Exit Strategy : Ekphrasis Through The Lens Of The Abstract And The Formless

Wright, Patrick (2023). Exit Strategy : Ekphrasis Through The Lens Of The Abstract And The Formless. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0001550d


This thesis consists of a creative component, comprising a collection of original poems, and a critical component, divided into chapters on ekphrasis and my poetics.

The collection of poems engages with themes such as love, grief, religious faith, and rebirth. Formally, the collection makes use of various modes of ekphrasis to develop the lyric poem and the dramatic monologue. Additionally, it combines ekphrasis with the sonnet, the prose poem, the ghazal, and procedural verse. This has led to innovative hybrid forms (e.g., the ekphrastic prose poem). The poems make use of dependent clauses and techniques such as parataxis, collage, and juxtaposing disparate lexicons.

The critical component presents expanded modes of ekphrasis that move away from the image or employ an ‘exit strategy’. A similar tactic is acknowledged in the work of three contemporary poets: Anne Carson, Emily Berry, and Deryn Rees-Jones. The question is how lyric themes can be disguised, warped, or treated differently through the prism of an artwork; how the image might serve as a lens for themes that are too difficult to write about directly.

After an introduction that sets out my research questions, a literature review outlines recent examples of the practice of ekphrasis. The third chapter provides a reading of Carson, Berry, and Rees-Jones, and how my poems align with their methods. Chapter four examines how forms (such as the prose poem or ghazal) can ‘frame’ personal themes and offer, at the same time, a visual analogue of the artwork. Chapter five proposes the idea that images can be viewed without assuming that some parts are more central than others. This is to advance an ekphrastic mode that includes overlooked details in the artwork. Finally, Chapter six is on the role of misperception in ekphrasis, and how mis-seeing might be used as a creative tool.

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