TIFA colour divider

In celebration of National Poetry Month in April, The Power Plant and the Toronto International Festival of Authors (TIFA) invited the public to write ekphrastic poems inspired by one of The Power Plant’s Fall 2020 exhibitions.

Ekphrastic poetry is poetry written about a work of art, often striving to connect what we see with feelings, memories and other insights. Well-known examples include Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats and Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by William Carlos Williams.

The contest submissions were pre-judged by Roland Gulliver, Director of TIFA, then judged by Elder Duke Redbird. We are thrilled to announce the finalists are:

Inspired by Nathan Eugene Carson: Cut from the same cloth

  • Winner: LAID BARE by Darian Razdar
  • Honourable Mention: Same Cut, Same Cloth by Vanilla Being (Victoria Atteh)

Inspired by Manuel Mathieu: World Discovered Under Other Skies

  • Winner: Hung Up by Peter Gillies
  • Honourable Mention: Seen by Anna Jane McIntyre
  • Honourable Mention: Wake by Kim Mcghee

Inspired by Howie Tsui: From swelling shadows, we draw out bows

  • Winner: a whirring sound pinged off the walls by Javier Fuentes
  • Honourable Mention: ACTS OF SURRENDER by Shanan Kurtz

The winning poems can be found below, and if you would like to read all of the poems by the finalists, you can read them here. You can also hear the finalists read their poems on SoundCloud here.

Winning Poems

LAID BARE by Darian Razdar

Inspired by Nathan Eugene Carson: Cut from the same cloth

I. Shine On

Only so much here
two eyes can show you
yet so much to know, perceive.

Look in the mirror
find your self there — wait!
Your eyes, perhaps, deceive you.

In that mirror, see
Black skin, white mask shrouds
before you, I was just me.

II. Divine Feminine

Leave me alone,
don’t you see?
In these blues
my body craves its extremities.

Let this be,
where I stretch hand to foot
folding toward my beingness
alive and divine. You see —

the small of my back,
these heavy shoulders and tired hands,
both raying legs, my gilded skin haloing
do not serve you, but me.

I see you
implore you,
the depths of the blues
were meant for few.

Yet you are all here
a staring contest
I was born to win.
You see me,

leave me alone.

III. Encounter

Breath. Stop and stare
lay in wait, do no crack,
stay strong, soft, and still
now — if not until infinity.

In such silence become comfortable
my sentry pose even bearable
and yet, as cause arrives surely at effect,
shall I blink and betray my glare?

You there! How familiar so you seem
our bodies both shine divine and shimmer
your eyes match mine — finally, fragile
as if we were meant to be.

Cut from the same cloth
of nights in hurt and pain, or so they say,
come closer, closer and between us we may
stitch together a new, golden day.

— Darian Razdar

Hung Up by Peter Gillies

(incidentally, between Rivière Froide 1 and Rivière Froide 3 for the first time)

Inspired by Manuel Mathieu: World Discovered Under Other Skies

You are spending an unusually long time
being here, in my face.
Such presence sometimes signals curiosity,
an intense data sensory process and attention span.

I take this as a friendly posture,
a desire to “understand the artist’s meaning”,
which must be grounded in empathy
for the form, for the context.
Mustn’t it?

This is how dialogue develops right?
Something presents.
Your feet may flirt around the hall,
but when they arrive there is a settling in
and a respectful stillness.

Then there is resonance. It tugs.
A gravitational attraction of sorts—
or more precisely, a perturbation
of my relationship with Earth.
Though I cannot physically move.

This sense of your presence, however, can be illusory.
An adaptation, I imagine,
from centuries of mankind’s polite surveillance of the masters.

And as you may rightly observe,
I am but a naïve youngster.
Inexperienced, with only a handful of hangings.

What’s one to do?
Isn’t an emotional reaction inevitable?
Notwithstanding the “do not touch” sign.

Let us imagine for a moment
that I am the master, the object of respect,
the reason you and I are here.

Or, perhaps I am the brush,
connecting intention with interpretation,
elevating poses, entering fantasies.
Many bristles, one point.

Either way, I might have something to say.
And you might not shuffle along quite so soon.
And leave me hanging.

— Peter Gillies

a whirring sound pinged off the walls by Javier Fuentes

Inspired by Howie Tsui: From swelling shadows, we draw out bows

somewhere in the labor of ruin*
ghostly marauders peaked through the scaffolding
lit up by myths and folktales

those carriers of memory
were as strong as the arms that held the bow
while the shadows carried our attention

through that cavernous silence
when we dissolved our intentions
a whirring sound pinged off the walls

— Javier Fuentes

*Sadek, W. (2016). The ruin to come: essays from a protracted war