|Venice Facade, William Merritt Chase, 1878|
This dormant season is perfect for germinating poems, isn't it? I've been germinating a poem for the Winter Poem Swap. Tabatha offered a Monet painting for participants to use as a prompt if we chose to write an ekphrastic poem. I love this sort of challenge and, for me, the process is definitely akin to germination. It can take weeks! I offer this post as a peek into my process, which is of course not the only process.
The poem (not the Winter Swap :Poem) that evolved from living with this painting by William Merritt Chase is very different from anything I usually write! But for me, that's the gift of allowing a piece of art to inspire me. I often find myself in new territory.
response to Venice Facade
Behind shuttered triptych windows,
a mystic ushers in her lion.
The cool still air caresses silence
like a nun dusting a sanctuary.
She brushes tangles from his mane,
and with the flask filched in her novice days,
bestows a drop of oil.
This ritual is all that remains.
No crucifix, no candle.
Just jumbled faded tarot cards
and incense wafting away the smell of age.
She covers her head with turquoise gauze,
gazes into a ball and chants
to lovers lost and the lover found.
Her lion reclines on a cot having
discarded his hair shirt.
Joyce Ray © All rights reserved
So here's my process.
Step 1: Plant the seed image. Print image and post prominently so my subconscious can begin work.
Step 2: With pencil, sketch image in a sketch book (it doesn't matter if drawing is not your forte! Writing is!)
Step 3: Try stream of consciousness writing about the image.
Or record words and phrases that rose to surface while drawing. The following notebook images illustrate work on last year's Winter Poem Swap.
Step 4: STUDY ORIGINAL IMAGE, looking for clues and missed details. Ask, what is the artist trying to say? How can I bring my experience to the image?
Step 5: Begin fitting phrases together and watch for the poem seedling to peek through. Sometimes I do this in my sketchbook, sometimes on laptop. REJOICE when the seedling pokes its pale face through the page to greet you!
Step 6: Type a draft. No judgement zone! Try different poetic forms and free verse. In which direction is the draft stretching?
Step 7: Read the draft aloud.
Step 8: Revise for sound, excessive words, word choice. Strengthen the poem seedling so it can stand alone.
I’d like to know how others go about responding to art.
Tara has the Round-up over at A Teaching Life . Drop in. There may or may not be other ekphrastic poems today, but there'll be poems galore!