Saturday, November 19, 2011

Poetry Prompt #79 - From Painting to Poem

"Il Penseroso" by Thomas Cole (1845)

Ekphrastic poems are based on other forms of art, most often paintings, but may also include  sculpture, musical composition, dance, etc. You can read more about ekphrasis if you click on fifth tab in the page bar above. You will also find the following informative: Ekphrasis: Poetry Confronting Art  and Notes on Ekphrasis.

This week, I thought it would be interesting to move from painting to poem by writing about a painting (with an invitation to post your poems for sharing). I've chosen "Il Penseroso" by Thomas Cole, one of my favorite painters and the founder of the Hudson River School. Interestingly, Cole's "Il Penseroso" was inspired by a poem of the same title written by John Milton in 1631 ("Il Penseroso" by John Milton)

Keep in mind that ekphrastic poems do more than offer textual descriptions or verbal interpretations of visual art. Take a good look at Cole's "Il Penseroso" and see where it leads you. (Click on the image for a larger view.) Notice details.

You may want to begin by jotting down your impressions, images inspired by the painting, and feelings, memories, or experiences that the painting calls to mind. Think in terms or your emotions and your spiritual response to the painting.

Some questions to consider 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 to that mood?

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).

If the Cole painting doesn't work for you,  feel free to work with one of your own choosing!

Famous Ekphrastic Poems:


  1. Brilliant, Adele!

    What a fantastic painting. I'd never seen it before.

    Máire Ó Cathail (Ireland)

  2. Thanks, Maire! So glad you like the prompt and the painting!

  3. Another great prompt! Thanks, Adele, and happy Thanksgiving!


  4. Hi Jamie! Thanks, and happy Thanksgiving to you too!