Saturday, December 14, 2019

My New Book!





Dear Blog Readers,

Forgive me for shamelessly prompting my new book, but I'm so happy to share the news that it's been published! Wind Over Stones is a collection of prose poems based on various artists' paintings, and my publisher (John Weber, owner of Welcome Rain Publishing) has included QR codes so that readers can look at the paintings online while they're reading. I hope you'll consider buying a copy for yourself or for holiday giving. 

To order via Amazon, click on the link below:

To order through Barnes & Noble:


I wish you every blessing of this special season—good health, peace, and joy,
Adele
 ______________________________________________________

Wind Over Stones
Welcome Rain Publishers, LLC
New York, NY

ISBN-10: 1-56649-405-2

$10.00
Paperback, 90 Pages

Publication Date: December 5, 2019

About the Book:

The ekphrastic prose poems in this collection were inspired by various artists’ paintings. A unique feature of the book is the inclusion QR codes for each of the paintings. Using their smart phones or mobile devices and a free QR code scanning application, readers can view the paintings while they are reading the poems.

From the Back Cover:

These prose poems continue Adele Kenny's reflections on the spiritual condition of being. Despite loss and change, she looks into the dark without flinching and finds light among the shadows. Using ekphrasis as a rhetorical device and combined with Kenny's signature elements of technical proficiency, hauntingly lucid imagery, and compelling immediacy, these poems filter and record experience in startling ways as they journey across aging's inevitable arc. Hardwired by Kenny's understanding of the human spirit, these poems offer us insights into the healing power of attention and awareness.
_____________________________________________________
 
"Compressed and brilliant in their philosophical and imagistic scintillations, the prose poems in Adele Kenny’s Wind Over Stones are of one piece in both voice and intensity of gaze. Through each artwork she has chosen as her lens, she seems to be saying, If we look hard enough and long enough, and with just the right slant of light, we can see through these paintings into ourselves. Her vision embodies, without presumption, the knowledge that, as John Muir told us, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” Kenny tells us, This kind of purity comes to us without intention—in ordinary things that are anything but ordinary….” She paints it for us herself: “A flurry of bats becomes the Milky Way, and we make no pretense of understanding the infinite (deep inside us), our need to become nothing before we unname ourselves and disappear.” Everything is connected, and through the language of fairytale, examination, and prayer—the same language, after all—each of Kenny’s poems is a gem in a garland of gems."

—Renée Ashley









Saturday, November 30, 2019

Prompt #345 – Winter Holiday Poems



What is it about a winter holiday poem that can touch us so deeply? Did you know that Nobel Laureate, Russian poet Joseph Brodsky was so taken with Christmas that he wrote a Christmas poem every year (now collected in his book Nativity Poems, https://www.amazon.com/Nativity-Poems-Bilingual-Joseph-Brodsky/dp/0374528578)?

Here’s an example:

Star of the Nativity
          By Joseph Brodsky (December 1987)

In the cold season, in a locality accustomed to heat more than
to cold, to horizontality more than to a mountain,
a child was born in a cave in order to save the world;
it blew as only in deserts in winter it blows, athwart.

To Him, all things seemed enormous: His mother’s breast, the steam
out of the ox’s nostrils, Caspar, Balthazar, Melchior—the team
of Magi, their presents heaped by the door, ajar.
He was but a dot, and a dot was the star.

Keenly, without blinking, through pallid, stray
clouds, upon the child in the manger, from far away—
from the depth of the universe, from its opposite end—the star
was looking into the cave. And that was the Father’s stare.


Holiday poems and stories have an lasting appeal, they take us back to childhood, they remember things not always present in our minds, and they can make us laugh or cry. Most of you are familiar with Charles Dickens’s story about Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come. For this prompt, we’re going to do some variations on the past, present, and future theme, and you’ll need to think about your past, present, and future Christmases, Chanukahs, Kwanzaas, or other annual winter-season celebrations.

And here’s one of my all-time favorite winter holiday poems, written by my late friend and fellow poet, Gail Gerwin (from her book Dear Kinfolk):


Are We Done Yet?
          By Gail Fishman Gerwin

When my daughter was four
we lit the Chanukah candles
on the wedding-present menorah
atop the Lane record cabinet,
our first purchase as a married couple.

In our new home we could peer
out the window at the house below,
where the Todds’ Christmas tree
in their den blazed lights of every
color, reflected by glossy ornaments,
all leading to a star on top that seemed
to descend directly from Heaven.

We chanted our prayers,

Barukh atah Adonai,
Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam,

allowed Karen to hold the
shamash, the service candle,
for her first time, hustled Katey
to the other side of the room
lest she set her pajamas aflame.

Our ritual complete, we gifted
the girls—a doll, a book, a toy
schoolhouse—sang songs
from preschool (only a hundred
sixty-four dollars for an entire year,
reads the bill I unearthed in the
basement as I rummaged through
that crowded cavern where we
store our past).

Dinner, I told everyone, the greasy
latkes already burning at the edges
as they sat in oil on the new gold
General Electric range.

Wait, Mommy, I have a question,
Karen said, what’s that in the window
over there? It’s a Christmas tree, I told her.

Why don’t we have a Christmas tree?
Because we’re Jewish, I said. She wanted

to know then, before eating brisket
cut into small pieces so she wouldn’t
choke, before crunching the latkes,
now on the edge of soggy,

When will we be finished being Jewish?

Suggestions:

1. Write about a holiday about your past (dig deeply into family memories).
2. Write a poem in which you compare winter holidays of the past, present, and/or future.
3. Write about seasonal ghosts that haunt you.
4. Write about people from your past who are no longer with you and how that impacts your present holiday season; or, write about one special person with whom you always associate the winter holidays.
5. Write about aspects of winter holiday traditions that remain part of your annual celebrations.
6. Write about the faith and/or cultural aspects of your winter holidays.
7. Write about one unforgettable winter holiday.
8. Write about holiday food treats and how they sweeten your memories.
9. Write about a holiday song that replays in your mind because of its associations (or, write your own words to a Christmas carol or other winter holiday song).
10. Write a poem based on an old Christmas, Chanukah, or other winter holiday photograph
11. Write about a historical holiday-time event.
12. Write about a winter holiday yet to come. You might consider a fantasy poem with a futuristic sensibility.

Tips:

1. Keep in mind that holiday literature can be tricky—be sure to sidestep the pitfalls of sentimentality, schmaltziness, nostalgia, and clichés.
2. Work toward fresh and original language, figures of speech, and an integrated whole of language, form, and meaning.
3. Be sure to show through examples and imagery—don’t simply tell.
4. Try to write in the active, not the passive, voice. To do that, it can be helpful to remove “ing” endings and to write in the present tense (this will also create a greater sense of immediacy).
5. Be on the lookout for prepositional phrases that you might remove (articles, conjunctions, and unnecessary adjectives too).
6. Think about your poem. What it reveals about being human? Is there a message larger than your memory or subject? How might your readers relate to your poem?

Examples:







Saturday, November 16, 2019

Prompt #344 – Gratitude is the Heart’s Memory



Here in the U.S., Thanksgiving will be celebrated on Thursday, November 28th, which just happens to be my birthday this year. I can remember how excited I was as a child when the two special days coincided. These days, I think more about the things for which I’m thankful.

Thanksgiving has a long history beginning in 1621 when the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is considered the first Thanksgiving celebration. That feast lasted three days and, according to attendee Edward Winslow, it was 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims participated. For over 200 years, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. In 1827, magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale began a campaign to establish thanksgiving as a national holiday. Finally, in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln set the last Thursday in November as the official day for a national Thanksgiving observance. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week, and in 1941 Roosevelt signed a bill that designated the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.

In Canada, Thanksgiving (sometimes called Canadian Thanksgiving to distinguish it from the American holiday) is an annual Canadian holiday that occurs on the second Monday in October to celebrate the harvest and other blessings of the past year.

Other countries that celebrate Thanksgiving include Germany (a Harvest Thanksgiving Festival in early October), Grenada (on October 25th), Korea (in late September or early October), Japan on November 23rd), Liberia (on the first Thursday of November), and Norfolk Island located east of Australia (during the 1800s, an American trader brought the feasting tradition to Norfolk Island, and the custom has been continued).

Cicero said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” Gratitude is a developmental emotion, and books have been written on the psychology of gratitude. There are times in our lives when we feel more Grinch than grateful, especially when the stresses of every day living gather momentum and all but overwhelm us. However, acknowledging and expressing our gratitude can have a beneficial effect on our lives, relationships, and work.

A French proverb tells us, “Gratitude is the heart’s memory.” Our first step in writing for this prompt will be to remember—to look into our memories and to identify a single thing for which we’re especially grateful.


Guidelines:

Make a list of things for which you’re grateful.

Choose one item from the list.

Free write about the item you chose.

Review your free write and select images and details for your poem.

Draft your poem.

As you write, think about the reasons for your gratitude and show (without telling) what those feelings really mean.


Examples:

“Thanks” by W. S. Merwin

“Thanksgiving Letter from Harry” by Carl Dennis

“The Thanksgivings” by Harriet Maxwell Converse

Poems for Thanksgiving at Poets.Org



Happy Thanksgiving!




Saturday, November 2, 2019

Prompt #343 – Who's Your Muse?

 
Erato, Muse of Poetry by Sir Edward John Poynter, 1870

My Muse is fickle – she takes three-martini lunches and heads to the south of France for months at a time – which means that I don’t write as often as I’d like. My "fickle muse" has become a bit of a joke for me, but I do sometimes reflect upon where poems originate, how they develop, and what their various sources of inspiration might be. Have you ever thought about what drives you to write poems? Is there a clear moment of inspiration? Do you begin with an image or two? Does something sensory generate an idea for a poem? Is memory a deciding factor in some of your poems?

In Greek mythology, the Muses, in ancient Greek αἱ μοῦσαι (hai moũsai), were minor goddesses, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, believed to inspire music, song, dance, and poetry. At some point, nine Muses were assigned to specific arts: Kalliope, epic poetry; Kleio, history; Ourania, astronomy; Thaleia, comedy; Melpomene, tragedy; Polyhymnia, religious hymns; Erato, erotic poetry; Euterpe, lyric poetry; and Terpsikhore, choral song and dance. On Mount Helicon, home to the Muses, were two sacred springs: the Aganippe and the Hippocrene. The Hippocrene spring (Ἱππου κρήνης) was considered a source of poetic inspiration (Tennyson referred to it in his poem “Ode to a Nightengale,” and Longfellow mentions it in “Goblet of Life”).

That little pre-ramble introduces an inspiration poem for this week’s prompt: William Stafford’s “When I Met My Muse.”

When I Met My Muse

I glanced at her and took my glasses
off – they were still singing. They buzzed  
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. "I am your own
way of looking at things," she said. "When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation." And I took her hand.

The key notion of this poem is one of self-awareness and our ability to express individual ways of seeing things. Stafford speaks to the importance of accepting who we most truly are. To live with your Muse, then, is to live comfortably with yourself.

Before writing, let’s “muse” this week on what inspires us. What inspires you to write poetry? What’s your Muse like? Is she ever-present or does she favor three martini lunches and long vacations in the south of France? In what kind of surroundings or landscapes do you find your Hippocrene spring? When you first started writing poetry, what inspired you? What inspires you now? Is there a person or place from which you draw inspiration? An emotion? Are you inspired by other poets? A particular poet? Is there a spiritual “place” to which you return repeatedly for inspiration?

Suggestions:
Let your musings and Stafford’s poem serve as inspiration for this week’s poem. Take the cues from your Muse and choose one of the following:

1. Write a poem about your Muse (serious or funny).

2. Write a poem about your “Hippocrene Spring” (your best source of inspiration – one to which you return often in your poems: memory, experience, faith, relationships, etc.).

3. Ray Bradbury wrote, “In a lifetime we stuff ourselves with sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and textures of people, animals, landscapes, events, large and small. We stuff ourselves with these impressions and experiences and our reaction to them. These are the stuffs, the foods, on which The Muse grows.” Write a poem about the ways in which you “feed” your Muse.

4. Write a poem about living comfortably (or uncomfortably) with yourself. 

Example: 
“A Muse” by Reginald Shepherd





Saturday, October 26, 2019

Carriage House Poetry Series Halloween Slideshows


 
In the spirit of the season, I thought you might enjoy 
some of the fun we've had at the Carriage House Poetry Series's 
annual Halloween readings. 


 Slideshows

Poets’ Apocalypse
 




 Gothic



Wax Museum




 Have a safe and happy Halloween, filled with lots of treats 
and no tricks!






Saturday, October 19, 2019

Prompt #342 – Wearing the Mask


A while back, I posted a prompt about wearing masks. With Halloween just around the corner, this seems a great time to revisit that idea and to write about masks, both literal and metaphorical. Anyone who has dressed up for Halloween knows how transforming masks can be, how they provide a sense of escape, and how they offer a freeing quality that allows you to be someone other than yourself or, perhaps, to be who you really are.

In literature, the persona poem derives from a Greek word that means “mask” and is a poem in which the poet figuratively dons a mask and writes from the fictional “I” of another viewpoint. This prompt, however, goes in a different direction. For our poetic purposes, let’s consider the kinds of masks we wear and why we wear them. (Remember: masks may be anything that disguises or conceals—physical features, facial expressions, attitudes, and behaviors).

Most people wear “comfort masks” at times as protection from judgments, to guard their real feelings from others, to gain social or business positions, and to generally feel safe.  People in emotional pain may mask their distress with smiles, and unhappy children may wear the masks of class clowns or bullies. In many cases, people who suffer from depression will deliberately seem to be happy or optimistic; similarly, people who suffer from anxiety will create an illusion of being relaxed or at ease. This kind of deliberate mask-wearing is a kind of protection, but it can be very lonely. 

What masks have you worn?


Suggestions:

1. What metaphorical mask do you wear most often? What does it hide? Write a poem about this.

2. What “comfort mask” do you wear to guard your real feelings from others? Can you write about a time when you wore a “mask” for emotional protection?

3. How are you like the Phantom of the Opera? What emotional scars do you hide behind a figurative “Phantom”
mask? Write a poem about this.

4. Write a poem about a time, place, social gathering or other situation in which you would have liked to wear an actual mask.

5. Write a poem about a memorable Halloween (read Catherine Doty’s “Living Room” from her book Momentum: Click here and scroll down to the poem http://www.kickingwind.com/073007.html).

6. Write a poem about the best or scariest Halloween mask you’ve ever worn or ever seen.

Examples:
We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar

The Mask by William Butler Yeats



Saturday, October 5, 2019

Prompt #341 – From Art to Art: Ekphrastic Poetry



Ekphrasis, pronounced ˈek-frə-səs (accent on the first syllable), is the representation in language of a work of art—it acts as an organizing principle in poetry and fiction, making the connection between art, storytelling, and life. Ekphrasis functions as an interpretive key to a particular work.

Ekphrastic poetry consists of poems that are based on others form of art, most often paintings, but also including such art forms as sculpture, musical composition, etc. It is art inspired by art.

Derived from the ancient Greeks, Ekphrastic poetry began when students learned to write poetry by focusing on the architecture and art in museums or grand public places. The form has interested poets of the past and has made a comeback in recent years.

Ekphrasis usually includes, but is not limited to, the use of enargia. This term comes from classical rhetoric. It means to make an object appear lively before the reader’s eye. This usually happens through careful recreation of the visual artifact through verbal means, such as detailed description, use of sensory information, imagery, etc. In other words, ekphrasis normally attempts to visually reproduce the art object (i.e. painting) for the reader so the reader can experience the same effect or reaction as the poet. This is sometimes called “painterly” poetry.

Importantly, Ekphrastic poetry is more than mere textual description or verbal interpretation of visual art. Making an object (painting or other work of art) lively before the reader’s eye involves, in the best Ekphrastic poems, an emotional and perhaps even spiritual response to the work of art – achieved through written language.

The Victorian era was the last major era of literature-inspired visual artworks. Painters continued to draw influence from literature, but the influence tended to find expression in more abstract, nebulous ways, and a clear switch came into vogue—writers began to turn increasingly to the works of painters and sculptors. By the time of the Modernists, poets (especially in America) began to draw inspiration from Modernist artists. Like visual artists of the 20th century, writers sources of inspiration from other arts media were filtered and changed by the imagination in new and surprising ways. To quote Wallace Stevens, responding to Picasso’s painting The Old Guitarist, “Things as they are / Are changed upon the blue guitar.”

Today, ekphrastic poetry has become increasingly popular. Ekphrastic poems may be thought of as literary works that that are packed with poetic imagery about visual imagery created by another artist.

When art inspires art, something unique and wonderful happens. Ekphrastic poetry exposes readers to different modes of composition and provides them with material rich in detail, intensity, and connections across various times and spaces. For poets, reflection upon about other modes of creation while engaging in the process of creating poems offers a glimpse of the spirit in all created artworks: the profound center that speaks to experience and heart, and mind, body and soul.

Elements of Ekphrastic Poetry


1. LUCID DETAIL — This is a requirement of ekphrastic poetry—the single biggest boulder that anchors the poem to the form. An ekphrastic poem must be scaled with description derived from its source, such that you can hear the words slithering through the grass, vines, and leaves of the page. It must be variegated, and if its inspiration operates in colorless realms, it must emit the grey mists and bright blanknesses of the depths of that dearth. An ekphrastic poem must animate the most muted detail on the art it’s describing, bringing to life the onion-shaped rock smudged into the corner beside the white blob of the stoop. Without description, without imagery, no poem can function, but an ekphrastic poem will be even more leaden, bogged down by the pale, shapeless weight of its artistic source, like a log overtaken by ghostly fungi sinking into a bog.

2. POETIC RESPONSE—Through such intensive detail, ekphrastic poetry must attempt to impart the intellectual and emotional response evoked by the inspiring art. Remember, when someone reads an ekphrastic poem, they don’t always have the corresponding art in front of them, nor have they always already seen it; they only have the poet’s interpretation. This interpretation must convey the core of the original work and also amplify it by presenting the effect the piece had/can have through the combination of its various elements. Thus, an ekphrastic poem includes the poet’s intellectual and emotional energy that was stirred up by the animus of the work of art, to be presented like a steaming cauldron of yellow curry for the reader to dip into and pull out nourishing potato pieces.

3. FOCUS—An ekphrastic poem should not wander off to examine someone’s clog while in the midst of presenting a perspective on Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s “The Wassail.” Tangents are not forbidden, but they must bolster the interpretation of the artistic source rather than distract from it. After all, the main task of an ekphrastic poem is to intensify a piece of art’s impression through descriptive, attentive language.

4. A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST(S)—Though it’s not necessary, many ekphrastic poems will pull in the figure of the artist behind the work of art, so that the writing becomes almost biographical. In describing or hypothesizing about the mood and intent of the artist, the painting, sculpture, etc., being conjured up attains character, context, and depth. At the same time, the poet may also bring their own figure into the poem to create a bifocal lens with a meta-view of literature being written about art.

5. A PORTRAIT OF THE AUDIENCE—In a similar way, ekphrastic poems may also pull the audience itself into the roiling, colorful, complex soup that is words about other art. This breaking of the fourth wall has two effects: it helps the reader feel a certain sense of community with all the other people who have actually seen the original work, and it draws the reader’s attention to the fact that they are reading a poem about a work of art. Along those lines, an ekphrastic poem should make itself clear to its audience that it is an ekphrastic poem.

6. ARTWORK’S DERIVATIVE — Finally, ekphrastic poetry must revolve around a source that can be categorized as art. The poem cannot spring from nowhere; if it does, it’s simply a poem. The poet must identify one or several compositions — whether painting, song, or something else — as art, and from that definition, proceed to compose the literary piece. In other words, to write an ekphrastic poem, the poet must sit down with the goal of writing an ekphrastic poem about a creation they’ve already pin-pointed.

What to Do?

  1. Describe – translate what has caught your visual attention into written language. This is the simplest for of ekphrastic poetry.

  1. Describe but imagine beyond the artwork; think and write about what the artwork calls up for you (emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually).

3. Make Someone or Something in the Artwork Speak – give a voice to something or someone
    in the artwork you're considering; let that person or things "speak" through your poem.

4.  What the Artist Might Say – imagine the artist’s perspective his or inspiration for the artwork and the artwork itself; create a "voice" for the artist and on the artwork and let him or her speak through your poem.
  
5. Put Yourself into the Artwork – an ekphrastic moment poem may seemingly have little reference to the original artwork, and that's okay. this is the most challenging kind of ekphrasis and often produces startling and memorable results. The idea is to let the artwork lead you into something other than itself. Let your subconscious take over, introduce multiple subjects and layers of meaning.


Writing an Ekphrastic Poem

1. Spend some time looking at a painting.

Consider the following before writing:
  • What is happening in the painting?
  • Who or what is the subject of the painting?
  • What mood does the painting suggest? 
  • How do you relate personally to that mood? 
  • How does the painting "speak" to you?

2. Poets create a "sensory pool" by paying close attention to sight, sound, color, light, feeling, movement and other tangible aspects of a subject. Try to disregard your analytical mind or any historical knowledge, and instead experience the artwork through your senses. A poet doesn't need to "know" facts about a piece of art. Instead, the poet experiences the artwork. Write down notes about what you experience—memories, sensations of smell or touch, impressions of the images you see inside the art. These will help you form your poem once you've decided on your approach.

3. You can approach the ekphrastic poem in several ways, and as the poet it's your choice. You may write about your experience viewing the art, about an experience the artwork draws from your memory or a monologue or story you imagine coming from a voice inside the painting or sculpture. For example, you might speak from the voice of the Mona Lisa or imagine what people are thinking as they stroll through Central Park in a painting. The choice is up to you, and what notes you jotted in your sensory pool will help you pick.

4. Arrange your notes into lines. You should know from your notes whether you're writing a narrative poem or a lyrical poem. A narrative poem tells a story, so if your notes have recorded a memory in story form, start from the beginning and tell the story using only concrete language of the five senses. If, instead, you've written a lyrical poem that is more of a collection of notions from an experience, begin to organize them into lines. For example, if your poem captures the scene of a busy sidewalk in a city where pedestrians are walking around a statue, organize your ideas based on how well the lines fit together, whether rhymes can be created, and whether you want to capture the flow of motion in the area.

5. Begin to revise your poem by reading it aloud. Listen to the way the words sound. If any lines are redundant or if several words are unnecessary cut them out. Focus on sound and alliteration, which means the repetition of a consonant or vowel sound. Look at the poem on the page and decide if you want it to have a particular shape. You might organize the lines into quatrains, or four-line stanzas, or you may decide on couplets, which are two-line stanzas. Your poem does not have to have any formal shape or structure at all, though, as it could be a free verse poem or  a prose poem.


 Writing Suggestions:

1. Select any work of art (it's a good idea to start with a painting, but any other artwork can be used), and let it "speak"to you.

2. Spend some time reflecting on the artwork.

3. Jot down notes or free write about the artwork.
4. Following the guidelines below, begin writing an ekphrastic poem.

Guidelines:

You may want to create a dialogic in which you journey in "conversation" between the painting and your text. Or you may avoid referring to the painting at all (other than, perhaps, a mention in the title or subtitle).

Be sure to acknowledge the artwork somewhere in your poem (I like to do this at the beginning of the poem, just under the title).

1. Don’t just describe the artwork you’ve chosen; let the artwork be your guide and see where it leads you.  Relate the artwork to something else (a memory, a person, an experience, a place).

2. Some ways to approach your poem:

·      Speak directly to the artwork; that is, address the subject (or subjects) of the art.

·      Write from the perspective of the artwork, or adopt the persona of the artwork itself (i.e., write as if you are the Mona Lisa. 
  
·      Write in the voice of the artist who created the artwork.

·      Write from your own experience or imagination.

3. Work with strong images and, if you tell a story, be sure not to overtell.

4. Think about including some caesuras (pauses) for emphasis, and leave some things unsaid—give your readers space to fill in some blanks.

5. Pose an unanswered question or go for an element of surprise. Let your poem take an interesting or unexpected turn based on something triggered by the artwork.

6. Look at the “movement” of the artwork you’ve chosen and try to represent that movement in your line and stanza breaks. For example, if a painting “moves” across the canvas, find a way to suggest similar movement in the way you indent and create line breaks.

Example:

Here’s an example from my book A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing at All. A few years ago, one of my closest friends committed suicide, something that will haunt me for the rest of my life. Shortly after, I was looking through a book of Pre-Raphaelite paintings when I came across Millais’s Ophelia. I thought about Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet” and remembered how Ophelia’s death took place off stage. For me, the backstory of both my friend’s suicide, the play, and the painting resulted in the following poem:


Just Perhaps

(After Ophelia by John Everett Millais)

Buoyed by her dress, she barely breaks the water’s surface—arms outstretched, palms upturned. Pansies float above her skirt. There are daisies on the glassy stream, and, there (to the left, above her head), a bird on the pollard from which she jumped or fell. Broken willow, broken bough.

And just perhaps, as Hamlet’s mother said, she’s still alive and singing—see, her mouth is open, and her eyes; and just perhaps, she doesn’t know how close to death she is—or why this painting makes me think of you. Your death was not offstage the way Ophelia’s was (the ladder placed, the rope around your neck); nor was the way you parted from yourself, the silent swinging—only air beneath your feet.

Copyright © 2016 by Adele Kenny. All rights reserved.
From A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing at All, Welcome Rain Publishers