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Ekphrasis Contest Sample Poetry

Healthline Zine, Swim Press, and The Cloudscent Journal welcome you to submit to our first collaborative contest Ekphrasis.

Ekphrasis translates to description in Greek, and by analysing and reflecting on the perceptible actions and environment in the artwork while channelling it through a creative’s mind, the participating artist epitomises its potential meaning and may choose to add their original interpretive narrative to it.

It is an exercise in appreciating the complexities of another’s work of art and allowing the mind to roam within the confines of an unfamiliar portrait; ensnared and unbound.

We ask you to select one of three carefully curated prompts to inspire your piece; Detail of Summer Night by Aloys Bohnen, The Lost Tribe by Jehangir Sabavala, and Falling Star by Witold Pruszkowski.

If you're curious about the kind of work we're looking for, here's a piece of poetry by our staff poet MJ Gomez that encapsulates our expectations while exceeding them.

Then again, Ekphrasis is about your interpretation of artwork and the narratives you choose to attach to them, so consider this one amongst infinite possibilities and show us what you can create.

Prompt: The Lost Tribe (1975) by Jehangir Sabavala.

A description of the artwork by The Serigraph Studio – “The Lost Tribe rises in parallel strata: first rocks, dunes and shrubs; above them, receding horizons; higher still, snow-capped peaks and mountain-like clouds; and in the sky, minatory birds, their wings spread wide above their potential prey, circling above the lost tribe like great clouds.”

Jehangir Sabavala was a prominent member of the first generation of postcolonial Indian artists who is also considered one of the pioneers to develop artwork informed by international tastes that remains true and reflective of the textures and imagery of local culture.

In an interview with Nancy Adajania, Sabavala revealed, “The landscape[s] served as an escape, a liberation from the pain.”

The Veil

Birds like mountains leap, upended stone clouds, gray islands

suspended in silk. In hunger. The maple lake fades

into sky, the Sun melting into beige smoke across the canvas.

This is a worthy backdrop for a journey as impossible as ours.

And aren’t we all remembered

this way: backs turned to recollection, names lost in search

of something truer. Flesh ripped to silk.

To soot. Imaginary smoke fills the room. Look

how easily our people are set aflame.

If you wish, you may call this memory.

Memory like chipped metal—an invisible wound

like a stain you can’t wipe away.

And if memory is something to be wiped away,

you may feel your vision clouding. The faces

behind the shrouds are telling you something. In truth,

the lost tribe has not yet lost their tongue.

Listen. They speak to us like rust

on an anchor underwater—too much time

paints everything red. Gives anything a voice. Oftentimes,

this voice is your own. The myth persists

in a language you do not speak.

Know that you can make the Sun set at any time.

Know that everything is a matter of faith. The earth leaps

and the lake is nothing more than the sky

embracing an old lover.

This is to say: you are the face behind the veil.

And a face is behind each figure

no matter how we are remembered.

History burns. Imaginary smoke clouds your vision.

The lost tribe turns to face you once more.


MJ Gomez is a 19-year-old writer from the Philippines, currently based in Saudi Arabia. Pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English, they enjoy playing guitar on hot, sleepy days and stargazing through bus windows. Their work is forthcoming or published in Verum Literary Press, the Cloudscent Journal, the Lunar Journal, and others. You can find them on Twitter @bluejayverses!


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