In honor of National Poetry Month, the Cleveland Museum of Art hosted Speak Up, Speak Out, an ekphrastic (ek-FRASS-tick) poetry event yesterday afternoon.
Ekphrastic poetry is described as the "vivid description of a work of art." From photography, Renaissance art, to contemporary, each poet interpreted their selected pieces, creating new and original poems and sharing them in front of an audience. The day consisted of three different poetry events, something catering to every age group. There was a poetry workshop for elementary children, followed by an open mic session free for anyone to perform. The event ended with a poetry invitational, where selected regional poets recited multiple poems about different works of art and galleries.
Among the poets invited was Raja Freeman, Cleveland's 2017 youth poetry slam grand champion.
Raja has traveled across the country to compete and perform at showcases. After she won regionally, she competed nationally in Brave New Voices, held in San Francisco. She is competing again in this year's poetry slam competition. I asked her about her process in writing poetry for this specific event. She performed three poems during the event.
"I had all of the poems written within 24 hours. It really didn't take me long to create these pieces at all," she said.
I also asked her if she preferred to write off the top of her head, like her usual poems or if it's easier to write based on a prompt, like ekphrastic poetry, which is like using the art itself as a prompt.
"Writing from a prompt gives you a good start, but I like writing off the top of my head much better because I picture how I want the poem to end better."
This was the first annual poetry event held at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The free event was sponsored by Lake Erie, Inc., Literary Cleveland, and Twelve Literary Arts.