Crow [54 years ago]

                                                            the last black man to be shot by cops [- days ago]

 

1a. This option is almost impossible without trickery5

First trick: run away when high schoolers, who have seen more combat than a second-class private, knock on your door

Second trick: avoid being where people are looking; for example, devastate the Middle East without ever leaving your office

Final trick: use mirrors to hide the homeless heroes who devastated the Middle East in your name; place them in schools with the other surviving soldiers

2. Stimulate the light as though it was unchanged6

The light is not constant

          Marriage is not enough

          Voting is not enough

but pretend that it is

          “What more could you possibly want?

          Haven’t we done enough?”

 

When the light shines too bright

will you remain constant?

Will you have succeeded

in becoming invisible7?

 

——————————
1  Strachan, Tavares. How to make something invisible“Herd.” 2018. University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa.
2 Ibid.
3 lie
4 public
5  Strachan, Tavares. How to make something invisible“Herd.” 2018. University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa.
6 Ibid.
7 responsible

Tavares Strachan
How to Make Something Invisible – “Herd”, from Taxonomies, entomolgies, and evolutions, 2018
2 min. video loop, cast calcium monitors and LED screens, neon, glass, calcium carbonate sheets, acrylic boxes and tanks
25-1/8 x 18-1/8 x 18-1/8 inches

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