Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 169 (Ekphrastic Poetry)

While at the AWP conference in Chicago, Tammy and I were able to swing by the Art Institute of Chicago. It was a great experience, and the art inspired quite a few poems. So I thought it might be nice to have an ekphrastic prompt today.

For ekphrastic poetry, poets use art as a prompt for their poetry. Often, the poems are a response or an elaboration of the original art.

Here are your ekphrastic prompts:

Here’s my ekphrastic attempt (using Nighthawks):


-after Edward Hopper

You couldn’t tell me before our dinner,
so I didn’t know what to do after
except wander the streets without an aim–
how we originally found this town
with its bars and libraries full of clowns–
and I passed the alleyways and the same
windows you passed. I followed you under
the full moon and city lights, thinking you
might be as lost as I was. If you’re lost,
I’ll never be found, I’ll never be found.
In this whole city, I’m the only clown,
because I can see you making the most
of our time apart. My heart is so blue
watching you strike lightning and call thunder.


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149 thoughts on “Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 169 (Ekphrastic Poetry)

  1. Juanita Lewison-Snyder

    An Ekphrastic for Goya
    by Juanita Lewison-Snyder

    (a poet’s musing on the infamous painting,
    “The Shootings of May Third 1808, by Francisco de Goya”)

    In gazing upon Goya’s insurrection,
    (the paintbrush, his firearm)
    I ponder how is it that History
    can be such a backslider sometimes;
    raising her dress coyly
    insinuating, making promises
    then raging and scheming
    the next moment against
    neighbor and compadres,
    for God, for Country
    for coin, for Crown?

    How do our ancestors even sleep?

    Painter and Poet,
    family and amigos
    could each take a chapter from
    Goya’s darkening towards the
    brutality of War, add in
    their own names for blood sake
    and chronicle it, along with
    a scorpion in the bottom of a glass
    while the rest of us keep watch
    over silly old recluses
    with their lead cadmium paints
    gaunt and disheveled,
    easily dismissed as simply mad,
    painting haunting commentary
    on stone, on canvas
    on plaster walls of their homes,
    espiritu’s to echo back at us
    a millennium later like
    sonar to the devil.

    How do our ancestors even sleep?

    © 2012 by Juanita Lewison-Snyder

  2. Caren

    In Bed The Kiss,
    by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

    She awakes in his arms, still
    And waiting for consciousness
    To determine what is real,
    Or whether she is dreaming.
    The warmth of his body, his
    Steady breathing assures her.

    She lies, quietly hoping
    That her senses aren’t playing
    Tricks on her already bruised
    Heart. He turns to look at her
    And kisses her. With one kiss
    She knows, this dream is for real.

    Caren E. Salas

  3. cstewart

    Odilon Redon

    The vague transitions of color
    Your crisp edge, then disappeared –
    Into pinks and oranges, fogged.
    The outline of blue’s flowers –
    Trace around the painting’s edge.
    Love’s arms protect and warm,

    Your use of the patterns like
    A beautiful thought of all nature’s
    textures, a combined effusion.
    The overt standing of the sturdy,
    White vase, it’s offering:
    The magic of color arranged.
    A color poem for the eye.

    White Vase With Flowers, 1916

  4. taylor graham

    Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña

    How darkly seductive the forest
    leans over this private ritual. And the sky –
    a sea of storm-clouds, disaster-weather
    on its way. At any moment these ladies will be
    drenched. How can they go about
    their afternoon as if nothing but a summer
    sunset could end this moment?
    The artist has framed his scene carefully,
    art being selective. It’s 1848:
    revolution again. Just beyond the edges
    of this pastoral, History gathers
    mobs in the streets waving flags, shouting
    slogans. Somewhere, a village
    is in flames. Generals are lining up
    their cannons. The water beckons.

  5. viv

    By serendipitous chance, I posted an ekphrastic poem this morning – music rather than art:

    and I already wrote a poem to


    A strange and lonely cityscape –
    no cars, no crowds, just a young couple
    bickering quietly about nothing
    or maybe newly-met lovers
    encased in a romantic bubble.

    The solitary man
    wonders about them, who they are,
    what they’re doing in this dead-alive dive,
    far from the bright lights
    and the city bustle.

    The weary waiter
    is eager for his shift to end.
    No tips from this lot, that’s for sure.
    With business this slow
    is his job in trouble?

    Around the corner a hobo gazes,
    envying the warmth and company within.
    He turns away, creeping
    towards his park bench home
    with shivering shuffle.

  6. seingraham

    Frida K’s Moses

    Ah Frida – as much as I adore you
    I will never pretend to understand your work
    But to try and interpret it is half the enjoyment
    At least and your “Moses” is open to so many
    Different takes and all of them bearing
    Some semblance of validity, at least that is my view
    Could you have squeezed one more political or historical
    Figure onto this canvas do you think?
    Just when I imagined I had spotted every third eye
    Reference possible, I would espy another tucked onto
    A baby’s forehead or in some other unlikely place …

    And the womb cradling the babe is exquisite
    So obviously secure beneath that glorious golden
    Orb I am assuming is some sort of sun but then, perhaps
    Not as the rays all end in the rather creepy grasping hands
    Something I don’t understand very well at all
    Maybe I can find a dissemblance of this piece somewhere
    I’ll get back to you …


  7. DanielAri

    (Really digging the Quatern form!)

    The Artists’ Honeymoon
    After “In Bed The Kiss” by Toulouse-Lautrec

    We rest, rung. On everything, a slight
    blur. Parisian. Post-coital.
    Like Sleeping Beauty in reverse
    we kiss—then fall into deep sleep.

    Next day, we eat the city. Then
    we rest, run. Gone. Very thin gaslight
    makes cities of our bodies.
    We’re natives and we’re newcomers.

    We kiss one morning, and the sun
    goes down. In the dark parlor where
    we restrung one very thin gaslight
    we conjoin at the window.

    The whole world seems underwater,
    how seas support our own wet weights
    and how all our souls wild as thoughts
    were strung on everything as light.

  8. Walt Wojtanik

    Marcella, You’ve come out to express yourself in the best way possible, in your words, on your terms and in the style that will become your own. We are ALL still learning here and all wish to have our poems and critiqued here. Robert will tell you that he himself is still learning. Poetry is life. We learn as we go, and in the end we can hope that the lives we’ve touched will be better for it. Thanks for sharing this piece and I hope to be reading much more of your work. Write on, Marcella!

  9. Marcella Franseen

    I’m re-posting above poem with tiny change that I think makes it better. Pardon me, I am not qualified to even be considered amateur but learn so much from this site and what you all write. I submit entries as practice and to force myself to stick with it. Your poems often blow me away!

    Blue Nude by Picasso

    Turn your face
    that I may wipe
    my tears
    from your cheeks.
    A shared
    of a bitter cup
    is not less bitter,
    but less to drink.
    Sorrow flees
    the pink of Spring,
    the gold of Autumn,
    the green of Summer,
    but finds a home
    in Winter’s shades of blue.
    And grief speaks of love,
    and shame of honor.
    I am lost
    in the finding.

  10. Marcella Franseen

    Blue Nude by Picasso

    Turn your face
    that I may wipe
    my tears
    from your cheeks.
    A shared
    of a bitter cup
    is not less bitter,
    but less to drink.
    Sorrow flees
    the pink of Spring
    the gold of Autumn
    the green of Summer,
    but finds a home
    in Winter’s shades of blue.
    And grief speaks of love,
    and shame of honor.
    I am lost
    in the finding.

  11. MiskMask

    “The Shootings of May Third 1808”, by Francisco de Goya

    There’s a cup of coffee within reach
    of my right hand. The cup is topped-up
    by a third with milk and it’s sweetened
    artificially. Fitting: this artificial world
    where the sum of our experiences
    come through electronic devices.

    To the left of me is a brass and glass
    lamp, a touch turns it on and off,
    that reflects nothing expect cold
    halogen light; there’s no inflection
    of God, no religious metaphors
    or similes, or divine knowledge in its light,

    just a dimwit lamp that chokes me
    of inspiration as I look at this painting.
    Two hundred years and we’ve hardly
    learnt a lesson it seems. Innocents
    levelled like shafts of wheat in an open field,
    rifles held and cradled against their chest,

    elbows raised, fingers looped into triggers,
    a point-blank aim by faceless soldiers
    at cowering monks and pleading peasants
    and figures in darkly-coloured clothing …
    well, all except an luminous figure,
    a man with a tanned face in light clothing,

    who seems to welcome death like a tax refund.
    Is there some reason why he’s radiant
    with colours of soft light like a dying star,
    a super-nova; is he a super-star?
    Why is it we don’t know who he is?
    And behind me white noise,

    mumbling monotonous vowels
    and consonants, a trickle of news
    in a steady rhythmic hum from the TV:
    murders in Nigeria, kidnapping, bombs,
    several wars, solar storms, political prancing
    at the expense of citizens and it all

    leaves me thinking that the news
    hasn’t changed very much in two-hundred years.
    We really haven’t learnt very much at all.
    And my muse remains numb; the past
    and the present confounding us both,
    leaving ‘her’ speechless and me wordless.

  12. Bruce Niedt

    And here’s one I wrote a few years ago:

    Hopper’s Nighthawks

    A vast window reaches out
    into charcoal night like a lighthouse.
    Four figures linger inside
    under the Phillies cigar sign.
    The man with his back to us
    seems lost in his own shadows,
    hunched over a cup of coffee.
    The couple across from him
    sit pensively, cigarettes in hand.
    He, with Bogie fedora and tensed jaw;
    she, with ivory-cream skin and flaming hair
    could be Mary Astor or Bette Davis.
    It’s late, and they seem to be deciding
    between another coffee and going home,
    maybe to her place, maybe to his.
    The counter man bends over,
    washing up, no doubt. Coffee urns
    loom over him, gray and gleaming.
    Last orders – he’ll be closing soon,
    then browns and blacks and grays
    will reclaim the diner for the night,
    till dawn, just a few hours later,
    brings slanted light back again,
    whites and yellows, reds for the brick face,
    to brighten the canvas of morning.

  13. Bruce Niedt

    El Tres de Mayo

    (after Goya)

    The Spaniard in the bright white shirt
    throws out his arms in appeal
    or defiance. Reflecting the light
    from a pre-dawn lantern, his brilliance
    washes over the others, cowering
    in the shadows, and his comrades
    already dead in a heap at his feet.
    Napoleon’s men line up before him
    like a single machine, gun barrels extended.
    In a moment, his white shirt will blossom red
    as he lies atop the other rebels on the ground.
    But we do not forget him,
    and his spirit is in anyone who ever
    waved a banner for their rights ,
    toppled a despot’s statue,
    or stood down a tank in a public square.

  14. J Cosmo Newbery

    I missed your quatern competition so thought I would give it s shot here: And here

    In Bed the Kiss

    In bed, the kiss, the warm embrace
    Provides the lovers with a place,
    A place to meet as kindred souls:
    Simple pleasures and common goals.

    Sensual rewards of the chase:
    In bed, the kiss, the warm embrace.
    Who chased who is of small import
    When both are willing in the sport.

    The world can be a place of grey:
    Cold and barren, advanced decay.
    In bed, the kiss, the warm embrace
    Removes them in both time and space.

    Skin on skin and in arms entwined;
    Hopes and passions closely aligned.
    These are pleasures they can’t replace:
    In bed, the kiss, the warm embrace.


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