Tag Archives: ekphrastic

Poem Tryouts: A Single Detail

8:35 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to (and viewing) Unread Book — a parody of Uptown Funk –written and produced by the Orange County Library

Hello, everyone. I hope you are well. Texas and Oklahoma residents, I hope you are all safely on high ground.

Today’s prompt is our image prompt. Sometimes I add a suggestion, sometimes not. This time I will, but first peruse the paintings I have chosen (from that wonderful resource I Require Art). Hover over any painting for the artist. Click on any one of them and then you can shift through nice, large images, like a slide show.

I was struck by a specific in each painting, something that caught and held my eye. For example, in the Maufra painting of the boats, I was struck immediately by the shingle beach, left foreground. I can feel the awkward shapes of the wet stones under my bare feet, as I pick my way over them. It’s a strong enough memory that I almost forgot to look at the rest of the painting.

You may choose one, two, or all of the paintings. Focus on a single thing that sparks an idea, a memory, a thought. If you choose more than one painting it’s because your mind sees a connection, so go with it. With this prompt, you would leave the paintings behind altogether. They merely provide the vehicle to kickstart a poem.

You may, of course, say meh to my idea and run with your own. While you decide, I’m going to find a chair and sit in the sun outside Proudfoot’s house.

I will see you Thursday for links and things; Friday for the week’s prompts roundup; and next Tuesday for the first of my summer prompts. More about that, Thursday.

Happy writing, all.


Posted by on 26/05/2015 in exercises, poems, poetry


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Thursday Thoughts: Wrapping it Up

11:00 am, Thursday, 11 November, 2010 – Atlanta

I have spent the last couple of hours lost in pages of ghazals, a form I have long wanted to attempt and long kept at bay. I did the same with pantoums. My brain told me they were too scary. When I finally wrote my first pantoum it became, and remains, my favourite form. I have tried several forms in the last few years, but the ghazal blocks my mind. Not sure why, but I think I am growing closer to attempting one. If you write free verse, while there are many structural aspects you may not be aware of considering, it seems easier than something with a clear structure and set of rules. In fact, rules can make poetry easier to write and if you like puzzles, working out a structure is fun. Along with carrying pen and paper and  reading poetry, remember that rules are there to be broken, once you have followed them. Your poem will often dictate a path that breaks whatever structure you are following. Go with the poem.

To wrap up the last two days: I first gave you a list of 15 words, told you to pick 7 and use them in a poem. Some of you liked the seven words I picked from another list and wrote poems with those words. Not a problem. While the whole exercise won’t tie together as neatly, the main point is if you have poems, you’re golden. The next part asked you to describe a particular painting, Brueghel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. Then, taking words, phrases, and images you liked, writing a poem. When I did this exercise, the painting I worked from was Vermeer’s Young Woman with a Water Pitcher. I said yesterday I would show you the poem I wrote in response, but I don’t want to distract from the exercise at hand, so I will push that to tomorrow.

The connection between the 15 words I gave you and the painting is that I picked the words from the poem, “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus,” by William Carlos Williams:

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling

the edge of the sea
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings’ wax

off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
it was
Icarus drowning.

He wrote the poem after the painting by Brueghel, an ekphrastic poem. If you successfully created a poem from the painting, then you have written an ekphrastic poem. Your poem may have stayed on the painting’s focus, or the painting as a form, or gone off a path you found in a detail of the painting. there is no wrong way. The 15 words I pulled from Williams’ poem allowed you to find a poem from a set of words with no context to distract your mind. Writing on the painting and then looking at Williams’ poem allows you to find your own poem in the painting, but also see what another poet has written.

This can be a fun exercise to do with a group, as it gives everyone a chance to read each other’s work. When I did this, we did both the poem from selected words, and the poem from the painting in the space of two hours. I still find it amazing the power of setting a time limit to what you produce. The brain jumps when that happens.

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Posted by on 11/11/2010 in poetry, writing


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Tuesday Trials: Finding Poetry

blue on blue

Image by JKönig via Flickr

12:30, Tuesday, 9 November, 2010 – Atlanta

Found poetry is fun. You can find poetry in anything. Think of found poetry as finding a seed, planting it, watering it, discovering what the blossom is and then taking care of it appropriately, placing it in the right pot and setting. The seeds are news articles, songs, poems, essays, magazine articles, music, photographs and art. I have a found poem from each of those seeds. Ekphrastic poetry can fall under the category of found poetry in that it is poetry that comments upon, or develops from,  another art form.

In this exercise I am going to give you the seeds. The exercise is based on one that writer James Penha and artist Rashid Carre gave at a teachers’ conference. There are a couple of steps, so I will give you the first step today and follow up tomorrow. I am going to list 15 words. I want you to circle seven. Try for a mix of parts of speech [nouns, verbs, adjectives…]. You should feel free to change the tense or number [fall/drowned/spring as a verb or a noun/fields]:


Take the seven words you chose and use them in a poem. Be sure you use this list, as the second part of the exercise dovetails with this. It does not have to be elaborate. When I did the exercise the seven words I used from the list given me were: window/blue/pitcher/spills/air/cotton/summer. The poem I ended up with is:

Still Life with Blue Pitcher

On the window sill
in the window frame
as for a still life
the blue pitcher
a hand reaching
lifts it and tilts
lip to lip
spills effortlessly down the throat
the cold effervescing liquid
light and weightless
as summer cotton.

published in Lunarosity, 2004

Tomorrow we will try the next step.


Posted by on 09/11/2010 in poetry, writing


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