Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Words to Paint a Thousand Pictures, by April Zabrinski (from Calliope)

At first I didn't really know what to make of this poem. I really liked the first three lines, “Tiptoed whispers like / Caramel drops stolen from / The ceramic jar” and then I just got lost in the rest of the poem. Zabrinski moves from one vivid image to the next with no punctuation at all (except the final period after the last line) so that they all blur together. Without realizing it you've moved from the caramel drops to moonlit sonatas to sunrises.

The transition between images works because many lines are part of the preceding image and the following one. For example, “And the cat fanning its tail atop / the purring radiator / watching with closed eyes / drips of chocolate delight on the / Asian run / And picked locks” The cat can watch the drips of chocolate or there could be a period after “closed eyes” and the chocolate on the rug and the locks could be an entirely new image. Or the chocolate could just be on the rug and the locks could be a third image all together.

Each image is unique and interesting, but they race by so quickly. When I first read it I was a bit put off by the fact that I wasn't allowed process each image before the next one was introduced, but then I remembered the title, “Words to Paint a Thousand Pictures.” It seems to me that this poem does exactly that. In twenty-two lines Zabrinski tries to paint as many pictures as she can. Depending on where you insert your own punctuation the poem can present many different pictures.

I imagine that this must be extremely difficult to pull off, but it is pretty cool and the more I re-read it the more I like it.



Popped said...

This is going to sound really strange, but for whatever reason, I kept thinking the piece was a photo/series of photos (I guess that's the effect April Zabrinski wanted!) Zabrinski does a great job of creating an ekphrasis poem, though I agree with you about the rapidness of the images; it's a bit on the sensory overload side, and that's just from the selection you've posted. I'd love to read the poem in its entirety. Great transitions!
----Jen G.

Popped said...

Wait, it's ekphrastic? Does that mean this was based on an image?

It sounds like this is the kind of poem that would overwhelm me--and when it comes to poetry, I'll admit that I don't often have the tenacity to hold on and try reading it again if it doesn't make sense the first time. Still, the problem I usually have with poetry is that there are not enough images that are not doing enough, and I get lost in jumbled thoughts. Maybe I would actually appreciate the challenge of this poem.

I love the title's clever twist on "a picture's worth a thousand words."