Ekphrasis, Greek for “visualizing” or “describing,” has been associated poetically with lyrical depictions of visual art, and has a history at least as old as the 5th Century CE.
In Etc Phrases, Stephen Cain attempts to utilize this ancient form for a 21st century poetics, but complicates matters further: What if the visual art he responds to isn’t visual art at all, but concrete poetry? And what if these concrete poems weren’t actually poems, but micro-narratives in visual form? What if this source text was bpNichol’s Allegories (1974)?
In Allegories, Nichol claimed that he “compressed story into one image in which there was no narrative succession of frames & indeed no frames only the cluster of images… thus no linearity to the narrative but rather a grouping which the ‘reader’ must ‘read’ into a linear sequence.”
With Etc Phrases, Cain re-imagines that reader as a minimalist poet, and has crafted 32 short, sharp poems which invigorate both the process of reading and of visualizing language itself.