NaPoWriMo Quarantine Edition – Exercise 21

And once again, it’s time for an ekphrastic poem. (Yep, it’s fertile ground, and I’m tilling away.) This is an exercise I first gave my students last year for one of our Poetry & Science classes.

There are four image snippets that you’ll be looking at, hidden under the buttons marked One, Two, Three and Four. These are all from the same image, taken from the 2019 Wiki Loves Monuments contest. A big part of the point of this exercise is how your understanding of what you’re seeing changes as you go, and to force you to concentrate on parts before contemplating the whole. So don’t click ahead!

Start by clicking on One – it should open up with the partial image. Taking a couple of minutes, write down everything you see in that small space. Colour, shape, whether it looks like there’s a texture of some sort, whether it’s light, or dark, or solid, or fluid, or alive, dead, non-living, what temperature it is, whether it’s moving or still, etc. Be very specific. The same colour as …? Moving … how? Does it repel you, attract you, puzzle you? Note down anything that occurs to you.

Now move on to image Two, and repeat the process. What do you see? What do you think? Again, give yourself plenty of time – this is all material to work from when you start the actual poem. Then click on Three and do the same thing yet again.

Finally, it’s time to click on Four and look at the whole picture. Repeat the detail steps, but for this bigger view of the photo. Again, be specific – colour, shape, texture, movement, number, etc. What changes? Is there anything that surprises you? How do you now understand what you saw before?

Taking the four sets of notes (three of close-up snippets, one of wide-view whole image), write a poem about the scene where you are either the one who took the photo, or someone who is in the photo somewhere, hidden. Include in your poem at least one thing that is close enough to touch, and one thing that is so far away you can only just see it. Poetic licence is very much allowed, so play with it.

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