Finding inspiration in the heart garden

We slipped past the Shrine of Remembrance and crossed Birdwood Avenue in the dark to Jardin Tan. A waxing crescent moon hung low over the Aloe barberae tree illuminating the observatory dome like an Istanbul mosque. The theme of the nights soiree hosted by Melbourne Writers Festival was the heart garden and is one of the monthly events around Melbourne leading up to the festival.

Approaching seven o’clock an array of exotic creatures began to arrive. They included a garden gnome, Aphrodite, and people wearing an variety of flower decorated costumes and head dresses. The guests wandered into the space and settled at tables decorated with leaves, flowers, fruit and vegetables.

The question was asked, what grows in the heart garden? On reflection my answer would have to be inspiration. Writing is a solitary pursuit, but the imagination needs stimulation and for that we must get out and feed our curiosity away from the keyboard or pen.

The practice of ekphrasis, creating another art form from one that already exists, is quite common in poetry writing. The creative act of subjectively reflecting on and narrating a story from another art work such as a painting expands and renews the meaning of the original work. Ekpharasis is an ancient Greek term. An early example is Homer providing a narrative description of the elaborate scenes embossed on the shield of Achilles in The Iliad.

The practice of ekphrasis can equally be used to inspire the narrative form of writing as it can poetry. And inspiration can come from animated as well as static art forms. Pay close attention with curiosity to the sight, sound, light, color, movement and feeling of an object or event. Then allowing yourself to experience it through your senses rather than your analytical mind. This enables us to recreate what we experience in new ways in our writing. In the performance arts, inspiration can be drawn from the performance piece itself, the artists presentation, or the feeling the act gives us as the observer.

The heart garden treated us to an evening of music, poetry and even a botanical drawing class. Whimsical events like the Book of Fete lend themselves to opening up my imagination in new ways and leave me with a sense of creative sustenance, ready to return to the solitude of the keyboard.

My main sources of inspiration are in nature, immersion in the arts and the complexity of everyday interactions. What inspires you?

Image: Jacqui Stockdale, Mann of Quinn from the series The Boho – 2015, Adelaide Biennial of Art, 2016. Art Gallery of South Australia.

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