Poetry: Not Just Autobiography

Daily Warm Up: For today’s warm up, write a quick draft of a poem about “the fortune teller in the window” — that fortune teller could be a person or a machine.

Focus of the day: For our focus skill today, there isn’t much to TEACH, but just a nudge: poetry does not have to be “confessional.” It doesn’t have to be something true about your life, it doesn’t have to be personal, and it doesn’t have to be pretty.

Experiment: To help us tackle this, I’m going to ask you to create an EKPHRASTIC poem. Ekphrasis is when we respond to visual art with a poem or vice versa. In this case, I’m going to give you some visual art and ask you to write a poem in response to that art. You’re not trying to “tell the story” of the art, but rather respond to how YOU interpret it or how YOU interact with it.

The good news is, it almost CANNOT be personal because you have to let it arise from the visual art! So it’s a great way to escape the trap of autobiography.

What is ekphrasis? I’m glad you asked. You can see some info here: read through the first page of this handout, which defines ekphrasis but also gives you an example.

If you need more examples, there are additional ones on the rest of the pages of the handout or  you can see other examples at the links below.

As for images, let’s tackle an actual ekphrastic challenge that’s actually out there in the world, this one comes from Rattle. You can see this month’s image at that link.

Your job is to write a poem in response.

Additional Samples of Ekphrasis:

  1. At Rattle, where they have previous winners posted (both the visual artist’s choice and the poetry editor’s choice)
  2. At The Light Ekphrastic, an online journal of ekphrastic poetry/art pairings.
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