Art by Damian Stamer
It’s almost May, and I’m looking forward to seeing those of you who live in the Triangle for our next two Art and Poetry Treasure Hunts at First Friday in Raleigh on May 5th and Last Friday in Hillsborough on May 26th. We had a great time in Carrboro last month, and I’m hoping a bunch of you will come out to write and read great poems about great art.
To make it even easier on you (and so all of you can try it out, even if you can’t make it to one of the art walks), I’m about to reveal the secret instructions for writing ekphrastic poems (poems about art) in this very blog. Are you ready? Here we go…
Art & Poetry Treasure Hunt Secret Instructions
Choose one of the ideas below to write a poem about art.
- Imagine two works of art get married. Write a love poem from one to the other.*
- Enter a painting and write about what you see and what’s happening all around you. Or write about what’s happening just off the edge of the canvas.*
- Eavesdrop on what people are saying in a gallery and weave their conversations into a poem.*
- Find a painting that’s noisy, smelly, or delicious, and write a poem about it.*
- Write a poem about a tiny detail in a painting, like it’s a secret only you know.*
- Think of a piece of art as a city, and write a poem like a tour describing the sites.*
- Create one line, or one stanza, about each work of art you see, to make one poem.*
- Imagine that the artwork is an animal. What is its habitat? What does it eat? How does it protect itself? How does it sleep?**
- Write a dialogue between yourself and the artist. Ask the artist all the questions you’d like to ask, and make up the artist’s answers.**
- Write a poem from the piece of art to the artist, or the other way around.**
- Write in the voice of a person or object shown in the work of art.***
- Imagine what was happening while the artist was creating the piece.***
- Write a dialogue between characters in a work of art.***
- Imagine a story behind what you see depicted in the piece.***
- Choose your own way of writing about a piece of art that interests you.
*Gary Duehr, “Thirteen Ways of Writing Poetry in a Museum”
** Mimi Herman, Piedmont Laureate
Now that I’ve revealed the secret instructions, it’s your turn.
Grab a pencil, pen or computer, find the nearest piece of art, and write your own ekphrastic poem. You can do this from the comfort of your own home, using that old Escher poster left over from your college days, your great-aunt Edna’s photograph of Venice or your favorite art from your favorite artist—via that modern miracle, the Internet. You pick the art, choose the prompt you want to use from the oh-so-secret instructions above and dash off a quick poem. Invite your kids, your parents, your friends and your great-aunt Edna to write some poems, too. These poems can be serious or goofy—or anywhere in between.
Then share your poems—as many as you like—in one of these four ways:
- Come to First Friday reading at the United Arts Council in Raleigh on May 5th or the Last Friday reading at Margaret Lane Gallery in Hillsborough on May 26th (click the links for details) and share your poem with us, using your most fabulous poet’s voice.
- Post your poem in a comment in response to this blog entry.
- Tweet your poem (if it’s brief enough) here: @PiedLaureate
- Post your poem on the Piedmont Laureate Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/piedmontlaureate/
Once you’ve experimented with ekphrastic poetry in the privacy of your own home, you may feel emboldened to venture further abroad. If so, you can visit these galleries in Raleigh http://www.godowntownraleigh.com/first-friday-raleigh/map any time between now and 8:00 pm on Friday, May 5th or these galleries in Hillsborough https://www.hillsboroughartscouncil.org/art-walk-last-fridays all month up to 8:00 pm on Friday, May 26th, and use the artwork you find there as inspiration to write more poems. Then scurry over to the reading to share your brilliance with an appreciative audience.
I can’t wait to see and hear what you write!