Category Archives: Ekphrastic

Interpreting art through poetry.

Dream Travel: Mirror Picture Story Folds Fact and Fiction

Marc Latham’s blog mixing mirroring images of textured photography by Julien Coquentin and  digital images by Catrin Welz-Stein from the emorfes blog fold fact and fiction into a dream travel narrative. Here’s two of the six images used:

digital-collages- Catrin-Welz-Stein-5


Marc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (, and he has books available on Amazon (


New Mirror Poetry Book Reviewed for Publication

Great news on the Folding Mirror book publishing front, as Marc Latham’s 242 Mirror Poems and Reflections was just sent to Kindle for review. It should be available soon if given the okay.
Here’s the book’s description:
Amazon Description
242 is Dr. Marc Latham’s second poetry collection, after the first one was published by Chipmunka in 2009. The first collection contained poems written by Marc from his youth to the creation of the Folding Mirror form, while this book focuses on the FM form recognised by Lewis Turco in his definitive ‘The Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics, Including Odd and Invented Forms’.
Caroline Gill, an award-winning poet whose ‘Thalatta, Thalatta’ Folding Mirror poem was used as an example in ‘The Book of Forms’ provides an introductory explanation of the Folding Mirror form at the start of this book.
This book contains 121 Folding Mirror poems created in three years by Marc Latham as he tried to make sense of the universe and life’s place in it. They are supported by 121 reflections relevant to the poems’ themes.
The seven chapters reflect the wide spectrum of issues and topics covered, being divided into: personal-psychological (containing thirty-four poems and thirty-four reflections), social (19-19), culture (15-15), literary (12-12), nature (30-30), travel (6-6) and space (5-5).
The poems and reflections were inspired by the deepest thoughts of a PhD graduate and world traveller, and his new research and observations on the above subjects. Before and during his world travels and university education, Marc was inspired by Romantic and Beat poets, Rock musicians and other writers and journalists who have trawled the mind for self-analysis while searching for knowledge about human nature.
Marc’s first collection featured bipolarity and ADHD in the title, and included several poems inspired by them. These topics feature again in this collection, with the poet finding the mirror form especially conducive for bipolarity poetry.
From his position in the average age’s middle-age, Marc’s poems and reflections in this collection stretch from humanity’s prehistoric past to our current space exploration and prospective future, while also comparing us with the animal world, and tackling the important social and environmental problems of the present.
Having focused on hegemony theory in his doctoral research, Marc uses his poetry to try and break through the cultural ‘norms and accepted truths’ of the modern monotheistic world to highlight alternative realities that could possibly improve conditions for plant, animal and human life.
Marc uses the two sides of the Folding Mirror poem to show at least two sides of arguments and issues, with the folding line in the middle either connecting or dividing the two halves.
There is also time for beauty and comedy amongst the digging and depression, and some poems and reflections provide colourful light-heartedness to lift the mood.
Several of the poems posted as reflections were written while Marc undertook a 100-mile trek to view Everest in the Nepalese Himalayas.
It is hoped that as well as entertaining the reader, the poems and thoughts will support the preservation of life and nature, and improve human understanding of itself and the world.

Questioning Time Online: New Sarah James Poem

Today we have a clever and timely (sorry!) FM poem by Sarah James that was first published on her poetry site for the 21st Century Poets: Make it New project. It was inspired by the photo below it.

Thanks to Sarah for creating and sharing it.

time to wonder

the cuckoo clock hook
hangs weightless
an upside-down question mark
waiting for
an answer to catch

The Completed Set of Ten Romantic Art Interpretations

Today we have the tenth and final ekphrastic poem interpreting and describing Romantic paintings.

Hannibal and His Men Crossing the Alps is the second from J.M.W. Turner, and is thought to have been inspired by a storm experienced by Turner on Otley Chevin near Leeds.

Structure and Explanation

The poem works from top to bottom of the painting, with the mountains and light in the middle of the painting providing the folding middle line.

The storm fills the top half, and Hannibal’s army the bottom.

The words per line mirror with a 2-2-3-5-4-4- 5 -4-4-5-3-2-2 count.

The Poem

That’s All We Need!

swirling storm
arching cobralike
ready to strike
sheer skin of many greys
twisting as if crazed
below aiming head above

mountains silhouetted against distant light

observe Hannibal lead the
dispersing as in panic
men and elephants of war
hoping to survive
scattering birdlike
gimme shelter

The Painting

Turner's Hannibal Crossing the Alps
Turner's Hannibal Crossing the Alps

Copied from Wikipedia

Thomas Girtin’s Bamburgh Castle: 9 out of 10

In the ninth of ten ekphrastic poems interpreting and describing Romantic paintings we have the second from Thomas Girtin.

J.M.W. Turner, who was friends with Girtin and is widely considered to be Britain’s greatest landscape artist said that he would have lived in poverty had Girtin not died young.

Structure and Explanation

The poem works from the top right corner of the painting down through the castle tower doorway, which provides the folding middle line, and continues down to the left hand bottom corner of the painting in the lower half of the poem.

The poem has a simple structure of 3-5-5-4- 4 -4-5-5-3 words per line.

The Poem

Gatekeeper of Light: Girtin’s Bamburgh Castle

Grey skies swirling
around blue sky a burring
heaven sent hole in cloud
letting sun shine down

On Bamburgh Castle tower

gatekeeper opens to leave
light exit the doorway onto
seagull flock circle a twirling
Storm seas whirling

The Painting

Thomas Girtin's Bamburgh Castle
Thomas Girtin's Bamburgh Castle

Copied from Wikipedia.

Thomas Gainsborough’s Gypsy Camp Sunset

Today’s ekphrastic (thanks Caroline!) poem is the eighth of ten in the series, and second by Thomas Gainsborough, who was the leading British landscape painter in the 18th century, and an inspiration to those who followed in his footsteps at the end of the century and in the next.

Explanation and Structure

I just restructured this, and worked the poem from the top of the painting to the bottom, using the glowing sunset and campfire, which also mirror each other somewhat, as the folding middle line.

The Poem

from Thomas Gainsborough’s Gypsy Encampment, Sunset circa 1778-80

Greenygrey Gypsy Camp

Grey cloud green trees
dominate evening sky
darkness and light
signify the upcoming night
above the

corn-colour sunset and gypsy campfire

show how
two horses wait patiently
brown and white
provide contrast to
Green banks grey pond

The Painting

Thomas Gainsborough's Gypsy Camp Sunset
Thomas Gainsborough's Gypsy Camp Sunset

Copied from the Tate Gallery.

Poem of a Madman? William Blake and the Divine Comedy

In the BBC’s recent Changing of the Bard programme Ian Hislop talked about the Romantics and described Wordsworth as an alcoholic, Byron an adulterer and William Blake a madman.

I like William Blake. For any film buffs wanting to see a good film with William Blake abstract relevance that the great man would probably have admired I recommend Dead Man.

And today we have the second of Blake’s paintings to be interpreted through Folding Mirror poetry.

Explanation and Structure

This is a folding mirror poem inspired by Blake’s Dante and Virgil Penetrating the Forest (1824-7).

Here, the line word counts (6-8-8-7- 9 -7-8-8-6) and punctuation mirror each other on either side of the middle.

The human heads in the painting are used as the central focus, and the two sides of the poem start from the middle line and spread out to the beginning and end of the poem from the heads.

The middle line connects the two halves of the poem rather than standing alone.

Using this form, the poem draws attention to the similarity of the features at the top and bottom of the painting, while switching words around in the lines to create a reflective mirror effect.

The Poem

Humanity Amongst the Pillars of Creation

Sky blue, sky white, sky grey
blending living colours, on the tree canopy, with
branches reaching, as if preaching, in synchronicity with
human arms expanding upwards, requiring direction, for

heads talking in darkness, as if awaiting collection, for

bodies blending into planet, resembling tree-trunks, with
dresses flowing, as if rooting, communicating with earth
twisting life forms, on the forest ground, with
Earth grey, earth white, earth blue

The Painting

William Blake Interpreting the Divine Comedy
William Blake Interpreting the Divine Comedy

Copied from the Tate Gallery.

Poetic Interpretation of John Constable’s Stonehenge Art

Thanks to the Norfolk poets for their three poems this week, and there will be more from them in a little while. Also, thanks to Sarah James, who reviewed today’s poem and offered her advice on its improvement (only one word needed changing, mind!)

For the rest of this week the site will be finishing off the Romantic art interpretations with five more poems for five paintings by the same five artists as appeared in the first half of the series.

John Constable and Stonehenge

Explanation and Structure

We start today with John Constable’s Stonehenge, which impressively captures the haunting spirituality of the location.

The poem tries to join in with the timeless contemplation portrayed in the image.

The poem is a simple but accurate mirror, with a line-word structure of
5-7-5-6-5-7-5. The line length and punctuation also mirror pretty well.

I used an article on stones to find out their names.

Hope you enjoy it, and its quite timely what with the longest day only weeks away. Cheers!

The Poem

Stonehenge de Constable

Barren fields, hills of life…
giving fallen Station stones and Aubrey holes
people who sit and ponder
Sarsen trilithon: three stones standing proud
through time wind and rain
how magical Blue stones and Horseshoe setting
Bring stories, of past ages…

The Painting

Stonehenge by Constable

Copied from the British Museum website.

Turner’s Chichester Canal Finishes off First Round of Romantics

The fifth artist to feature in the Romantic interpretation series is J.M.W. Turner. This will conclude the first round of five paintings and poems, with another five from the same artists to follow.

Introduction and explanation

I thought I had completed all ten in the series before publishing any, but then couldn’t find any Turner ones when it came to his turn. And Turner was my favourite artists before the series! I tell you, the poet’s mind!!

So I did this one yesterday after finding the painting both beautiful and a nice fit for the Folding Mirror theme, with it’s horizon pretty much dividing the painting in two.

Thus, the poem works from the top of the painting down, with the horizon the middle.

The Structure

The structure mirrors in words per line (6-5-5-3-4-11-4-3-5-5-6).

The line lengths are pretty much the same, and the punctuation too. The only difference is that the commas in the third from outer lines are one word different from each other; with the top half after the first word and the bottom half after the second word in the line.

The Poem

An Autumn Sunset in Chichester (Chichester Canal by J.M.W. Turner)

ruddy sky brightened by setting sun
shimmering golden rays falling down
but, in reality rising up
through mauve dusk
to lilac hills, where

sailing ship and cathedral stride the natural horizon

on golden pond, a
cream light stretches
to boat, men and birds
between trees with autumn leaves
ripples darken the corners to ochre

The Painting

Turner's Chichester Canal
Turner's Chichester Canal

Copied from Wikipedia

Thomas Girtin’s Kirstall Abbey the Fourth Romantic Poem

Today’s fourth poem in the interpretations of Romantic art series is Thomas Girtin’s Kirkstall Abbey. The abbey is still standing, and is now on the edge of Leeds.

Poem Explanation and Interpretation

The poem has the same amount of words per line on each side, with the lines working out as containing a
5-7-7-8-9-5-9-8-7-7-5 word structure.

The line lengths in the two halves are not exact, but roughly form diagonal lines from the shortest on the outside lines to the longest on the inside pair.

The punctuation and capital letters do not match exactly.

The poem divides the painting into a top half above the arch of the river Aire containing the abbey and nature, while the bottom half contains people and man-made structures.

This has been interpreted as being symbolic of the past, present and future as Girtin saw it during the Enlightenment period.

The Poem

Nature and Society: Thomas Girtin’s Kirkstall Abbey

Clouds spread up on high
casting a shadow beyond the blue sky.
The sun shines down upon Kirkstall Abbey;
illuminated and shining light bright in reverent glory
framed by a living olive green horseshoe above where

Aire divides nature and society

over rustic farmhouses interrupting a line of green trees
with people passing on through; making their way
to meet God beyond the flowing water.
Two people and a horse walk away;
on their way to civilisation

The Painting

Girtin's Kirkstall Abbey
Girtin's Kirkstall Abbey

Copied from Wikipedia