Friday, November 06, 2015

Poetry Seven Write Ekphrastic Poems

Our year-long journey of writing poems together is coming close to the end. It’s hard to believe we’ve been at this for 11 months. I take full responsibility for changing this month’s form from epistle to ekphrastic, but am not remotely connected to the choice of image. I’ll blame Tanita and my sisters for that one. Here it is.

I try to take a very “in the moment” approach to writing ekphrastic poems. I don’t study the images for too long. I look closely for a minute or two and then write a list of the thoughts that come to mind upon first glance. Usually what emerges is a very odd collection of ideas. Here’s the list that came from first glance at what my sisters called the goddess.
  • the glass ceiling
  • caged women
  • corsets
  • a bird in a gilded cage (cue Tweety bird swinging and singing “I’m a tweet little bird in a gilded cage. Tweety’s my name but I don’t know my age. …)
  • crouching tiger, hidden dragon
  • woman warrior 
  • The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus (Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,/With conquering limbs astride from land to land;/Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand/A mighty woman)
  • the trappings of womanhood
  • paper doll
As you can see, this list is quite random, but starting in this way always sets the wheels turning in my brain. In the end I wrote a number of different poems in different forms, but this is the one that took hold and stuck with me.

Sonnet of a Kept Woman

You cannot hold my soul it won’t be bound
Inside a cage I heed sweet freedom’s call
Throw back my head and cry a mournful sound
Though trapped by ceiling, floor, unyielding walls

How to break free when others box me in
Is what I ask myself each day anew
I fight the battles, though I rarely win
But onward push to change your point of view

The corset of the past constricts me still
In places where I dare not dream to go
And yet I breathe and move against its will
Refuse to be sucked in its undertow

Someday the chains you’ve put me in will break
And standing tall I’ll leave you in my wake

Poem ©Tricia Stohr-Hunt, 2015. All rights reserved.

Today is a particularly fortuitous day to be sharing poems with these ladies, as today The Miss Rumphius Effect celebrates its 9th anniversary. Without this blog I never would have waded boldly into the writing pool with these amazing women. I'm so grateful to have found them through this medium. You can read the poems written by my Poetry Seven compatriots at the links below. 

I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Katya at Write.Sketch.Repeat. Thanks to all of you who stop by to read, write poetry, and share in the love of children's literature. Happy poetry Friday friends! 


  1. Congratulations on your blogiversary, Tricia! That's quite an achievement. And I am also impressed that you chose to write a sonnet for your ekphrastic poem. Nicely done. I particularly like "the corset of the past."

  2. Happy Blog Birthday, Trisha!!! I am so glad to have found you through blogging. You are such an inspiration and mentor for the rest of us. I love how you've laid out your writing process for us here. So many thoughts coming from that image! My favorite line from your poem: "And yet I breathe and move against its will". A word of hope!

  3. A SONNET. "How to break free as others box me in" is the question of the ages, is it not? I still have to laugh that you chose a really rule-bound form after all of the random associations you did to begin - and frankly *I* should have tried the free association stuff. ANYWAY, this rocks, Tricia.
    And happy Blogversary.

  4. This is how I did it too, Tricia---I made a long list of unrelated thoughts about the image, sat on the list for a day, then put my scribblings away and wrote a draft without looking at them again. I did not even think of using a form, though, haha! I wonder: is a sonnet a corset from the past? In a good way, I mean? It gives shape to our thoughts.... Anyway, happy, happy anniversary, and I'm privileged to know you and write poetry with you, my friend.

  5. Happy Blogiversary!! Fine poem, Tricia. Interesting to see your brainstorming notes, too :)!

  6. Oh, my, that corset of the past is awesome! Beautiful, strong sonnet. And I love that you shared your brainstorming list. This is often how I start an ekphrastic poem, too (like in my 15 Words or Less Poems), but for once I didn't do it here. Happy that you did and shared:>)

  7. You made yours into a sonnet???? Over achiever!!! Happy anniversary, my friend. And much love. This is LOVELY!!!!

  8. Happy blogiversary, Tricia! The Miss Rumphius Effect will always "stand tall" in my mind.

  9. So here's my attempt. Perhaps more elegaic than ekphrastic, though.
    Happy anniversary.


    Here in the greenhouse of my life,
    tender shoots warming my feet,
    tendrils curling up my legs
    like memories of summer,
    I consider autumn.

    Here in the hothouse of my life,
    flashes of yester beaming
    through the clear windows,
    hints of rain on the glass,
    I consider autumn,

    Here in the conservatory of my life,
    where summer wants to reign
    and nothing is reined in but the liiving,
    held in stasis, in every poem,
    I consider the autumn of my life.

    ©2015 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

  10. First of all, happy blogiversary! I count myself lucky that I've gotten to know you on the blogs and have gotten to meet you in the flesh!

    I love your poem, and as a "text to text" connection, would recommend that you read THE HIRED GIRL by Laura Amy Schlitz. They pair perfectly.