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2021 Ekphrastic Gallery

Welcome to the Online Ekphrastic Gallery!

Here you will find work by twelve amazingly gifted student artists from Montserrat College of Art, paired with bespoke poems by the winners of our Ekphrastic Gallery contest. This gallery was created for the 2021 Massachusetts Poetry Festival, thanks to the amazing work of Montserrat Faculty Members Colleen Michaels and Dawn Paul, along with graphic designer Leslie Dami.

From our guest judge: 

Ekphrasis originates from a Greek expression for description; ekphrastic poetry, then, is poetry that describes a work of art. The poet engages with what they see, with what another artist has created. The poet’s response, though, is uttered, is linguistic. In this exhibit of ekphrasis, the poets have entered another’s experience and have re-invented something new, all the while remaining true to the ancient root of the word. The poems you’ll read in this exhibit utilize sound and language to create another facet to the artistic experience using the space on the page, the sounds of the words, and the rhythm of poetic syntax.

In this exhibit, you’ll find art work that is vast in its themes, techniques, and materials: photography, ink block, realistic portraiture, oil, abstraction. This is muscular art that confronts and intrigues. The images can be seen as soothing or familiar, as well as politically and emotionally truthful or challenging.

The poetry chosen to accompany the visual art meets this brilliance. All of the poems—and they are as varied as the artwork—display a mastery of the form, and a deep respect for the emotions conveyed.

There are poems that tell a story: Rebecca Hart Olander’s “Distanced,” Dana Blatte’s “August, In Heat Wave,” and “Meditation on Ruin,” by Krysia Wazny McClain, create a world imagined by both the artist and poem. These written works belong to the art in the frame, and then, move out from it, to another reality.

I was moved by the poems that were stories about mothers. Erin Moon White’s “A Spry Young Woman” and Peter Fowler’s “Still Life of Your Mother” both question body image, gender roles, and institutions.

Poems like “Unlearn Burden” by Anisha Pai, Thomas Mixon’s “Fury Palinode,” and “Green,” by Mary Ann Mayer take the shapes of the artwork, giving their own works physical heft. These poems make you feel the weight of the emotion; make you feel what’s at stake.

The cool starkness of Tom Driscoll’s “The Bend” is an example of the truest form of description, where the poet actually embodies the black and white nuances of the photography. The poem is written in the shadows, and like its prompt, defies its grayscale.

 The powerful words of Dr. Maru Colbert’s responses, “Black Lives Blacks Matter” and “Prism on Brown,” demand that we wake up and pay heed Black lives, to Black women, and to our cruel national history. These poems are not fooling around. They are as urgent as the work they are responding to and insist on nothing less than our full attention.

What an honor it was to experience this art in so many different ways: entering it, responding to it, and seeing it through the eyes not only of its creator, but of the poet.

 —Jennifer Martelli

Jennifer Martelli is the author of My Tarantella (Bordighera Press), awarded an Honorable Mention from the Italian-American Studies Association, selected as a 2019 “Must Read” by the Massachusetts Center for the Book, and named as a finalist for the Housatonic Book Award. Her chapbook, After Bird, was the winner of the Grey Book Press open reading, 2016. Her work has appeared in Thrush, Verse Daily, Iron Horse Review (winner, Photo Finish contest), The Sycamore Review, Cream City Review, The Bitter Oleander, and Poetry. Jennifer Martelli has twice received grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council for her poetry. She is co-poetry editor for Mom Egg Review and co-curates the Italian-American Writers Series.

Colleen Michaels’ poems appear in journals and anthologies and have been commissioned as installations for The Massachusetts Poetry Festival, The Peabody Essex Museum, and The Trustees of Reservations. She directs the Writing Studio at Montserrat College of Art where she has hosted the Improbable Places Poetry Tour since 2010.

Dawn Paul teaches writing and literature at Montserrat College of Art. She has two novels, The Country of Loneliness, and Still River. Her newest book, What We Still Don’t Know, is a collection of poems about scientist Carl Linnaeus. She is a frequent performer on the Improbable Places Poetry Tour.

Leslie Dami is a 23 years old designer currently studying at Montserrat College of Art where she is majoring in Graphic Design with an Entrepreneurship in the Arts minor. After studying Graphic Design for three years in high school, she transitioned into college to pursue a design based career. In the past, she has created t-shirt designs and pamphlets for events. She continued with her accomplishments with receiving the Graphic Design Award in the spring of 2017, at the end of her senior year. In her free time, Leslie enjoys reading, taking walks, and listening to podcasts.