April 12, 2012 by Sez
Yesterday I saw some Van Gogh paintings. I was particularly struck by one called the Olive Orchard. The inherent disquiet in such a stereotypically idyllic subject is quite upsetting up close. This is an ekphratic poem, in that it closely describes a work of art, but the form’s called ethere.
An ethere has ten lines and no pattern of rhythm or rhyme. Each line contains the same number of syllables as its line number. There is also a reverse ethere, which is the opposite (first line contains ten syllables, second has nine, etc.) This is a double ethere, consisting of an ethere followed by a reverse ethere.
This ought to be
A pastoral scene:
Summer in the country.
But the sky is turbulent
But the branches writhe like serpents
But the ground lurches beneath his feet.
So he takes his brush and tries to show us
The way his nightmares infiltrate the day.
He mixes his too-vivid colours
Feverishly tries to show us
How his world won’t stop moving:
Nothing is ever still
And there is no peace
Not even here