Professor Daniel Hall (Fall 2009)

The class was introduced to ways of understanding the visual vocabulary of paintings, and each student chose a work of art as inspiration for an ekphrasis poem.

Landscape, Composition, Afternoon

Arranged between a stream and missing sun,
Ahead of forests’ crowded depths concealed,
The sun’s extended reach of lighted truth,
The clouded sky’s infinity above,
The core, collective beauty of the earth,
Composed green, yellow, blue in perfect thirds,
stands nature’s brace,
The only piece that’s vital for it all.
Alone, relaxed this sacred figure leans,
Still strong, and posed. Its portrait overwhelms
The humble presence simply herding cows
And sheep now tame, an afterthought behind,
Made soft by what could only be divine.

—Clay Andrews ‘13

In the Woods by  Asher Brown Durand

Stone Faced

You’ve returned home again,
The warmth feels fickle, your cosmic quest
for the rocky shores of faith dissolved
by mundane chores
and a homely, nagging wife.

The molecular content
of the house’s repeated, layered bricks
insults your striving intellect,
belittles and hinders your quest for God
in the microscopic structure of ancient minerals.
Quartzite is too impure,
sullied by inclusions,
fracturing easily.
The Almighty is better than this
your internal sigh as the servants lug
clunky boxes of extracted rock
from the laden wagon to the attic

You hardly notice the child and dog,
wild in a playtime frenzy,
nipping at your heels.
Hug the wife,
shake hands with your growing boy.
Ever the business affair.
Noble eyes search geological pastimes,
illusory quakes and folding pressures pushed
long and slow
by an invisible source.  
Whatever the name, it eludes you so,
as does your mothers crumpled form
as she waits for a forehead kiss
in the silent
rocking chair.

—Ben Babbott ‘10E

Professor Edward  Hitchcock Returning from a Journey by Robert Peckham

Beginning of a Stormy Day, By Charles Henry Eaton

What’s this? They’ve mucked the title up.
It says the storm’s about to pass
when it’s clear to me it already has.
The breeze relieved the trees of leaves,
leaving branches bent by windy will,
they rise on the far horizon,
melting into silver seas of sky
still cloudy from the storm.
And then there is the


Alone, intrepid, muscle and musket,
he too must have been standing here,
surveying this frosty scene,
when he decided, like the stream,
to go, and track that distant glow
where the wind doesn’t blow
and the snow doesn’t snow,
and the sun is your sol companion.

 —Kurt Bennett ‘11

Beginning of a  Stormy Day by Charles Harry Eaton

Escape Fire

He pushed himself to stand above the ash,
his body burning, figure etched in red,
startlingly raw, vivid, firm against
the smear of sky through clouds of rising smoke.

Alone, he is the sole surviving member
of sixteen smoke jumpers who parachuted
down to fight a small wildfire which exploded
into fury, leaving the forest in embers
of glowing sticks and bodies. Only he
succumbed to some mad instinct to fight
the fire with fire. He built an ashen circle,
lay down in blackened grass, and didn’t flee
—though why, he couldn’t say. But he lives, still,
to stand, to feel like some small miracle,
anticipating the bodies of his friends,
seared flesh just further down the flaming hill.

From even farther, miles away, the scene
Escapes its inner turmoil to become
A smaller frame which longs to blur with clouds,
A smudge of red on Mannocci’s pared-down palette.

—Diana Cao ‘12

Lino Mannocci

Avocados from Cabo

          a void in
                              don’t you know

An aficionado
Spurred too much bravado

Raving about
            “Avocados, Avo
                  cados, sublime avoca
                       dos!” Frightened, the fruit fled

to New York, far far away,
where they safely reside, though rather gray.

—Taylor Friedlander ‘10E


Avocados, New  York by Edward Steichen


Still Life with Peaches and Melons

In a room there is a bowl of peaches
waiting to be eaten. They almost spill
over where two melons decorate the table;
too tough to pierce with the butter knife below.

So the pleasures of life assemble, stacked
in imposed elevation, clear and succulent
among the heaviness around them. So sweet,
yet so easily cut, we save them for other days

in hope that there will be time to fully
absorb their ephemeral joy. All around,
the difficult moments leave a shadow
large enough to sleep in.

Do I dare to eat a peach? I cannot stomach
the melons. What remains is a life stilled—
inaction leaves a clean napkin. Solitude
is a room of fruit untouched, uneaten.

—Shane Johnson ‘12E

Still Life,  Peaches and Melons by Walter Stuempfig


A gypsy girl,
bent at the hips—
a question-mark curl,
a suggestive twist.

The transparency of
silk against her figure—
a delicate touch,
a fanatical trigger.

The fire in her lips brings
shame to her cheeks—
an  icon of sex,
a damsel gone weak.

Light on her feet,
see her stance—
a warrior in combat,
a vixen in romance.

Spurts of color against
layers of bleakness—
She’s every woman’s power,
every man’s weakness.

—Ashley Miranda ‘12

Salome by Robert  Henri

Femme en Barque

The painter builds a moment over time
But all the while there is only the image
Stopped among the traffic of the passing
Presents, a gift of vision for the ages.

The woman reading drawn by Sargent's hand
Draws me, too, but who was first? The order
Flattens within a single oily plane
Where the reader beholds another's thoughts
And looking upon seeing at least
Four visions to play in the same exchange.

The multitude of marks point together,
And nature itself bends to see as well,
That place or moment, outside space and time,
In which the call of looking is answered.

Some write, some read, others paint but all see
The beauty between us that stops the world.

—Darryl Weimer ‘11E



Mary Claypoole Peale: Mid-life

       must be more to this
 portrait, past its grays,
   greens and pinks, in Mary’s
         half-smile of a stare.

           She looks
       happy enough, jewelry
  in her hair, worn subtly,
       showing her wealth, but modestly.
Underneath this pleasantry, though, lurks

       ominous. Why is her bouquet
 wilting? Prominently on display,   
      it seems to convey
           that this is a changing

       in Mary’s life, as she
poses amidst symbols of death: the
    overgrown, browning shrubbery,
         and in back, one rogue vine

      to overtake the entire
scene, its rising higher    
    contrasting with Mary’s finger—
        downwardly juxtaposed,

     to impending old age, demise…
but she is at ease. Her eyes
     exude confidence (it’s a disguise).
         The threat of death is poignant.  

—David Zheultin ‘11

Mary Claypoole   Peale (1753-1829) by Charles Wilson Peale

Landscape With Overturned Wagon in a Storm

Lightning rips rings from a bracing tree,
And across the path, rock outcroppings
Bear down on the horse-run carriage
For fear that the whole smoky world might cave.
Though this twisted sight craves order,
You couldn’t stop these forces with mortar.
Spooked horses, dragging men, tear away
From their bridle-hooked sources
To escape the encroaching forest, mountain,
And storm. And here the paint is confused:
Hectic nature argues with itself, perfectly
Drawn, while man and wood and beast
Blur with the concentrated energy
Of a landscape gone mad. It’s sad.
So it goes, I suppose. The wagon wood
Vibrates, and the horses have had enough.
They’re off dashing. Lightning keeps crashing.
A hazy mountain resists lazily
The clouds that spit electricity
From transitory clear-sky gashes.
But isn’t that how it goes?  Only when
The skies part does anything shockingly
Bad happen. And all is calm, mockingly,
As your horses gallop, for salvation sent.

—Andrew Zolot ‘11

Landscape with  Overturned Wagon in a Storm by Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg