Time for another ekphrastic poem. Today’s exercise takes its inspiration from UA Fanthorpe’s poem “Not My Best Side”, which in turn responds to Paolo Uccello’s quite strange painting, St George and the Dragon.
What I love about Fanthorpe’s poem is the way it takes the three different viewpoints – the dragon, the maiden, and St George – and give each of them a voice. So today’s exercise will also require you to bring in more than one perspective, although I’m only going to require you to put yourself in two different heads.
This is another painting by Uccello (or at least one usually attributed to him), which bears the title “A Young Lady of Fashion”. Your task is to write a poem in response to this painting from two different perspectives: that of the painting’s subject, and that of the artist. It is completely up to you how you frame this. Maybe it’s both of them during the painting of the portrait. Or one of them during, and one after the portrait’s completion (possibly decades after). Or one or both of them before the work is begun – how might the project have been brought into being? Who commissioned whom? Lots of possibilities for you to play with. Just remember: details. It’s always down to details. And because it’s such a visual prompt, you’ll need to make sure you think of things away from the merely sight-oriented too – think texture, think temperature, think sound, think taste. Passage of time. Feelings of pain or discomfort – physical and emotional. Not to mention the world beyond the canvas, in all its chaos and glory.