Arts and Entertainment

Baugher tackles ekphrastic writing in Field’s End October Roundtable

Writer Janée J. Baugher stumbled into ekphrastic writing accidentally at the Guggenheim museum when a small painting impacted her enough that she sat right down on the floor and started writing a poem.

“I was even yelled at by the security guard,” she said Wednesday on the phone.

The painting by Georg Baselitz, aptly entitled “Der Dichter” or “The Poet,” introduced Baugher to a creative house of mirrors: a poet writing about a piece of visual art depicting a poet. Who knows if the poet in the painting was writing about a piece of art?

Examples of ekphrastic writing, a cross-pollinating artform, abound, perhaps because artists of all mediums often run in the same circles.

Baugher will share the results of 15-year’s worth of exploration at the October Field’s End Writers’ Roundtable presentation, “Visual Arts in the Literary Arts: How and Why We Write Ekphrastically” from 7-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18 at the Bainbridge Public Library.

Baugher calls ekphrasis, from the Greek ek and phrasis or “out” “speak,” a “reason to celebrate” the human ability to see.

After backpacking through Europe six times in a decade, Baugher assembled a collection of writings, “Coördinates of Yes,” half of which were inspired by visual artwork of primarily the “long-dead” masters.

Baugher uses visual art as a starting point for her writing, illustrating T.S. Eliott’s  theory that poetry is a way of “escaping the personality.” Unlike many ekphrastic writers, Baugher doesn’t describe works of art in literal terms. Instead the art works as a point of inspiration, a starting point from which she embarks on her own creative journey.

“It’s like scaffolding.,” she said. “Eventually the story starts to reveal itself. You literally use the painting, but not as a literal interpretation of it.”

She has written in response to the art work of strangers as well as friends, even going so far as to pose for a painter in hopes of inspiring a poem.

“It was hellacious,” she said. “Four months sitting naked in a studio. But I did get the poem.”

At Tuesday’s Roundtable Baugher will explore the use of ekphrasis adopted by writers such as Gertrude Stein, Rainer Maria Rilke and Frank O’Hara, and define the boundaries that “naysayers of the world” say ekphrastic writers cross.

Baugher holds a BS in human physiology from Boston University and an MFA in creative writing from Eastern Washington University. For the past decade, she has taught at Highline Community College, the University of Washington Experimental College, Interlochen Center for the Arts, Richard Hugo House and elsewhere.

Baugher regularly collaborates with visual artists, composers and choreographers. Her recent collaborations were produced at University of Cincinnati–Conservatory of Music and Dance Now! Ensemble. She is the author of a collection of ekphrastic and travel poems, “Coördinates of Yes” (2010), and in 2011 she presented her work at the Library of Congress.

To learn more, visit


Field's End Writers' Roundtable

Janée J. Baugher presents “Visual Arts in the Literary Arts: How and Why We Write Ekphrastically” at the October Field’s End Writers’ Roundtable from 7-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18 at the Bainbridge Public Library.

The event is free and open to writers of all levels.

Roundtables are held the third Tuesday of every month.

For more information, visit

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