An Organism of Words: Ekphrastic Poetry and the Pedagogy of Perception

  • Anne KeefeEmail author
Part of the Contemporary Philosophies and Theories in Education book series (COPT, volume 8)


This essay locates our understanding of poetry in a kind of phenomenological trust in the body’s sensory experience—one that coincides with (but doesn’t necessarily parallel) the poet’s sensory experience in writing the poem. Grounded in the philosophical writings of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and using as a case study the ekphrastic poetry of Margaret Atwood and Marianne Moore, this essay posits that the kind of attention to detail demanded by the ekphrastic poem’s focus on and description of the perceptual encounter with the art object can be taken as a method for reading the lyric poem as perception in language. The theoretical approach outlined here can transform the teaching of poetry by shifting students’ experiences of poetry from the solely intellectual practice of exegesis to a whole-body sensory experience of language, sound, form, and vision.


Perceptual Experience Symbolic Meaning Bodily Experience Sibling Rivalry Poetic Language 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.EnglishUniversity of North TexasDentonUSA

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