New York Skyline

Forest
of glass stumps.
(He was an epiphyte.)

An over-crowded graveyard.
(Any damn stone will serve.)

Scraping not sky but smog.
(His dust taking root in a million lungs.)

Strange the sights
we have learned
to consider
inspiring.

__________

Prompted by the second photo in this post.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

11 Comments


  1. *Can* epiphytes live in smog? Perhaps that’s why the graveyard’s so crowded.

    I’m still chewing on the last stanza. But *where* do we learn this definition of “inspiring” from? TV and movies? I don’t think it’s something my parents would share, so I presumably didn’t learn it at home.

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  2. Bottoms of sulfur springs, underwater fuming vents, meteorite chewy centers…. where there is a job to be done, life goes.

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  3. btw, the impulse to admire city skylines is widespread. I just got a hit on this post from thisGoogle search. I hope they found what they were looking for even though the post’s penultimate picture is damn disappointing.

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  4. Lorianne – I hope it’s obvious that the narrator draws water from her (?) own, bitter well. The references to smog/dust seem to connect to a literal understanding of inspiration (though i only noticed the connection myself after posting). This post certainly wasn’t meant to cast aspersions on those who do find skylines inspiring, among whom I would have to count myself.

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  5. This is lovely, Dave. I particularly like the last stanza; it’s deliciously tight, and also thought-provoking.

    And it makes me see Lorianne’s photographs in a different way, which is high praise for ekphrastic work such as this. :-)

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  6. Thanks, Rachel. Not sure what “ekphrastic” means, though — it wasn’t in any of the dictionaries I consulted just now. All I know to call this kind of stuff is prosopopoeia – i.e., dramatic monologue. I’m not very sophisticated in the literary criticism department, I’m afraid.

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  7. I found that site, but it didn’t give a definition – not up front, anyway.

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  8. Someone else found that link for me- I haven’t searched it as you have. But I still thought it pretty clear. It’s what many people do in their posts, too, with images and words. The word is coming back into vogue, perhaps.

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  9. So it’s poetry in response to other works of art? Does that include other poems? How about natural objects?

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  10. Dave, you’ve done way more research on this than I have. From that article I linked to:

    “We know that school boys were instructed to write (usually poems) about the architecture and art in museums and grand public places—for public consumption and understanding. Around the 4th and 5th Centuries, ekphrastic poetry was pretty much limited to poems derived from visual art. The poems were often elaborate and descriptive and might have been about the religious architecture or paintings surrounding people or that the citizens had little access to. English romantic poets: (Keats “Ode on a Grecian Urnâ€? always comes to mind first), Shelley, Byron, and others composed many such works, some of which became well known.”

    Apparently the term, ekphrastic, has been out of the Oxford Dictionary for a decade (or more?), but it’s coming back into vogue.

    Since the field seems pretty open right now on what it could mean, why don’t you define it however you see fit? It seems to be a poem or poetry reflecting a deep resonance between a writer and a work of art, but surely its meaning can expand beyond that to …

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