Fiber Art and Ekphrastic Poetry

“The Classical Elements in Fiber & Poetry” was an exhibition of sixteen fiber art pieces and corresponding ekphrastic poetry, produced by ARTful Women, and presented at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles. I was privileged to be invited to write four poems for this exhibit, by Sally Ashton, who organized the poets (including Parthenia Hicks and Persis Karim). Sally, a former Poet Laureate for Santa Clara County, was contacted by Lin Schiffner, a member of the ARTful Women, a group of fiber artists from Nevada County, California.

There were several things about this process I found wonderful and interesting. Meeting the fiber artists was delightful; collaborating on poetry with other artists is a great adventure that enriches one’s own work. For this project it happened twice: first while working with the other poets, and second while interacting with the quilters. Thinking about “the elements” proved to be a deeply moving experience for writing poetry. I wanted my four poems to be similar, so I wrote them all in one afternoon (the first drafts) and thought about prayers to the earth as my inspiration. I also thought about who might be using quilts in their lives, lovers, babies, the dying. Not all those ideas made their way into the finished poems, but the value, beauty and power of earth, air, fire and water, and how we experience them on our increasingly embattled planet, I hope come through.

The photos here are from the poetry reading and artist reception, February 7, 2016.

This link takes you to a video made by The Quilt website. I’m not sure how it was done, but I think by someone videotaping the poems and the artwork on the wall at the museum. It’s more like a slide show than a video and a nice representation.

You may purchase a catalog from the exhibit at the museum bookstore or by contacting ARTful Women.

Learn more about ekphrastic poetry here (at the Poetry Foundation website) and here (posts from the Cupertino Poet Laureate blog).


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