Ekphrasis is "art on art", or as Robert Kempf says, "pi art squared". In essence, ekphrasis generally attempts to add an additional dimension of understanding or commentary to an existing work of art via expression in a different medium . One of the most common forms of ekphrasis is poetic response to the visual arts. In this form of ekphrasis, the poet often attempts to give life to the spatial visual work by adding a temporal element that is unable to be fully realized due to the static nature of the visual work . Of issue in ekphrasis, especially in poems about visual arts, is the notion of domination, whereby the artist of the second element in an ekphrastic pair has the ability to almost put words in the mouth of the first artist. The fact that ambiguity exists in art allows for many unique interpretations for any one original work, often resulting in several ekphrastic responses to the same work, each with a different perspective. This may help to lessen the drift in connotation of the original work, as multiple responses each try to steer the reader/viewer in several directions, and in the end the reader/viewer must choose their own interpretation.
In this website, we will discuss L.S. Lowry's painting Man Lying on a Wall and Michael Longley's ekphrastic response by the same name:
Man Lying on a Wall
City Art Gallery & Museum, Salford
"Man Lying on a Wall"
Homage to L.S. Lowry
You could draw a straight line from the heels,
Through the calves, buttocks and shoulderblades
To the back of the head: pressure points
That bear the enormous weight of the sky.
Should you take away the supporting structure
The result would be a miracle or
An extremely clever conjuring trick.
As it is, the man lying on the wall
Is wearing the serious expression
Of popes and kings in their final slumber,
His deportment not dissimilar to
Their stiff, reluctant exits from this world
Above the shoulders of the multitude.
It is difficult to judge whether or not
He is sleeping or merely disinclined
To arrive punctually at the office
Or to return home in time for his tea.
He is wearing a pinstripe suit, black shoes
And a bowler hat: on the pavement
Below him, like a relic or something
He is trying to forget, his briefcase
With everybody's initials on it.