Shipley’s Prize-winning Poem Inspired by Art

Shipley’s Prize-winning Poem Inspired by Art

Vivian Shipley

English Professor and Connecticut State University Professor Vivian Shipley, an acclaimed prize-winning poet, recently won a prize for “An Old Husband’s Tale,” one of five prize-winning poems in the 2020 Ekphrastic Poetry Contest, part of the Palm Beach Poetry Festival. Poems entered in the contest were inspired by the ART COUTURE exhibition which was on display pre-pandemic at the Cornell Museum at Old School Square in Delray Beach, Fla. All five prize-winning poems will be featured in the May issue of South Florida Poetry Journal.

An ekphrastic poem is generally a poem that is inspired by, or a response to, a work of art.

To enter, writers were asked to submit up to 30 lines of original poetry inspired by one of eight images featured in the exhibition that focused on contemporary art that is fashion-inspired, and on fashion designers’ couture designs and illustrations. Fashion as art, important works of contemporary art, and couture designs featured on mannequins were all part of the exhibition. The Palm Beach Poetry Festival received 154 poetic entries in this year’s contest, arriving from 30 states and 17 different countries.

Shipley’s winning poem (below) was inspired by “Meghan” by Rick Lazes, a hand-molded acrylic panel.

“An Old Husband’s Tale”
how it takes place/ While someone else is eating
— W. H. Auden

Daedalus was not a man, Icarus no boy. That’s a myth.
Without a husband to bind her, Daedalus turned nature
inside out, taught her daughter to fly from earth; after all,

men couldn’t fence air. Feathering Icarus in sequence
as a pan pipe rises, Daedalus twined quills to mold two sets
of wings sealed in an icing of white wax, stiff as bridal lace.

Daedalus hovered, warning: Keep mid-way; water weights
and sun burns. Always follow me. Icarus rose or was pulled
up, casting her shadow on a ploughman, head lifted from

his rut, who grumbled, A woman’s place is in the home.
The mother tried to lift her arms higher to buffer her daughter
but blue enveloped Icarus who cried, Let’s fly all the way

to Trinacria. Knowing Samos was north and Calymne east,
Icarus ignored the earth’s warning being traced out for her
by the sharded coast of Crete. Filial duty cannot blot desire

as the moon eclipses the sun. Perhaps there was a brilliance
gleaming in Icarus’ green eyes that flashed, mercifully
blocking the sight for Daedalus: her only child encircling

wings, writhing like a corn snake carried aloft by a hawk.
Imagine the girl, her mother’s support failing, the aerial lift
and impulse spent. Dripping to the sea, only the wax

hissed, floating as islands do. Daedalus did not fly again.
Unused, feathers yellowed; wax stiffened in her wings
that stretched out more like a shroud than a swan in flight.