While I was there, I gave a 15-minute presentation about my own creative work and the work & goals of Ekphrasis: Fellowship of Christians in the Arts. I'd like to try to reproduce this presentation here. A video of it should be available eventually; when it is, I'll link to it on the website.
I. I began by passing around handouts, including the flyer advertising a Poetry & Dance event, to illustrate my interest in interdisciplinary & collaborative arts:
I also shared the vision statement for Ekphrasis, which you can download & read at your leisure.
And I shared one poem from my new book, Caduceus: you can read that poem here.
II. Then I began my demonstration/discussion of interdisciplinary arts by playing a recording of the Overture to Bizet's Carmen and reading, over the music, a poem of mine entitled "Carmen Rehearses her Monologue." This poem is spoken in the persona of an opera singer who is trying to process the difficult emotions involved in performing the role of a promiscuous woman, while the singer's family watches the show!
III. Then I gave a talk. I reproduce my script for the talk here.
"Good afternoon. My name is Sørina Higgins; that poem was from my brand-new, hot-off-the-press, one-week-old collection entitled Caduceus. I am also the host of a regional group called 'Ekphrasis: Fellowship of Christians in the Arts' that meets in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Ekphrasis is a Greek word that translates: 'to speak out, to express, enunciate, detail, phrase, signify.' It has traditionally been applied to poetry about the visual arts. In our group, we expand it to mean making art about life—in other words, subcreation.
I chose that particular poem because it illustrates something into which my group, some of my students, and I have accidentally stumbled: interdisciplinary arts. Interdisciplinary arts, mixed media, genre-crossing, and collaboration: these are some trends in contemporary 'Western' art, and they are a little bit of a theme in my group. Think of interdisciplinary arts as metaphor as macrocosm: expressing something in terms of something else in order to get at something else again, deeper, and more profound. Metaphor as macrocosm. This is how we are trained as young practioners of our arts. We are told: Make your poetry more musical. Make your music more dramatic. Make the piano sound like an orchestra. Make your voice sound like a cello—like butter—like caramel. We say: 'Wow, look at that sunset; it looks like a painting!' 'Wow, look at that painting; it looks like a photograph!' 'Wow, look at that photograph; it looks real!'
All right, now all of this sounds very lofty. Let me bring it down to earth for a few minutes by just talking quite concretely about what my group, Ekphrasis, is, what is does, and what some of its dreams, goals, and problems are.
1. monthly workshops for critique
2. occasional events that are open to the public
3. explicitly Christian vision statement
4. Good relationship with area churches:
a) Multiple churches represented (8)
b) unofficial relationship w/Living Hope (encouragement, space, promotion)
c) Players of the Stage, E. C. dance, choreologos presented at church
5. Difficulties & Goals:
a) how to grow? (average 10 members; 24 max)
b) how to become more professional? (mostly college students)
c) how to involve the whole church?
d) GOAL: to be THE place where ALL Christians-in-the-Arts in the Lehigh Valley workshop their pieces & performances—and to produce some of THE great masterpieces of our time!
Now I've slipped back into the lofty again—and many members of my little group do have lofty goals and are accomplishing great work. One is involved in a non-profit film company that is making a documentary movie about underpriviledged teens in Philadelphia. One directs a youth theatre company that donated $11,000 last year to the Allentown Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter and rehab center for men in transition. A dance teacher and I are creating an interdisciplinary event called 'Poetry, Dance, and the Patterned Glory of the Universe' — a lofty title for a community event hosted by my church and promoted by our outreach committee.
So you see I've also slipped back into talking about collaborative, genre-crossing arts again; so let me close with one more poem that is pretending—or aspiring—to be more than just words on a page. I hope that it hints at how much more could be done to push poetry onto the stage and into other categories. Four people have very kindly volunteered to perform it with me to give you the full poetic, dramatic, antiphonal, musical, and geographical effect."
IV. And then we performed a poem entitled “Mappa Mundi,” which is about the four Medieval elements -- earth, air, fire, & water -- personified as four dragons, and considered as aspects of the Holy Spirit's creative work in the world!
As a result of this presentation and of hearing dozens of other presentations, I came away from the weekend just bursting with ideas for ways Ekphrasis will take over the world! Please share your thoughts!