A visual sonnet

By

Deanna Dent

In anticipation of National Poetry Month in April, Arizona Poet Laureate and Regents' Professor Alberto Ríos and ASU Now photographers Charlie Leight and Deanna Dent are collaborating to create a "visual sonnet." Each week we share a new image and poem on our @asunow Instagram account. When completed, the entire project - 14 images and poems, reflecting the number of lines in a sonnet - will be found on this page, culminating on April 27.

All images were captured not for "work," but as images that stood out to each photographer. Ríos then wrote short poems adapted to the images without knowing their initial context.

This isn't the first team project for Ríos, who often collaborates with community members and artists from different parts of Arizona. He knows the power that can come from combining ideas. 

"The best of collaboration suggests two or more people working not in service to each other, but to the idea they envision, differently," he said. "This seems an awkward assumption, but let me say it this way: I can say 'blue' to you and I will mean what I mean, but you will hear 'blue' and think what you think it means.

"Through our different understandings, though, together we create a third blue, a blue of difference, a blue that suddenly makes three blues where only two began. Something magical and transformative happens in that moment. Putting our blues together makes something happen, something palpably more."  

Ríos suggested the name Ekphrasis for the project, a Greek word summed up in a "verbal description of a visual work of art, either real or imagined." 

A Sonnet of Images 
Ekphrasis.  Translation.  Conversation.

Click on the words below to jump down to that week's photo and poem:

1. In you I have the future...    2. Orange...    3. I play the game...    4. I stretch...  5. I was something...

 

 

graduation

1.
In you, I hug the future.
I hold to me the arms of what is going to happen.

I embrace the next edge of civilization,
The farthest forward we as human beings have ventured.

These robes we are wearing are not clothing—
They are the gift-wrapping of everything we know. 

I hold you tight.  I smile through the beautifully curled hair 
Of you.  I put my two hands

On the back of you.  Future,
I want to hold you like there’s no tomorrow— 

Which means, of course, that this tight hug,
Even if I cannot say it, is all tomorrow.

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orange splatter 

2. 
Orange. 
In the dictionaries the earliest uses of the word in English refer to the fruit, that the

Color was later named after the fruit. Before the English-speaking world was exposed to the
Fruit, the color was referred to as “yellow-red” (geoluread in Old English) or “red-yellow.”

The word comes to us from late Middle English: from Old French orenge (in the phrase
Pomme d'orenge), based on Arabic naranj, from Persian narang.

So what, I say.
Do you dance? I ask, but I don’t wait— 

I spin you on the dance floor and watch your dress
Make the brilliant mark of the hard tango turn,

The scribbled signature of urgency made with the body,
The mark left that says I was here, in this moment, in this place.

I was here, that orange says, loudly and so much that to say anything more
We must turn to a next page.  This page, this moment—it is done.

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 child on carpet

3.
I play the game and am the game.  I play chess
And am the knight.  I play the cube

And turn, somehow, yellow into red,
Dream orange into green.  I am the game

Right now and yesterday, right now
And tomorrow.  I am the player and the board both

Trying everything to win.
Winning is a candy in my mouth. 

I lie on the bed of the game.
I am the game of me.

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yoga in the museum 

4.
I stretch among the museum’s images,
Bend my body to their inclinations,

Try out orange and precipice,
Hold the sun and poke the eye of green. 

I stretch.  I grow among the images
And in answer to my lean 

They move themselves for me.  These paintings
And me, we are in this place together.

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Poetry photo

5.
I was something and now I am something else—
I have played the game of tag with myself, 

Standing up a little more with each incarnation
Through the centuries, standing up a little more 

And leaning a little farther forward.  I crouched
For so long, I stooped for so long, 

I ached through it all, all of it, all of me,
Unfolding, all in order to stand today, 

And more.  I am moving so that
I will fly tomorrow, unlikely as it may seem.

I will fly.  And then,
Wherever this trajectory takes me, I will go.

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