NaPoWriMo Quarantine Edition – Exercise 7

Time for our first ekphrastic poem – a poem based on a piece of (usually visual) art. There are loads of ways you can do this – from simple description, to addressing the artwork’s subject; from an imagined conversation with the artist, to a dramatising of the artwork’s creation; or a leap into philosophy, or science, or history, or auto/biography, triggered in some way by contemplating some aspect of the artwork in question.

Today we’re going to start with the basics – a poem centred on description, but with some questions to prompt you to go beyond that.

Spend some time looking at the picture below (clicking on it should open up a larger version of the image in a new tab), and then answer the questions. Don’t worry about whether your answers are right or wrong – just use these as springboards to get you thinking. Then look again at the painting, and use your answers to prompt a new poem. Remember: you aren’t trying to accurately describe the painting, so much as chart your own thoughts in response to it.

The Seamstress, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Some Questions to Ponder:

  • Describe the picture in exactly eighteen words.
  • Where is she? And when (century, season, time of day)?
  • Name five colours in this painting – specific shades, not just yellow or blue.
  • What is she sewing? And why?
  • How did the painter find her?
  • Where are her parents? What do they do?
  • Is anyone outside the frame? If so, who, and doing what?
  • Describe her feet.
  • How long has she been sitting there?
  • Give a tactile description of the wall behind her, and the fabric of her skirt.
  • What will she do next, when the painter is finished?
  • What is her name?

Let your imagination roam with this one. And have fun!

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