Writing ekphrastic poetry is a great way to break out of slump (I never say writer’s block). Here is a technique that makes an ekphastic poem seem to write itself. To demonstrate we’ll use a poem that was originally published in The Ekphrastic Review. It was insprired by the famous photo of the same title as the poem.
The poem is written in three parts, each part it’s own stanza, though that is not any kind of rule. It’s just how I chose to work with this short poem. I think it’s brevity contributes to it’s impact.
The first stanza is a simple description of what’s seen in the photograph. It’s best to concentrate on just one or two details and extend them, perhaps through comparison using simile or metaphor.
In step two I have brought in sensory experiences beyond the visual. This animates the photograph, turns it into a living scene that includes movement and the senses of hearing and smell.
The final step is for the poet to enter the photograph and to interact with the visual elements. This is purely imaginative and the most engaging part of writing the poem. You can talk to people, touch or pick up objects, use tools, taste food etc.
There you have it, short and sweet; 1) Describe, 2) Animate, 3) Enter and interact.
Here is a short ekphrastic poem from the chapbook Poem Noir from 3rd Coast Press, available at Amazon.
From Leslie Schultz, a nice review of Protective Coloration. Thank you Leslie.
From Protective Coloration (Kelsay Books – Aldrich Press, 2020). Poem originally published in Peninsula Poets.
This poem was featured at the fall meeting of the Poetry Society of Michigan. It was a response to a prompt from Elizabeth Kerlikowske, the current president of the organization. “Write a poem giving someone advice. It could be an extended metaphor. And fun/clever/don’t even think of rhyming.”
I wrote Honky-Tonk, which originally appeared in Fried Chicken and Coffee, with a particular road house in mind. Its name came from the fact that its distance from each of three small towns in rural Michigan was seven miles and it was owned for a period of time by my mother. The poem is now included in Protective Coloration (Kelsay Books, 2020). It’s available from Kelsay and from Amazon.