– Frida Kahlo
When I first saw DaVinci’s Mona Lisa in the Louvre many years ago, I understood why it’s probably the most famous portrait in the world. Another famous portrait with which many are familiar is Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, which inspired the 2003 film of the same title. There are, of course, countless portraits in museums and galleries—faces that look back at us and make us wonder about their painted subjects. This week, the goal is to write a poem in which you create a “word portrait” of yourself (the person you know best, as Frida Kahlo notes in the quote above). Importantly, you will need to be descriptive, but the extra challenge is to be judicious in your use of adjectives and details.
1. One way to begin is to generate a list of words that describe or tell something about you. In generating this list, think about your personality, interests, relationships, memories, loves, dislikes, and desires.
2. Now, imagine looking into a mirror that reveals more than your physical image. What do you see? Add what you see to your list.
3. Next, choose three items from your list and begin writing about them. You’ll need to find connectors and complements for these items, and you’ll need to think hard about yourself in terms of how the items from your list impact or reflect you as a whole.
4. Begin writing (a free write first may be helpful). Review what you’ve written and work the best of it into your poem.
5. Think in terms of metaphors. What extended metaphor might you use to “word paint” your portrait?
6. Alternatively, create a word portrait of someone you know. Follow the same general process, and be sure you select someone you know well. A third possibility (if the first two don’t work for you) would be to write a poem about a famous portrait (in writing a poem based on a painting, you’ll be doing an ekphrastic poem—see prompt #79, September 19, 2011).