Musings about life on Earth in all its aspects…

Category: Art

Poetry and Art Broadsides

Back in April (appropriately) of this year, April Pameticky initiated a joint art/written word project: The Wichita Broadside Project. A series of monthly mixers were held to bring poets and artists together to see if anything clicked, then a call was made for submissions of 11 by 17 “broadsides.” A broadside here is a digital representation of graphics and text bringing together art and words into a whole more complete and meaningful than either might be on its own. Submittals would be evaluated by folks from Harvester Arts and River City Poetry; winners would be chosen by the jury would be printed and the prints provided to the artist/poet collaborators to distribute for posting around Wichita. The aim:  to promote poetry and art for public consumption.

The project was successful; more entries were received than expected. All entries will be displayed at Harvester Arts’ venue during Wichita’s monthly Final Friday Arts event on October 27th; that exhibit will also be the opening event of the 2017 Poetry Rendezvous. Seventeen entries were chosen for mass production and distribution. The teams whose work was chosen will each receive prints of all the winning entries, and ten copies each of their winner for distribution.  I was lucky enough to be a team member on four of the chosen pieces: one with Malissa Long Wilson entitled “Solar Flair,” one with Pat Beckemeyer (my talented wife) titled “If She Came to Me with Flowers,” and two with artist/poet Skyler Lovelace: “Early Onset,” and “The Mystery of Disappearing Bees.”

The piece I am showing here today was one I put together myself with a drawing I had done on a walk through Wichita’s Pawnee Prairie Park of some Indian Grass; I added to it my poem “Tallgrass in the Fall.” Not one chosen for distribution but it will be on display on the 27th, and I hope it inspires you to attend the event. Much great poetry and art singing together in harmony.


~Roy Beckemeyer, 3 October, 2017, 07:06, Revised 13:56.


Konza Journal 2017 Issue Now Online

The 2017 issue of the Kansas Area Watershed (KAW) Council annual publication, Konza Journal, is now online. I was fortunate to be asked by editors Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and Ken Lassman to participate as a contributing editor and also as a featured photographer (photo essays on Birds, Insects, South Africa, the Changing Faces of Water, and Landscapes). Please check it out. Essays on Climate Change by Ken Lassman, the Cretaceous oceans of Kansas by Mike Everhart, poems by Annette Hope Billings, April Pameticky, Dennis Etzel, Jr.Victoria Sherry, and Janet Jenkins-Stotts, Olive Sullivan, and Kansas Poets Laureate Kevin Rabas, Denise Low, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Eric McHenry, and Wyatt Townley.  Videos by Stephen Locke, and a marvelous essay on language and sense of place as it relates to the prairie by Cindy Crosby.

There is so much more I can’t fit all the links here, so just go to the Konza Journal page, browse, and enjoy.

-Roy Beckemeyer, September 28, 2017

Annunciation Angel – a poem from my collection of ekphrastic poetry based on abstract, symbolist and surrealist artists’ depictions of angels

Annunciation Angel


After Jay DeFeo’s Oil on canvas, “The Annunciation,”

1957/59, Art Institute of Chicago


Angel announcements are always

astounding. Angels are drama queens,

every one, no sign of subtlety; they light

the night sky, let all the neighbors hear

the news. No virgin ever born could

hope for discretion with angels involved.


Loud, too much makeup, glitzy robes

encrusted with bling, they swoosh in

on wings immaculately white, halos

like circular fluorescent tubes swiped

from a tavern storefront.


What’s the use of a Holy Spirit

silently slipping into your room

in the dead of night after all this?


 – Roy Beckemeyer


Please link to De Feo’s painting here:

DeFeo: “The Annunciation” –

Or use your smartphone to link through this QR Code:

DeFeo Annunciation Google QR Code


This poem is from a collection of 28 ekphrastic poems addressing various artists’ depictions of angels. Art ranges from abstract expressionist to symbolist to surrealist work. Tentatively titled Amanuensis Angel, the collection has been making the rounds of various publishers. No acceptance yet, but still trying. All the poems have QR codes so that readers can call up the picture on their smartphone or tablet, thus making reading the poems an interactive experience.

Spanish Moss and Mooonlight

Spanish MossR2

The shape on paper was hers,
light pencil tracings
of the first ideas
of how the moss would hang
in front of the moon,
the humid haze would hover
in the luxuriant Louisiana sky.

Now he was shaping it
in three dimensions,
his fingers and hands
working together, centering,
centering, pressing, smoothing
the Lake Pontchartrain clay;
his strong left leg powering
the treadle, the wheel spinning,
the vase rising into an almost
living, an almost organic form
from a shapeless lump of earth.

“Pinch in the neck,” she said,
“there above that rounded shoulder
that suggests the tops
of the trees – constrict the clay
into a sharply defined ring,
a cylindrical edge that will
pronounce: Here is a vase –
a form with a hollowness,
with emptiness, inside it.”

“Oh,” she said, “the blue and pale
lighted circle of trees
I have in mind will hold
within that hollow space
where all vases hide
their secrets, the mystery
of moonlit nights and bayous.”

She carries off the greenware,
places it on her turntable
and begins to shave off
strips of clay, layers of clay,
snippets of clay that drop
to the workbench, leaving strands
of moss to fall from the trees.

As clay curls off the edge
of her embossing knife,
the live oaks and bald cypress
rise, their branches woven,
and everywhere the Spanish moss,
drapes, droops, caresses
the tree forms, bounds
the growing image from above
the way bayou trees frame
the southern night skies.
With the first firing, the vase turns
white as the fullest moon,
ready for the glaze. The blues,
pale, paler, palest,
separate sky and foliage,
shape and void,
turn black bayou waters
into a moonlit blue sheen,
mark the sky for radiance
with flowing silken glaze.
The trees across the water loom
upward, reaching, reaching,
and the round moon hides
behind fingers of moss,
the deepest blue moss,
moss that loves live oaks
and warm nights and calling owls
and chirping tree frogs.

And then the final fire, the kiln blazing,
clay and glazes merging, capturing
in the chemistry of ceramics and heat
a moment of time, making it
a piece of forever, burning
into reality an imagining
of shape and form and color
and shadings. Oh, yes, here is what
she saw before she began to sketch.
And here is what his fingers felt
before he took up the clay. Here
is what they made, together,
from earth and fire and memories,
from Spanish moss, from live oaks,
from moonlight.

– Roy Beckemeyer


This is an ekphrastic poem inspired by a Newcomb Pottery vase thrown by Joseph Meyer and deeply carved by artist Sadie Irvine with live oak trees and Spanish Moss in front of a full moon. The vase, pictured above, was made in 1919.

Mussorgsky, Repin, and Ekphrasis

My wife, Pat, and I visited Russia several years ago, taking one of the Volga Waterway riverboat trips from St. Petersburg to Moscow.  We saw so many noteworthy and impressive things in Russia that it is very difficult to focus on any one particular experience, but I thought that I would try to do that today. 

I have always loved composer Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.”  This piano suite in ten movements was actually a form of ekphrasis inspired by an exhibition of art by a friend of Mussorgsky’s, Viktor Hartmann, an artist who died a tragic death at the early age of 39.  Shaken by Hartmann’s death, Mussorgsky and other Russian artists and intellectuals organized an exhibition of Hartmann’s works at the Academy of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg.  Mussorgsky was inspired by that exhibition to compose his piano suite, which presents an imaginary tour of the collection.  This well-loved piece of music is thus a fascinating example of an ekphrastic work – one piece of art that celebrates another – in this case, music commenting on visual art.  (The term ekphrasis usually refers to written words, poetry, for example, that describe the writer’s response to a painting or sculpture.)

On our next-to-last day in Moscow, we visited The State Tretyakov Gallery, and saw there many, many great works of Russian art.  Among them was painter Ilya Efimovich Repin’s portrait of Mussorgsky.  The painting was done by Repin from four sittings completed ten days before the composer’s death (Mussorgsky was born in 1839 and died in 1881, and thus lived just a couple of years longer than Hartmann had). I found that the portrait struck a chord in me.  This was no romanticization of Mussorgsky, but a memorial of the real man, in his last days.  And the tragedy of his short life reflecting that of the man whose work inspired his masterwork deepened my feelings about the painting. 

In an attempt to close this circle, I decided to write an ekphrastic poem about Repin’s portrait of Mussorgsky, in the form of the composer talking to the artist: