Preacher man preachin’

Everybody talkin’. Preacher man preachin’.
Let’s talk ekphrasis, a written response to a work of art, and my take on Romare Bearden’s “Carolina Shout.”

Words by Michael Banks in response to artist Romare Bearden’s collage titled “Carolina Shout.”

Everybody talkin’. Preacher man preachin’.

Everybody's hands out. Ain’t nobody givin'.

Falling in the water. Red moon a risin’.

Bringing back a dead man. Ain’t that their mission?

Gotta get right. Gotta get salvation.

Ain’t nobody know my sticky situation.

Feet in the mud. Brotherhood of Nation.

Everybody hands up. Meet my creation.

Tuesday mornings, I try to set aside an hour to jumpstart that creative part of my brain. I find it getting harder and harder to do so as the years creep by. But one thing I’ve discovered that helps immensely is Pen to Paper Live.

These weekly one-hour sessions conducted by the founders and staff of the Charlotte Lit organization are held over Zoom. Often more than 20 creators gather and write after receiving a “prompt” by the instructor. Some of my published works have gotten their start at Pen to Paper and I’m always inspired and comforted by the talented writers who gather there weekly.

The words I’ve written above come from the Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, session led by Kathie Collins, one of the founders of Charlotte Lit. The prompt was ekphrasis, which Kathie described as “a written response to a work of art.” I’ve tried a bit of ekphrastic writing before, mainly with Van Gogh’s “Wheatfield of Crows,” and it surprises me the words that come to me from another’s work of art.

On Tuesday, as an example, Kathie pointed to writer Sharan Strange’s poem titled “Train Whistle” that’s taken from artist Romare Bearden’s collage “Mecklenburg County, Daybreak Express.”

Born in Charlotte, NC, in 1911, Romare Bearden, by the time of his death in 1988, had achieved a stature known by few artists during their lifetimes. He is considered America’s greatest collagist and his works are in the permanent collections of most every major American museum.

This entire month, Charlotte Lit is celebrating Bearden and his legacy. Through a series of events titled “Artists Reckoning With Home: Celebrating Romare Bearden,” the arts organization hopes these events provide opportunities to learn about Charlotte’s past and re-imagine its future.

One of the featured events will be an ekphrastic workshop titled “Writing With Bearden.” The workshop, led by Charlotte Lit co-founders Kathie Collins and Paul Reali, will be held Sunday, Oct. 16 from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Mint Museum Uptown. The event is free, but registration is required.