BPL hosting 'ekphrastic' poetry workshop

Local writers will work through a method of developing poetry by being influenced by works of visual art currently on exhibit at the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba

A Winnipeg artist will lead a workshop on poetry based on how people respond to various forms of visual art.

Ekphrastic poetry is work inspired by the emotions, stories, concepts or truth derived from art. On Feb. 7, Winnipeg poet Jennifer Still will guide local writers on the practice at the Brandon Public Library (BPL) from 6 to 9 p.m. The workshop will include a guided tour through the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba’s current, featured exhibits; Shandra MacNeill’s “There is Always a Hunter,” and Michael Belmore’s “Somewhere Between Two States of Matter.”

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From there, participants will return to the library where Still will usher writers through how they can convert what they have observed into poetry. The class will include guided writing exercises and discussion.

“What fascinates me about creative writing workshops is the enormous variety of writing that appears,” said BPL programming and outreach librarian Danielle Hubbard. “Twelve people can all be given the same prompts – a set of words, a set of images – and come up with completely different end results. We all interpret things differently, and our minds leap from one idea to the next in unpredictable ways. We find different things compelling and we use different words to describe what compels us.”

Hubbard suggested that the art gallery’s current exhibits should provide writers with substantial topics to consider in their own work. MacNeill’s pieces – eerie white sculptures of faceless, antlered women – explore themes of “violence, flight and escape, often through the metaphor of the hunt,” said a library press release. The artist works in needle and thread, clay, plant and wood to portray the story of her Romanian grandmother and aunt who were left in a rural Saskatchewan convent as girls.

Meanwhile, Belmore’s exhibit has stones perched on pedestals down the center of the gallery floor. The artist is suggesting that inanimate objects and substances “exist in a state of envy and tension.”

Hubbard said ekphrastic poetry is not supposed to retell the stories portrayed by the visual artists, however. Instead, writers use the pieces as inspiration for their own ideas.

Still, an award-winning poet and visual artist who, has published three collections of poetry, Saltations, Girlwood and Still Waters. The writer has mentored a number of others during her time as writer-in-residence for both the University of Manitoba and the Winnipeg Public Library.

She is returning to Brandon after a successful workshop last winter.

There is no charge for participating in the ekphrastic poetry workshop, which will include needed supplies and refreshments.

For more information or to register for the event, visit the Adult Services Desk at the BPL, call (204) 727-6648, or email Hubbard at Danielle@wmrl.ca.

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