National Poetry Month 2013, Bonus Week: My Poem “Titian’s Metamorphosis”

May 3, 2013

Diana and Actaeon by Titian

Diana and Actaeon by Titian

I hope you have enjoyed National Poetry Month for 2013 as much as I have. As always, I end with a “bonus poem,” one of my own that I am delighted to share with you.

If you haven’t had enough poetry, you can always check out and even subscribe to this blog below.

I’ve written about ekphrastic poetry before, the art of writing poetry about or inspired by other works of art.

Last September, Samantha and I were in London and went to the National Gallery’s “Metamorphosis: Titian 2012” show.

The multi-arts show brought together a group of specially commissioned works responding to three of Titian’s paintings – “Diana and Actaeon,” “The Death of Actaeon,” and the recently acquired “Diana and Callisto” – all of which depict stories from Ovid’s epic poem “Metamorphoses.”

The three paintings at the heart of the exhibition had not been seen together since the 18th century.

The National Gallery also commissioned poets to write poems inspired by the artworks (you can watch the poets read their poems here, and there was even a Twitter poetry contest.

The Death of Actaeon by Titian

The Death of Actaeon by Titian

I was inspired to write my own poems in response to the show, one of which explores the relatedness of two paintings, “Diana and Actaeon” and “The Death of Actaeon.”

Here is my poem, “Titian’s Metamorphosis”:


They are twin paintings, really,

Titian’s “Diana and Actaeon” and

The one depicting his death.

Look at the positioning: in

The former, Actaeon, poised

To the left, arm raised parting

The curtain, feet apart, all

Broad shouldered and startled.

Diana, right reclining, as an Odalisque,

Right arm raised and feet, one

Caressed by a handmaid, the

Other dangling to the floor.

Seer and seen, searing gaze

And startled, glance agape.

In the latter, the roles are

Reversed: Diana to the left,

Huntress, bow flexed and ready

To shoot, sharp as her earlier withering

Arrow-glare; Actaeon, already begun

His metamorphosis, stag’s head,

Toppling and startled still,

But this time not by beauty,

By the horror of his own dogs

Ripping at his unrecognizable

Flesh. Look how his upreaching arm

Mimics Diana’s in its twin,

Handmaidens become hounds,

The cadence of his weakness

Coming down with the heaviness

Of his antler rack, head-heavy

All forgotten heedlessness,

Of beauty turned bestial.

“If looks could kill…”


–Scott Edward Anderson




2 Responses to “National Poetry Month 2013, Bonus Week: My Poem “Titian’s Metamorphosis””

  1. diane stiglich Says:

    So very excellent!! Thank you, Dianed

  2. Beautiful poetry, really amazing, thanks for sharing…Please find time to read my poems on my blog, Rain-Chimes~My Poetry Blog,

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