Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday Poetry Stretch - Ekphrastic Poems

I've been thinking a lot about new and different writing challenges for us to undertake, so last week when Laura at Author Amok wrote about ekphrastic poetry for poetry Friday, I thought this would be a good form to try. defines ekphrasis in this way.
"ekphrasis"—a vivid description of a thing. Ekphrasis during the Greek period included descriptions of such battle implements, as well as fine clothing, household items of superior craftsmanship (urns, cups, baskets), and exceptionally splendid buildings.
. . .
ekphrastic poems are now understood to focus only on works of art—usually paintings, photographs, or statues. And modern ekphrastic poems have generally shrugged off antiquity's obsession with elaborate description, and instead have tried to interpret, inhabit, confront, and speak to their subjects.
In hindsight, we've been hearing about this form for a while, it's just that perhaps we haven't put a formal name to it. In January, Liz Garton Scanlon wrote about an ekphrastic poem taking the form of a villanelle, and Laura Purdie Salas encourages us to write ekphrastic poems every week in her 15 words or less challenge. (We even wrote poems based on photos here for a while, but I gave up when I found the task of selecting photos too difficult.)

So, this week I thought we would write ekphrastic poems again, only this time I've picked a work of art to inspire us. This is the Franz Marc painting entitled Tiger.
The work of art depicted in this image and the reproduction thereof are in the public domain worldwide. The reproduction is part of a collection of reproductions compiled by The Yorck Project. The compilation copyright is held by Zenodot Verlagsgesellschaft mbH and licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
What does this painting say to you? What kind of poem will it inspire? What form will it take? Feel free to reproduce the image and copyright information on your site to accompany your poem. Leave me a comment when you are finished and I'll post the results here later this week.

**Updated** - I just realized that Laura at Author Amok posted an ekphrastic poetry exercise of her own this week. In it she asks participants to choose a favorite work of art to write about. Her choice is a fabulous Mark Rothko painting.


  1. I will give this a try this week. thanks for the challenge. I use many of my photos to inspire haiku.

  2. This reminds me of a sestina that I just wrote: Cat Views, but I'll also try to come up with something new.

  3. One thing ekprastic poems do is remind us that writing is not something from nothing, but a response to the world, to what is now and/or what has gone before.

    Walking in an art museum is almost guaranteed to make me want to write!