The Poet as Art Thief: A National Gallery Heist

Notes on the Arc Poetry magazine’s annual 2011 entitled ‘The Poet as Art Thief : A National Gallery Heist’

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  • page 2. Anita Lahey ‘A Spot of Brightness’ (introduction)
  • page 10. Aislinn Hunter ‘Notes from outside the object-language exchange’ (Essay)
  • page 14. Aislinn Hunter ‘Nine views of ekphrasis: a supplementary bricolage’
  • page 19. Anita Lahey ‘Ekphrasis as ancient rivalry: Poets held the ‘snob card’’

Anita Lahey, editor of ‘Arc Poetry Annual’ poetry journal together with Pauline Conley and Aislinn Hunter conceived of a project – inviting submissions for new poems based on artworks in the National Gallery of Canada – ‘The Poet as Art Thief’. As well as inviting poets to respond to artworks they also invited artists to respond to poems.

Chinese Whispers – They gave poems to artists who produced paintings, then they gave these paintings to poets and so on creating an ekphrastic chinese whispers. The chain took 8 months

Look up – Shary Boyle and Emily Vey Duke

Aislinn Hunter ‘Notes from outside the object-language exchange’

Quote: ” If you call a painting dumb poetry, the painter may call poetry blind painting’ Leonardo Da Vinci

Aislinn Hunter argues that: “Ekphrasis isn’t really a subject or a “genre” but an act, and that as an act is has many variations manifestations as it has practitioners” and that it “makes and remakes meaning and story” (pp 10)

Personal Note: Many paintings refer to stories or myths. Paintings have narrative. Remaking by ekphrastic interpretation is in a sense making it your own. If the story or personality behind the original artwork is well-known or admired then by responding to it the ekphrastic writer may bridge a connection between themselves and the personality. They might engender a feeling of familiarity and resonance with a mutual appreciation.  There could be an element of vicarious fame as in celebrity culture and fan obsession or fetishistic desire.

Aislinn Hunter – Ekphrasis now is not the same as historically “In a western world that foregrounds the ‘I’ we often look to art as much for what it says to us as for what we think it says”

She suggests there is a paradox where we become obsessed with art but when we see it we do not give it our full attention. Note: Perhaps in the way we experience blockbuster shows. We can say ‘We’ve seen this or that like a tourist notches up destinations. She calls this the “surface paradox of obsession and disregard” We are obsessed by artists (cult of celebrity) but we pass over prolonged engagement with artwork. Aislinn believes this is due in part to the availability of artowork/imagery in this ‘information age’

Aislinn believes that the best ekphrastic work engages with both the artworks’ surfaces and depths.


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