2024 Ekphrastic Poetry Winners

Last month, National Poetry Month San Antonio invited the community to write ekphrastic poems in response to artwork in local museum collections. South Texas poets submitted entries inspired by works on view at area museums. We congratulate these winners for their outstanding poems written in response to Houses on the Hill by Paul Cezanne.

In addition, our selected poet Alexandra van deKamp, Executive Director of Gemini Ink, selected Edward Hopper’s Corn Hill.

Judges were Jim LaVilla Havelin, Eddie Vega, and Linda Simone. Many thanks to the participants, winners, and judges for sharing your talent!


The sky is grey
By Julia Hammock
Dull and dreary
I sit
The sky is grey
Unfinished yet
It is quiet
There are few homes here
I am alone
I fear.
Youth Winning Poem
By Elena Ortiz
Pa dropped me off at Grandpas today
I love Grandpa because he tells amazing stories
Grandpa said he was going to tell me a story
A story about the Hills
How the Hills twist and turn
How they crack and snow
And the creatures the way they jump and pounce
How I love the Hills with Blue Skies
And white snow and black rock
And the stories Grandpa tells me, how I love
Youth Winning Poem
The Snowy Night
By Janessa A. Lopez
On the hill
Houses stand still
With people
inside sleeping.
With dreams within dreams.
As the night
Comes with the
One person wakes
What will we do?
On this snowy day!
On the hill where
Houses stand still.
Youth Winning Poem
Forgetting the Snow
By Janice Bethany
Before interludes were outlawed
they included weak light
houses that fit the soil like stone.

When warmth paused
no one feared ghost clouds
or ungroomed hills or marsh ice.

When interludes lived
fish swam the stream
and we quieted to earth and past.

Yet interludes were another time.
The hill of houses
the sublime of blue on ice
Who remembers really?
Adult Winning Poem
By Georgie Lee
I still run at the same park we held hands at
Take in the views as they come;
Only now the hills are grey
Only now the houses, blue.
I still run at the same park we rode bikes at
Let out the day against pavement-
The sound of one airpod and bird song,
The giggle of a memory and foot-steps.
I still run at the same park we danced at
The paths- now paved and neat.
The horizon isn’t as vast as it we made it out to be.
Only now the leaves are missing.
Only now you are, too.
Adult Winning Poem
What Comes From Memory
By Mark Heinlein
Childhood’s so small (it’s finite) and the promise of the horizon
and its infinity became debris lost among the fallen walls I lived
in in the house up on the hill. I was a boy then and confounded
by a terrible light – sometimes majestic, sometimes terrifyingly
bright – which etched itself into the expanse of those walls.
I’d spend hours trying to untangle its complex cryptography meant
only for me. Even then, though I could just read, I understood
there must be some word to describe the light, because knowing
that nameless thing intimately in the marrow of my bones
made it so. What comes from memory is the agonizing distance
that can only be measured with the silence of years, incapable
as we are to articulate the wonders and travesties of being alive.
Though no one resides anymore in the house up on the hill,
if I met them somewhere, somehow, I’d hug them each –
I’ve missed you so much, I’d declare. Here, take my hand.
Adult Winning Poem
Daydream of a Childhood Home
By Anna Szalai
It’s only in the distance now, a camera in my mind that refuses to focus,
a remnant of where I was before.
shrouded by the dense haze of a fresh rainfall and memories,
The cool, morning mist rising from the water to tuck it away,
Cloud my vision, yellowing my childhood page.
A distant, languid blue eye peeks through the paper curtain,
Pondering whether the next time it would return to the gently sloping mountains,
The houses would still be there–under a foxing paper sky, nested within the pine brush, the cooing of a familiar neighbourhood.
Youth Winning Poem
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About Paul Cezanne's Houses on the Hill

Houses on the Hill exhibits Cézanne’s confidence in using color during the last years of this life. With a fully loaded brush, he painted overlapping vertical blocks of various greens to describe foliage on the hillside. Using dark blue, he delineated the houses, bushes in the foreground, and a hint of a boat at the right. Horizontal strokes of green, blue, and orange suggest a river bank. Subtle violets fill in the planes of the houses, and a jumble of light blue floods the sky above the hill.

Corn Hill

by Alexandra van de Kamp, Executive Director of Gemini Ink

                Maybe I am not very human. What I wanted to do was paint 
                sunlight on the side of a house.     – Edward Hopper

Hopper has set six houses on a summer hill. They look out 
at a sea just outside the reach of the frame, caught 
in the cinnamon light of afternoon. These houses are 

their seeing—they hum with it; quietly ablaze with invisible 
tapestries of thought. I know, you might ask, does a house 
think? But can we really say it does not? 

A house is a thumbprint of use, a bookend of history, 
so much breath pressed into it. Around their shapes, 
an amber hillside throws itself down like a rumpled 

carpet. Night-green rocks interrupt its seaward spill. 
That old, unselfish light is one I’d walk a long way 
to bask in. Who does not want, as these houses want, 

to be lulled by light, signatured with its weight? 
They sit on a hill named after the Pilgrims who stole corn 
from the Nausets and later returned to compensate them

for the loss. A tendril of history that is at the start of a long, 
tormented, and incompletely told story. And how many 
stories does a house hold? How many houses 

abide within you? Can you count them? Do they come back 
as a windowsill’s white ledge, glass doors leading to a 
dining room, a carpet’s blue swirl? Each fragment saying: 

“See, you have never left me. I float inside you.” 
And float is what these houses do; hammocked 
in this late summer light, articulate in their solitude.