Twentieth Century Poetry and the Visual Arts



Twentieth Century Poetry and the Visual Arts

Elizabeth Bergmann Loizeaux

This is an excellent book if you are interested in poetic ekphrasis from a traditional western cultural perspective. The book begins with an overview of ekphrastic poetry, suggesting there has been an increase in the production of this genre of writing in the age of imagery, what WJT Mitchell called ‘The pictorial turn’.

She suggests two main reasons why writers choose to take inspiration from visual art:

1. ‘The Pictorial Turn’: Images are everywhere and since the advent of photography, mass media, advertising and now the internet, it would be almost impossible for writers not to assimilate visual culture and represent it. Not only are images ever present but increasingly we are trained to respond to imagery at the expense of our other senses. Images are urgent and demand attention.

2.  The ‘relatedness’ of poetic ekphrasis where the writer becomes an intermediary between a work and the audience and quotes Randall Jarrell, “The reference to a second art gives a new and important role to the reader-spectator, who shares the writer’s contemplation of an external artifact”. (pp6).

Throughout the book Loizeaux highlights particular ekphrastic works and analyses them in the context of her initial statements. She looks at collaborative ekphrasis with the work of Ted Hughes and Leonard Baskin, ‘Cave Birds: An Alchemical Cave Drama’. ‘Feminist ekphrasis’ of Marianne Moore and Adrienne Rich and discusses the gendering of ekphrasis into ‘male gaze’ and ‘female subject’.  Her approach is traditional, historical and biographical in nature.

Loizeaux, E. B., 2008. Twentieth-Century Poetry and the Visual Arts. 2010 ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


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