Friday, 10 August 2012


This week’s theme of ekphrasis made me wonder, if various forms of art including painting, sculptures or dance can be distilled into a poem or piece of prose, can it be reversed? Can a poem inspire a painting or music? Does reverse ekphrasis exist?

I think yes. What else can the illustrated covers of novels be but an artist’s or designer’s portrayal of the text within?

I recently illustrated the cover of a book of poetry for Ashley Lister. I took one of his funniest poems included in the text and I attempted to condense the humour and character of the poem into one image. I shan’t post the poem here because it isn’t my place to do so, but the character narrating the poem was in love with a blow up doll, and it was very funny. This example of reverse-ekphrasis was just my take on his poem, and I tried to express the humour in the style of drawing I used (cartoon style, I can draw properly believe it or not) and in the scene in the poem I used. I chose to include a character that would see the main character how we see him, slightly amused, confused and a little judgemental but I exaggerated her. None of this was a conscious decision, it just seemed the right thing and I went with it.

Ashley was happy with the result I hope, and so maybe I captured it in the right way. Someone else would of course interpret the poem in another way and would have illustrated it completely differently. But I suppose ekphrasis is personal to the point of view of the interpreter. That’s my take on ekphrasis anyway. If it sums up the views of many then you’re on to a winner.
Linky to Ashley's book here


Ashley R Lister said...


Thank you. Your illustration for that one makes me smile every time I look at that cover. It's genuinely one of my covers.

And I've posted the poem below.


Betty & I

We went to one of those swingers’ parties,
Me and my blow-up doll: Betty.
She wanted to add a new kink to our lives.
I just went there to get sweaty.

Our relationship was at a low point.
And it had been that way for a bit.
But I still tried to treat her with flowers or clothes.
Or a bicycle puncture repair kit.

Yet for months my Betty had been silent.
And our love life had skidded off track.
I didn’t know if Betty had stopped loving me.
Or was just missing the string from her back.

I pumped her up full before leaving.
She looked as good as it claimed on her box.
I adorned her in lingerie, perfumes and makeup.
And then I put on some clean socks.

We looked perfectly suited together
We each were the cream of the crop
But that didn’t stop people from laughing
As we waited beside the bus stop.

I should really have waited to inflate her
Onlookers can say horrid stuff
But we were both going off to a sex party
And I didn’t want to arrive out of puff.

So we stood and endured the torment:
“You sicko!” “You effing buffoon!”
“You pervert!” You wanker! You dirty old git!”
“Don’t you know she’s a bloody balloon?”

When the bus came I grinned at the driver.
But I could tell that he wanted to tease.
I held up my hand, gave him the right change,
And said, “Two, to the sex party, please.”
Which was how we ended up at the party
And Betty seemed glad we were there
She looked radiant in her new lingerie
And her hundred percent nylon hair.

When the hostess sidled between us
She caught Betty’s leg with her fag.
And, although she said sorry profusely,
My Betty soon started to sag.

The air hissed from her like flatulence
And may I just say at this juncture
It’s hard to deny that you’ve farted
And explain that your date’s got a puncture.

I called for some help but got laughter
Everyone thought I was having a jape
As I stood holding up my poor Betty
And screaming for some sticky tape.

Looking back on that time is a milestone
As the air gushed from Betty’s right knee.
But it did bring a new and clean meaning
To the phrase: she went down on me.

I took hold of her leg with my fingers
Around the burn hole I gave her a pinch
And while it stopped air from escaping
She still lacked the right pounds per square inch.

Deflated, we both left the party
And I vowed I would never return
We expected a night of fresh frolics and fun
But all Betty got was a burn.

Betty and I have now parted
And my love life has hit a new low
But I won’t try those personal ads or blind dates
What do you think me? An effing weirdo?