SUSANNA LANG: AN EKPHRASTIC POEM INSPIRED BY NANCY MARSHALL'S PHOTOGRAPH, SOUTH RIVER, GEORGIA
Your river is a sweet black swamp
shadowed by trees and illuminated
by the rings formed when insects touch
the silvery water. A fallen branch,
its leaves not even a memory,
lies crossways to the current, dark
near the darkened banks, watery
in the sunlight. The birds hide,
silenced by the camera.
You can pause—on an island? bridge?
nothing as unstable as a boat—and frame
your shot. Nothing will move, nothing more
will be lost. The woman whose body
lies parallel to the fallen branch
will stay forever, knees floating
in the shallows, dark head
turned away, over a marble shoulder.
* * *
Susanna Lang’s note on her ekphrastic poem, Gelatin Silver: I spent two glorious weeks last summer in residency at The Hambidge Center in the Blue RidgeMountains, and for the second week we were all women, writers and visual artists. Talk around the dinner table inevitably turned to our experience as women in the arts. While it is certainly more difficult to find women’s art in galleries and women’s books published and reviewed (see the VIDA Count for confirmation), I believe it is more helpful to celebrate what women have done in the arts than to complain. That was the impulse behind these Self-Portraits, an ongoing sequence of ekphrastic poems responding to women’s art. I am enjoying the opportunity to see more images and to talk with more artists, and I am learning about how we as women use art to reflect and project what is important to us. I started with two of the women in residence with me at Hambidge, including the photographer Nancy Marshall, and her photograph, South River, Georgia.
Susanna Lang’s newest collection of poems, Tracing the Lines, was published in 2013 by the Brick Road Poetry Press. She has published original poems and essays, and translations from the French, in such journals as Little Star, New Letters, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, The Green Mountains Review, The Baltimore Review, Kalliope, Southern Poetry Review, World Literature Today, Chicago Review, New Directions, and Jubilat. Book publications include translations of Words in Stone and The Origin of Language, both by Yves Bonnefoy. She lives with her husband and son in Chicago, where she teaches in the Chicago Public Schools.
Nancy Marshall lives and works in McClellanville, S.C. She taughtphotography at Emory University from 1988 to 2005. Her website is www.nancymarshall.net.