Tuesday 11 December 2018

"Desert Scene": An Exercise in Ekphrasis, By Colin Gardiner

By Colin Gardiner

The following poem was written in an ekphrastic experiment during my studies at the University of Leicester. I was drawn to a painting by Jane Domingos called Saguaro Blossom Night (2011) on display at the Leicester New Walk Art Gallery.

Immediately, I was struck with the stillness of the desert scene, and the suggestion of movement in the centre of the picture. As I observed the painting, I allowed my mind to drift. I began to imagine a cinematic moment. This day-dream state left me open to ideas and feelings. Associated thoughts about music and films entered my mind, which enabled me to start sketching out ideas for a poem. Further research revealed the artist’s intent to portray the "otherness of life left behind" and this further inspired my poem.

I feel that this was truly a collaborative effort, between the artist and myself. I found that my poetic response to the painting added an extra element to the two-dimensional image. I tried not to edit myself too much in my note-taking. Through this approach, I found power in the more "na├»ve" aspects of the rough drafts that followed. Overall, I found ekphrasis to be a creatively stimulating process.  

Desert Scene

I think they're cooking up magic, 
In the blue/black hour before dawn. 
Lights on in the bullet-shaped trailer
As a car approaches, hissing over gravel,
Tail-lights squeezing tumbleweeds
Into orange crush.

A broken spine of hills, prone behind 
Restless rolls of dessert. Helplessly 
Stalked by pin-pricked stars,
That tattoo the night’s sleeping skin.
Silver whispers of steel guitar tweak 
Aerials, slowly evaporating. 

I’m parked up by Mr Cactus, 
Stoned silent in his cotton crown, 
His incessant needles bristle at my company.
The delivery just came in.
Three shots. Puncture night-watch stasis 
Echoing across heartbroken dunes.

An aerial prolapse of popcorn stars 
Slither on butter trails and gather 
In my lap. Too hot to move and
Shake out this hidden greasy take-out 
Nest. Too hot to take a rest in 
This rattlesnake windscreen interior. 

Domingos, J. (2011). Saguaro Blossom Night. [Oil on canvas] Leicester: Leicester New Walk Museum and Art Gallery. 

About the author
Colin Gardiner is currently studying an MA in creative writing at the University of Leicester. He is originally from Birmingham and now lives in Coventry.

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