Frida Kahlo, Femininity, and Ekphrastic Poetry: An Interview with Ruby Diamondstone

*Ruby Diamondstone is a contributing writer for the Oakland Arts Review‘s Volume 8, which features her poems “Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird” and “Give Helen a Lighter.” Diamondstone was born and raised in a small town in Vermont. She currently attends Prescott College in Arizona, where she’s studying English with a focus on creative writing, as well as secondary education. 

Can you tell us a little bit about what drew you into creative writing? Do you primarily write poetry, or have you explored other areas too?

Growing up in a household full of men, I was drawn to creative writing because it is an outlet for me to stay connected and explore the different facets of womanhood that are harder for me to process in my day-to-day. While my preference is poetry and short prose, I think that different topics require different forms & lengths and I enjoy experimenting. 

Can you describe what the process was like for you as you developed ideas for and wrote “Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird”? 

I have always admired the contributions that Frida Kahlo made to the art community but the complexity of her life is what drew me to her. My poem, which is named after one of her paintings, Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, is a reflection of my fascination. I started the process just by admiring the painting, which I have on my wall. I tried to imagine myself inside the scene. The poem is essentially just a collection of all of the things I would want to say and do, if I had been there. 

How did your writing process for this ekphrastic poem compare with or differ from your usual approach to writing poetry?

My poetry is often centered around women or femininity, so in that way this poem fits into what I usually do. That said, this is my first ekphrastic poem. I enjoyed having something concrete, like a painting, to mold my writing around. Usually when I’m writing there aren’t any boundaries or confines. Having to stay true to the painting, and what I know of Kahlo’s life was definitely challenging, but also fun to push those boundaries a little bit. 

What do you hope your readers will take away with them after reading “Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird”?

There’s no concrete message or anything that I want my readers to take away from the piece. I suppose that it would be nice if someone read it and was curious enough to do a little digging on Kahlo. This poem was written by someone who is still, after many years, curious about Kahlo. She is surely someone worth being curious about. 

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