Ekphrasis is the art of describing works of art, the verbal representation of visual representation. Profoundly ambivalent, ekphrastic poetry celebrates the power of the silent image even as it tries to circumscribe that power with the authority of the word. Over the ages its practitioners have created a museum of words about real and imaginary paintings and sculptures. In the first book ever to explore this museum, James Heffernan argues that ekphrasis stages a battle for mastery between the image and the word. Moving from the epics of Homer, Virgil, and Dante to contemporary American poetry, this book treats the history of struggle between rival systems of representation. Readable and well illustrated, this study of how poets have represented painting and sculpture is a major contribution to our understanding of the relation between the arts.