Marcelle Freiman researches creative writing and cognition, cognitive literary studies, creativity, ekphrasis, and poetry. Her poetry has appeared in her books White Lines (Vertical) and Monkey’s Wedding, and in literary and creative writing journals and anthologies including Antipodes, Cordite, Mascara Literary Journal, Meanjin, Meniscus, Southerly, TEXT, Transnational Literatures and Westerly. She is an Associate Professor in English and Creative Writing at Macquarie University.

Unstated and vital

Ekphrasis, cognition, and a briefcase

This essay presents an extension to theorisations of ekphrasis by introducing to this topic of research a cognitive approach to the process of creative writing. An ekphrasis poem would not come into being without an external object, image or art work. Although a draft can be produced in the space of ‘seeing’ and writing, there are many implicit and unstated associations and processes (half-registered, or not conscious at all, but still there) in the space between the engagement with art work or object and the act of writing.

The writing of the poem involves numerous interactions with the externalised cognitive object/thought, but also with what is cognitively implicit as the creative response starts to take shape in the mind and on the drafted page; the almost immediate engagement with language and embodied actions of writing. This engagement with the visual object constitutes an intimate, complex cognitive system. Drawing on theories of enactive and embodied cognition, memory, language as thought, and Tim Ingold’s work on ‘correspondences’ in cognition of the world, the essay also argues for the power of the imagination and memory in the writing of ekphrasis poetry.

Keywords: ekphrasis; embodied cognition; enactive cognition; memory; creative thinking