NaPoWriMo, Day 23: Let’s Get Ekphrastic

Phone Books in Strange Towns

thin, yellow
rustle between

hotel room
a guide to

where I am,
what businesses
prevail here,

where pizza
comes from
if I order it,

where to get
a car fixed
if I had one.

street names,
area code,

there are
white pages,

too; I scan
for last names:
do I know

anyone here?
does anyone
know me?

most times,
now, there is
no book

in the drawer
other than
the Bible,

the Mormon

have answers,
place them

like crumbs,
but no one
leaves me

the path
I most want
to follow.



OK, only sort of ekphrastic …. Truthfully, I don’t like ekphrastic poems much — either writing or reading. (But if you wrote one today, I’m sure it’s terrific.) There are some really great examples, some ekphrastic poems that really do work on their own. But all too often, the sense I get — again, both as a writer as a reader — is, “Ehh, you kind of had to be there.” The word is a problem, too: For some reason, “ekphrastic” has always sounded like a painful, gassy condition to me. So, I kind of thumbed my nose at today’s prompt … but I really do love to see a phone book when I travel on business. They’re not works of art, certainly, but I decided to celebrate them anyway.


6 thoughts on “NaPoWriMo, Day 23: Let’s Get Ekphrastic

  1. So interesting what you say here about ekphrastic poems, and not only that “ekphrastic” sounds like “a painful, gassy condition. : ) I like it that you push the boundary of “art” by writing in homage to a phone book (which, in its defense, is a rich text if there ever was one). And in your comment about yesterday’s poem, you mentioned watching the music video for its “mood” before writing the poem–that pushes the boundary in a different direction, to consider what inspires a poem but doesn’t appear in it explicitly. Thanks for the tasty food for thought.

  2. songsville says:

    I’m sure Scottish sculptor David Mach made a piece from a thousand phone books one time — though that is probably just in my imagination — if he didn’t he should’ve! I am also quite tickled by your phrase ‘thumbed my nose at’ — I haven’t heard that for years … anyway, I love the pacing of this poem, quite fast, like flicking through the pages, and then suddenly reflective, like looking in the white pages secton — we must all have done that sometime!

  3. Whatever you call it, and however loosely, you drew me into this cold, joyless, emotionless room that we all go into, sometimes; a room that proves to us what our homes are, and are not. A room for re-invention.

    • Thanks, Mary … I’m glad the sterility came through. I travel a couple/few times a year on business, and it can be a nice break from the warm, complicated embrace of family, but there is a certain blankness to a hotel room that can make you lonely.

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