• Christine Delea

Poetry Prompt: Ekphrastic Poem

Updated: Mar 21, 2019

An ekphrastic poem is one that communicates in some way with a piece of art. It can respond to it, argue with it, provide a narrative, create a history, or describe the piece. Some poets add actual facts about the piece and/or the artist to their poem, and others make up everything. The only "rule" is to mention the piece and the artist--in the title, the poem, a note afterwards, or an epigraph.

John Keats' "Ode On a Grecian Urn" is one of the most famous examples, but ekphrastic poems are a favorite of a variety of poets. Here are some for inspiration:

Adrienne Rich's poem "Mourning Picture" after Mourning Picture by Edwin Romanzo Elmer

W. H. Auden's "Musée des Beaux Arts" after Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by Peter

Bruegel the Elder

Wallace Stevens' "The Man with the Blue Guitar" after The Old Guitarist by Picasso

Anne Sexton's "The Starry Night" after The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh

Frank O'Hara's "On Seeing Larry Rivers' Washington Crossing the Delaware at the

Museum of Modern Art" after Washington Crossing the Delaware by Larry Rivers

May Swenson's "The Tall Figures of Giacometti" after City Square by Alberto Giacometti

Cathy Song's "Girl Powdering Her Nose" after Girl Powdering Her Neck by Kitagawa


Please use the painting below as the source for your ekphrastic poem, or find another piece of artwork. Have fun!

Offering the Panel to the Bullfighter by Mary Cassatt, painted in 1873

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