The Ekphrastic Poetry of Neil Ellman

Roberto Matta, Three Figures, 1958c, M.T. Abraham Foundation.
Roberto Matta (1911-2002), “Three Figures” (1958). The creations of Chilean abstract surrealist artist Roberto Matta have been the inspiration of Neil Ellman’s chapbook, “Mind Over Matta” (Flutter Press, 2015).

“Ekphrastic refers to a form of writing, mostly poetry, wherein the author describes another work of art, usually visual.” In most cases, the title of the poem is also the title of the original work. “It is used to convey the deeper symbolism of the corporeal art form by means of a separate medium. It has often been found that ekphrastic writing is rhetorical in nature and symbolic of a greater meaning.”

New Jersey poet Neil Ellman has published over 1,200 poems – many of which are ekphrastic and based on works of modern and contemporary art. He has interpreted diverse works from Kandinsky and Matta to Banksy and Basquiat. Ellman has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net and the Rhysling Award.

When Neil Ellman was asked in an interview to explain what an Ekphrastic poem is, he replied: “It sounds more intellectual than it is. It is no more than writing a poem expressing one’s reaction to a work of art.”

Bansky, "Bomb Hugger Signed" (2003)
Banksy, “Bomb Hugger Signed” (2003). The England-based street artist Banksy, known for his works of political and social commentary, has inspired the writing of Neil Ellman.

“She loves it
she loves it not
she holds it close
to her breast
as if it were a man
her first and last
she feels the hardness
of its skin erect
like iron
pulsing like a ticking bomb
her arms embrace
the inevitable
knowing the end
will come
exploding in a final blast—
it only kills
the one it loves
I came too close to the sun
and it burned my soul
a fateful black.”

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Self-Portrait (1982) [Acrylic and Crayon].
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Self-Portrait (1982). The American artist (1960-1988) who successfully incorporated social commentary in his paintings has also intrigued Ellman to express his thoughts in writing.
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