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... 6. In the great oculus... 7. World, I see you. 8. Great stone comb... 9. A caterpillar... 10. Thoughts lift off me... 11. However this happens... 12. We pledge... 13. We have come upon a man... 14. What is finally left of us...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the great oculus I see the fingernail moon,
The opal in the rafters,
The worn space helmet,
The eye of the weatherless hurricane,
The adjusting telescope allowing me
A view outward, but, simultaneously,
The microscope of what can only be called
The gods, the greatness, the Out There,
Its lens bearing down on me. In this moment,
I have seen it and it has seen me.
World, I see you. Earth, I see you.
Do you see me?
I am here. I bring with me my child.
I give this child to you
As I was given. I give this child
To this great world, unafraid,
Fierce, sturdy, with a ferociousness for good,
I give this child who is me.
Great stone comb of the four directions—
It is nothing like that. Don’t be fooled.
I wear the chicken hat.
I am a man and a beast both.
I speak and I cluck, I howl and I whisper,
I live in the sunflowers under the sky.
I am the translation of man to animal,
Hummingbird to ant, lizard to moth.
I direct the bees and elicit the breeze—
I am the crossroads. I am the moment
Oxygen moves into blood, I am when
Peahen screet moves from need into word.
A caterpillar sometimes does not move forward,
Does not follow the centuries-old map of work-to-be-done.
One Tuesday, it looks up.
One Thursday, it looks up again—
These risings to the air are not much in their movement,
But in the history of things, everything has happened.
This explains how cactus once moved through the desert,
Starting out as a caterpillar looking to the stars.
Thought lifts off me
As if it were a mist.
I look hard and straight ahead—
That focus, sweat on my brow,
Me finding water
Miraculously in the desert.
It makes me think:
Perhaps when mist lifts off the ground,
The ground itself, like me,
Perhaps we are complicit
In the journey that comes next:
And in that moment,
I move one step ahead
Even as I am standing still.
However this happens, we see images, and they make us think of things—
A slide of a man with a beard, for example, his kind of beard, that fullness—
It makes us think of the Lost Dutchman, and then, of course,
Of the treasure. The Superstition Mountains. Gold.
We see images and they speak to something we hold inside ourselves—
Perhaps not gold itself, but a desire
To find what has not been found. Perhaps these images guide us,
Are themselves maps, and the Great X is not myth after all,
But something, something like gold, that we have been looking for
But all the while have been thinking someone else would find.
Suddenly, this image is our chance, though no one else would know.
This image, however unlikely, has sparked a fire in us that will not be settled.
There is something, something that is ours, out there.
We might laugh at the Lost Dutchman’s mine, but we know what is ours.
We pledge and are aghast in the same gesture.
We move into the coming years
Clutching the heart, or feeling at the heart constantly,
Checking to gauge what may or may not be held
In the grace of its rooms. When all else is full, is crowded,
The heart, we think, is where to go.
We have come upon a man
Who is telling us to stop. To go another way.
We have come upon a man we do not know,
But we give him the courtesies of humankind.
We listen. We are so many, there are many
Thoughts, many words, many ways to move forward.
And yet, a good voice. A good reason. We are one
In that moment. In that moment, there are no strangers.
What is finally left of us
Is sometimes unrecognizable—
That we have been other beasts
Through the centuries
May be forgotten to us awake,
But it is asleep in our bones,
The past of us,
The monsters that snarled, but who in turn
Tamed each other. We are the alien
And the friend both.
Our bones are the bones
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