Black Angus, Cooperstown by Paul Niemiec, Jr. (used by permission of the artist)

Caroline Mary Crew, writing about ekphrastic poetry in her always engaging blog, Flotsam, asks,  “Can the poem stand apart from the painting?”

She cites some worthy examples of various approaches and “types” of ekphrastic poems, including famous examples by Auden, Keats, and O’Hara, as well as a poem that was completely unknown to me, Monica Youn’s “Stealing The Scream.”

I was intrigued by Caroline’s question and sent her an example of my own, “Fallow Field,” which was not quite an ekphrastic poem by strictest definition — that is, a poem that comments upon another artwork, because Joshua Sheldon’s photograph and my poem were created at the same moment.

It occurred to me that another of my poems, “Black Angus, Winter,” was also a kind of ekphrastic poem, of the type Caroline categorizes as narrative/monologue.

This poem, which was part of a group that won The Nebraska Review Award, was inspired in part by the landscape of central New York State, where I spent summers in the mid-1980s.  There was much to inspire: rolling hills, dairy and cattle farms, cornfields, and old, often dilapidated farm buildings.

The poem also found inspiration and a launching-off point in a painting by a friend, Paul Niemiec, to whom the poem is dedicated.  (Reproduced above.)

Here is my poem


“Black Angus, Winter”




The angus rap their noses

on the ice–

fat, gentle fists

rooting water

from the trough.

They kick up clods of dirt

as a madrigal of shudders

ripples their hides.





The barn needs painting,

it’s chipped like ice

from an ice-cutter’s axe.

The fence also needs work,

posts leaning, wire slack.

The Angus keep still–

they’re smarter than we think,

know all about electricity.





I cross the barnyard

on my way back from the pond,

ice skates keeping time

against the small of my back.

The sting of the air

is tempered by the heat of manure.

Through the barn door:

Veal calf jabbing at her mother’s udder.


(For Paul Niemiec)

–Scott Edward Anderson


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MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 01:  Carol Ann Duffy...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Poet Carol Ann Duffy was nominated for UK Poet Laureate yesterday. Here’s what she had to say about the position, which she had previously poo-poohed:

The appointment of a poet laureate can be seen, quite simply, as a spotlight on the vocation of poetry. I feel privileged to be part of a generation of poets in Britain who serve the vocation of poetry; writers who – in glad company with their readers – regard poetry as the place in language where everything that can be praised is praised, and where what needs to be called into question is so. Perhaps a better word than generation, for our community of poets, readers and listeners, would be family – or, as Ted Hughes had it, tribe. Doris Lessing, too, once described herself as a member of the honourable tribe of storytellers.

Read her remarks in full here.

Here is her poem, “Valentine”:

Not a red rose or a satin heart.
I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.

Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.

–Carol Ann Duffy
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After 10 years, eight royal poems and 700 bottles of sherry as payment, UK Poet Laureate Andrew Motion steps down from the role at the end of April.

He looks back at his experiences while in the post, both good and bad, and offers up a bit of advice for his successor.

Read the interview here: BBC Motion

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