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Thread: Writing A Poem Based On A Picture

  1. #1

    Writing A Poem Based On A Picture

    It can be a good exercise to write a poem while studying the details in a painting or photograph. At first the picture may seem so complicated you are unsure of what to write about it. Iíve found artists and photographers to be very comfortable with this type of writing. Of course we all have our muses. Writing from a picture though can be a good start toward thinking and writing concretely.

    It may be a good idea to understand the painting or photograph before starting to write. Take a little time to absorb the details of the scene and internalize them. What objects in the room does the artist want you to notice? What objects have a uniqueness about them that prods further investigation? What atmosphere (emotions, mood, and feelings) does the picture exude after youíve started to absorb it?

    Colors are also important, since colors often can put us into a certain mood very quickly. Red and black colors in a picture usually cause me to think of the end of days. A sky deep blue with fluffy white clouds in it and a friendly yellow sun makes me feel peaceful. A rough ocean gives you different feelings than a smooth sea with a fisherman relaxing in a boat. In a good picture the characters are unique, not just stereotypes. The picture should tell a story. Check for details in the picture that tell a story in much the same way you would analyze a room to see that your kids were having a party in the house when you were gone, or how a woman sniffs for perfume on her husband when he comes home late from work.

    A picture really does tell a story. You donít have to understand the entire story before you start writing, but you should at least have a feeling of the mood or atmosphere of the picture before you put pen to paper.

    Are there two or three objects clearly visible in the picture? One picture I helped a student with was kind of an abstract painting that reminded me of Picassoís paintings. There was an abstractly painted person on one side of the painting and a mask on the other side. I told my student these objects probably should be compared or contrasted to each other since they were the only two objects in the painting that were clearly focused. The womanís hand seemed to have evil connotations, and a cherry under the mask seemed to me to represent virginity. The womanís body was also blurred. Perhaps sensuality trying to get out but banned.

    My student told me the cherry looked like an apple to him. I didnít argue, because you donít have to understand the object perfectly; itís only necessary that the picture jars creativeness within you and gives you images that trigger images you have real associations with in your mind already. Once you start on the concrete when writing your poem, then you have earned the right to move on to the other aspects of poem writing, like interpretation, philosophizing, or explaining. Start with the concrete images, and then you can relax and have fun with the rest.

    Below is a poem that I wrote while looking at a vase of plastic flowers sitting on a table.



    Those Plastic Flowers on Your Table

    How about those plastic roses on your table
    that never bloom? Wide-open faces
    never can lose their youth,
    Can never die in love, never close, leave
    Turn up their noses or spit replies
    Love, forgive, tell little white lies.
    Never been alive,
    those prefabricated unnatural
    blooms, but you still keep them
    in your dining room. You point out
    the cuckoo clock, the G.E. Microwave,
    Your 2.4 Gigahertz phone,
    but the unnatural flora you leave alone.
    So what are they for, a snapshot?
    Plastic flowers like death masks
    each flowerís dead beauty imprisoned?
    Does it help you appreciate
    that one red rose now looks velvet
    in your green back yard?
    The tragedy
    of half-dozen folded, bound in plastic-
    six enclosed towers near where you dine.

    Their moment is at hand, only days
    in which to bloom;
    Trapped in tight buds
    I sense their anxious trembling
    Stagnating in their eternal youth.
    Those six petrified children.
    Never will they dance
    In summerís windy fields
    always to feel unending sun
    Mouths parted, they never curse,
    Never open their eyes
    To count the long days.
    In a deliciously curved vase
    you mummify nature, morbidly;
    bring order to what is dead
    in your plastic scene of life.

    Don V Standeford

  2. #2
    Don,
    I have a different take on the poetry/photograph connection. I am primarily a photographer. My statement about my poetry is this: I write about the things that I cannot photograph. I have a particular affinity for birds, and a particular inability to photograph them well. So...I have no images of birds, but a lot of poetry

    Going back to your suggestion, I think we poets always write about our observations of the physical/emotional world. If an image gives you the impetus to write, then more's the better. I gave a poet friend some of my images to use as a prompt several years ago. I think it's a good idea to keep in mind when we feel we're running short on ideas.

    Lorraine

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Abbey08 View Post
    Don,
    I have a different take on the poetry/photograph connection. I am primarily a photographer. My statement about my poetry is this: I write about the things that I cannot photograph. I have a particular affinity for birds, and a particular inability to photograph them well. So...I have no images of birds, but a lot of poetry

    Going back to your suggestion, I think we poets always write about our observations of the physical/emotional world. If an image gives you the impetus to write, then more's the better. I gave a poet friend some of my images to use as a prompt several years ago. I think it's a good idea to keep in mind when we feel we're running short on ideas.

    Lorraine
    Thanks for your comments. I actually never used photographs for inspiration until I met someone who was doing it for a contest. I tried it, and it worked well for me. Of course I rarely use the technique, but every once in awhile when I want to sharpen my observation skills and I can't get out of the house I will use a photograph.

    It's nice to hear a photographer's point of view.

  4. #4
    WF Veteran Lewdog's Avatar
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    Don do you create an outline of a poem before you write it, or do you just let the words flow? I seem to write two types of poems, one that is heart driven and rarely rhymes, and an outlined poem that is more traditional, but doesn't have as much feeling behind it. I guess the second one would be more commercial?

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Lewdog View Post
    Don do you create an outline of a poem before you write it, or do you just let the words flow? I seem to write two types of poems, one that is heart driven and rarely rhymes, and an outlined poem that is more traditional, but doesn't have as much feeling behind it. I guess the second one would be more commercial?
    I do both. I have a notebook that I keep where I put down random stuff that comes to mind. I have another one where I keep thoughts for outlines. So I'm constantly working it from both angles, and then every once in awhile a good poem will pop out. I've already written a piece on how I do things, so I'll post it under non fiction now.

    Thanks,

    Don V Standeford

  6. #6
    Think I may have to try this! I have been looking for something to inspire and give me something to write about.

  7. #7
    Oo, Oo, Fun. I have one I have just written but something might be lost if I can't include the picture with it... I guess if it were a really good poem it could stand on it's own two chubby feet.

    Here it is.

    Poem of the Ample Woman.

    Agonic Beauty,
    in a Moo Moo Dressed.
    There's no miracle
    can unburden her chest.

    Slippery Fingers
    from much chicken Fat.
    She sits by the Window with her Tabby Cat.

    Watches the Sunrise, waiting for Noon.
    The Pies in the Oven
    will be ready soon.


    -----------------

  8. #8
    Inspiring Post, learnt alot. Will implement your tips next time while writing poem.
    Last edited by InstituteMan; April 11th, 2015 at 02:20 AM.

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