Ekphrasis and the afterimage of the sonnet


Rembrant, “Saskia carrying Rumbartus downstairs,” 1636

A handful of my recent ekphrastic poems are up at The Brooklyn Rail. These are from a series about mothers and their children inspired by an old book discarded from our library, A Gallery of Mothers and their Children* (Marian King, 1958). My favorite is “Saskia, Rembrandt (1636)“, which I recorded here and which is based on this Rembrandt sketch. The poems comprise my own writing, excerpts from the book, and descriptions of the paintings (ekphrasis).

I’ve been talking to some of my poet friends lately about how my poems are kind of post-sonnet sonnets– they don’t have the meter or rhyme scheme, but they have the volta, and to my mind they have the “weight” of a sonnet on the page (think of the “afterimage” of a sonnet). “Saskia” is a good example of what I’m talking about, and if it were a sonnet it might be a Petrachan sonnet because it’s divided nearly evenly between theme and resolution. 


About Jessica Smith

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