Ekphrastic Hope

W.J.T. Mitchell opens the chapter on ekphrasis by saying “ekphrasis is impossible” because “No amount of description […] adds up to depiction” (Mitchell 152). While it is true that in most cases it is not possible to explain every detail of a visual piece of art so thoroughly that anyone reading the description would be able to perfectly visualize the original work, this fact is what makes the literary genre of ekphrasis so interesting. Presumably, one would only put in the work required to write  poem describing a piece of art if that artwork had a truly profound effect on the poet, made him feel some emotion or appreciation of beauty that he wanted to share in his own way. I find poetic ekphrasis fascinating because it allows a writer to honor a work of art and share it with others while simultaneously making it his own. The general sense of the artwork, or at least the parts the poet finds most significant, can be conveyed in a way unique to the writer.

In writing such a poem, the poet in a way creates an infinite amount of new pieces of art, the ones his readers picture in their minds while reading his work. It is seemingly impossible for any two readers of an ekphrastic poem to visualize the exact same thing, which was demonstrated by our drawings of the Shield of Achilles in class. However, I would not consider this to be an example of a failure of ekphrasis, but rather an instance of the potential it creates for one piece of art to inspire the creation of many more.

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