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Some Ekphrastic Poems on Eileen Agar’s Marine Object

Suzannah V. Evans, University of Durham

The following series of poems was inspired by a visit to the exhibition Virginia Woolf: An Exhibition Inspired by her Writings at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and more specifically, the poems are based on the piece Marine Object by Eileen Agar. A further series of these poems has been published in The London Magazine.

Laura Knight, The Dark Pool (1917), exhibited at Virginia Woolf: An Exhibition Inspired by her Writings at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

[Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle. © Reproduced with permission of The Estate of Dame Laura Knight DBE RA 2018. All Rights Reserved.]

A how though?

A how though a why though a balancing though

a salty pointed spiny balancing though

a thing on top of a thing though (on top of a thing)

and many things close and breathing together.


Barnacles balancing though tightly balancing

breathing and balancing and barnacled

brittle blushes all spiny and together and a beginning

beginning to merge the brittle blushing objects, all briny.


A how though, a rose though, a sea though, a brittle, an a.


Waves Break When You Pick Them Up

and this one broke as we pulled up our nets

the twine a-shine in the southern sunlight


we picked them up and pulled and made motions

to disturb the sea and break its thought pattern


to disturb its thick-cut cloth with our own ripples

as we disturbed the air with our speech noises.


And look! a terracotta breaking of the surface

a fragment of pot? jug? horn? handles? ancient?


is it ancient is it ancient or is it just a pot?

that’s what we thought as we dredged it up.


Give Me Your Two Hands and I’ll Show You an Amphora

although you cannot touch its salt.


a tiny moment on a jug

[voiced by a barnacle]


that’s all I had, a tiny moment, a tiny briny moment

to latch and suck and slickly stick


when I saw it, when I saw it heavy and stuck in the sand

one handle lifted as if to say, take me, hand


I knew that the ambulatory period of my life was over

and that before me was my amphora, amplifying


the motions of the sea and, sessile is as sessile does,

I made my tiny briny home, encrusting myself


cementing myself, gluing myself down

with my tiny briny antennae


forehead up, tiny briny forehead up.


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