Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Poems That Keep Paintings Alive

Did you read "The Aquarium," Aleksandar Hemon's riveting first-person account of his family's loss of a very young daughter to cancer?  (The New Yorker, June 13, 2011) This powerful non-fiction is an answer to the question "How would one write adequately about such a loss?"

Hemon repeatedly alludes to W.H. Auden's ekphrastic poem about Breughel's "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus."  The painting's silence, translated in part by Auden's lines, shimmers anew in the light of Hemon's story.  Through Auden's poem, Hemon finds words and images to characterize the divide between those who experience grief and those who only witness it.

Such mysterious and persistent acts of translation from the visual to the verbal are the focus of "The Ekphrastic Problem," one of two courses I'm offering starting September 15th.  (The other course is called "The Difference.")  Both courses promise to be spectacular.

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