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Speaking Pictures: Poetry Addressing Works of Art

John Hollander, Sterling Professor of English, Yale University. Works of art are silent; poetry speaks its mind. Painting is mute poetry, poetry a speaking picture. Beginning with classical writers, poet and literary critic John Hollander explains that art and literature have developed a wide variety of relationships over the course of 2,000 years. In this lecture recorded on November 4, 2001 at the National Gallery of Art, Hollander specifically explores the ekphrastic relationship between a particular work of visual art or architecture and a particular poem. The word ekphrastic comes from the Greek ek and phrasis, meaning “out” and “speak,” respectively—to give voice to the silent work of art by speaking for it, out of it, or, in so many ways, to it. Hollander distinguishes between actual and notional ekphrasis, invocations of actual works of art versus speaking of fictional works that exist only in description. He then reads from works by very different contemporary poets and connects them with corresponding works of art that the poems had in mind or in view.