Wanna Play? The Ekphrastic Thrill

Ekphrastic Poetry

Ekphrasis is a Greek word meaning “description.”  The Poetry Foundation describes ekphrastic poetry this way:  “a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art.  Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the ‘action’ of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning.”  While the earlier emphasis was on vivid, detailed description, the term has come to apply mainly to “poems written about works of art” or “poems responding to art.”

Rattle Magazine hosts a monthly ekphrastic poem challenge (“Art Inspiring Poetry”) at its website, and I’ve been pondering playing…but haven’t yet.  Then this image flitted by on Twitter the other day (posted by @VeganYogaDude), and I was seized, naturally, by the ekphrastic prompting.


Rain by Eduard Gordeev

“Rain,” by Eduard Gordeev


Here’s my untitled take on it:


The brilliant city street,

behind glass streaked with rain,

brilliant hues contrast

against the darksome sky—


a lurid beauty—


like the tear-washed face

of Tammy Faye,

arresting, an ever-surprise,

alight somehow from within.




So how about it?  Wanna play?  In an ekphrastic challenge, the general idea is for everyone to write about the same image or piece of art, but feel free to use any sort of art that draws you.  You can use the one I wrote about, Rattle’s images, or bring one of your own, if you prefer. (If you use a different image, go ahead and post it along with your poem, with proper credits, of course.)

My own approach is generally to start by looking at the image two ways–a first-blush impression, and then taking a deeper, longer look for details and slower impressions (sort of a visio divina practice).  Next, I’ll often start off my poem drafting with a poetic description, and then segue or blend into response or connection.  Beyond that, there are no real regulations or limitations—tone, length, purpose, approach…all are entirely up to you.

How about it?  You up for a little ekphrasis, darlin’?

17 thoughts on “Wanna Play? The Ekphrastic Thrill

  1. It wouldn’t surprise me if I changed this throughout the day…but this is my morning’s attempt. I am thoroughly enjoying this series, and I appreciate your challenges. Please keep doing them!


    Water on the window
    Smudges lines
    No one sees.

    Still life happens.

    I shudder
    Rain inside.

    Please wake up.

    • This is lovely! The title is telling, but only after one has finished reading the poem. The fourth line has a delightful double-meaning. The parallelism of the rain on the window and the rain inside the speaker resonates. The call to action (the request that someone wake up) can also mean multiple things.

      Knowing the situation in which you wrote this, I can say I am so grateful that she did indeed wake up!

      Thank you SO much for playing! I’m finding a lot of folks are better at this than they thought. 🙂

  2. Beautiful poem which has my head mixed up in good ways. Love the first stanza’s ref. to beauty and the contrasting incongruous ref. to Tammy Faye. I agree with Crystal: keep up this series please.

    • Thank you! I love the incongruities that poetry can invite and even celebrate, those odd connections, almost free-associative, that somehow still work. Thank you for your kind words about the series! That’s encouraging.

  3. I agree – keep up this series. It’s loads of fun, even if some of my efforts should be written in chalk on the bottom of my motorcycle boots. I’ll have something to offer up soon.

  4. Poetry is not my thing, but to my experienced eye this is a picture of happy rain so I’ll play. A sandbox offering, I love that.

    Cheerful hues,
    A lightening sky
    This rain is transitory.

    Not so with
    Portland’s charcoal grays
    Our rain’s another story.

    • OMG, this is way fun! A form poem, even–the syllables, the rhymes! Though it is short, the imagery and contrasts are clear. Lovely outing, m’dear! (For the record, I’d be thrilled even with Portland’s non-transitory, gray rain for a while. LOL.) Thank you for playing in the sandbox!

Overheard at a kiln: "The main teaching of all religions is, don't be a dick." You heard the man--comment away, but...you know...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s