More Than Meets the Eye II

We introduced you to Blended Learning in Monday’s issue.  Here is a repeat of what our project entailed, followed by some of the artwork used and poetry it generated.

The perfect opportunity in the most imperfect moment.

Eighteen participants from OLLI-USF and OLLI at Northwestern recently completed a five-week blended learning course, More Than Meets the Eye: Our Perspectives in Art. “Blended learning” combined two face-to-face sessions (the first one in two classrooms and the final one on Zoom) and three sessions where participants worked through online material in collaboration with a member at the partner university. Halfway through the course, both OLLIs had to cancel their planned Spring programs due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This course continued. One participant described the course as “a beautiful distraction.”

Some background: The National Resource Center (NRC) for Osher Institutes invited OLLI-USF and OLLI at Northwestern to develop and present this first-of-its-kind blended learning, joint course. Participants in the course investigated different ways to look at art, including art made in response to art. They discussed their learning experiences using technology and an online learning management system called Canvas. For the duration of the course, the two OLLI groups became one community.

The course included an exploration of Ekphrastic poetry: poems written in response to works of art. Each participant completed the course by writing a poem. We are publishing several of these poems in OLLI Connects in celebration of the course and National Poetry month.  We plan to repeat the course during our Fall 2020 semester.

My first ekphrastic poem and my first online course, and at this stage of my life firsts are hard to come by. Thank you.”


Card Players in a Sunlit Room – Pieter de Hooch

Late Sunday: Architects of the Heart (Prose Poem)

The pheasant bones were collected soon after the meal was over, the table wiped down before shuffling began — before the five of hearts slipped out of her hand, landing out of reach. The shuttered window betrays a linden tree, shivering in the late summer garden. Inside the curtains barely flutter at all – a chill will soon find its way into the room that merriment has kept at bay. Here she comes, with more wine and presumably pewter cups, and an interest in the score. She may even find the missing card, forgotten among the discarded bones; she has a discerning eye.

These interiors are just so many lines. At times like this it’s so hard to make out precisely where tile floor ends and walls begin. Suffocated by the marching tiles, the wide beams above almost sway; the iron bars that crisscross the window frames and the support beams of the ladder-back chair almost remind her of prison. How easy for the eye to play tricks – catching a rustle of raw silk here, a plume of feathers there. She notices the red stockinged foot extended beneath the table – blushing and retreating from his touch.

Unobtrusively, through the rust-colored archway she glides — a minor character — one not inclined to interrupt their games. Accompanied by the light that frames the doorway through which she soon will pass, she will soon arrive, unannounced. The paneled door, wood beamed ceiling, and checkered windowpanes conspire with the late afternoon sun on this Dutch summer day– (the sun won’t set for another six hours).

In this bare room, away from the main house, somewhere, forever, these revelers will go on smoking, and drinking, and playing cards – claiming their indulgences, digesting their repast.

—  Pindie Stephen (OLLI-USF)


Two Calla Lilies on Pink – Georgia O’Keeffe

Two Calla Lilies on Pink    

Venus Goddess of Gardens, Calla Lily her flower
Love, beauty, passion, born of the sea.
Cupid’s cheeks puffed rose madder hue
flow desire, ravished memory.
Triton’s trumpet, titanium white sculpted billows of foam
scrim curvaceous corolla waves of vintage ivory satin.
Hansa yellow light pistil, thunderbolt of Zeus
plumbs her prurient power, furtive core.
Emulates. Evening Star is she.

–Adagio Patricia Micaletti ( OLLI at Northwestern)


Two men with a sleeping woman
Two Men with a Sleeping Woman – Gabriel Metsu

Boys Will Always Be Boys

 Who is she?  The woman with the flaccid face,
Puffy, damp, lost In deepest slumber.
A barmaid? The innkeeper’s wife? A prostitute?
We don’t know.
But what’s pictured there offers hints:
Playing cards.  A pipe. An empty glass. A tankard.
We conclude she’s a woman of many vices,
Assuming she has passed out after an evening’s hard play.

From the dark background emerge two leering men.
Elegantly dressed in velvets and lace,
the two dandies advance
— the vacant woman is fair game.
The man with the flamboyantly feathered hat merely watches.
The bareheaded man uses the long stem of his clay pipe
To tickle back the neckline of the woman’s white blouse.
His gestures are slow, careful, so the woman does not wake up.
With eager anticipation, the men hold their breath, gasping when
Their reward comes with a peek of the woman’s floppy breasts.

STOP! I shout. That woman isn’t a sleeping sow.
She’s a person. A human being.
My shrill voice crackles like falling ice cubes
Shattering shards across the centuries.

–Marcia Lazar ( OLLI at Northwestern)


The Art of Painting – Jan Vermeer

The Artist

The artist deftly depicts domestic tranquility
Orderly Dutch interiors spread their glow and
Over his easel shine with radiance of light
The studio reeks of linseed oil.
He paints with carbonate of lead ground with oil, and earth colors,
But more extravagantly uses pigments: lapis lazuli, cochineal, and other rare hues,
Bolts of raw canvas by the wall stand
Like rows of warriors awaiting gesso, paint and the master’s hand
Wooden stretchers, nails and glue among the ingredients
That precede the vernissage
Pictures on canvas made for sale
To catch the eye of the discerning male
Rich and attired, no doubt, in black Calvinistic garb

–Jack Plimmer ( OLLI-USF)

New OLLI SIG  OLLI-USF welcomes you to our new online poetry-writing community: Write Time for Poets. Twice a month, join us in our videoconferencing room – your creative space to work on your poems-in-progress and/or practice timed writing in response to prompts. We meet for 90 minutes on the 2nd and 4th Thursday each month from 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. starting May 14.

Contact Cath Mason for details.

Pindie Stephen




Adagio Patricia Micaletti

(OLLI at Northwestern)



Marcia Lazar

(OLLI at Northwestern)


Jack Plimmer

Jack Plimmer


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