Poetry Writing Lessons - Ecphrastic Poetry or Ekphrastic Poetry

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Ecphrastic Poetry
Exploring Concepts More Deeply and Exploring Empathy.

Little Polish Boy
Before you Begin, Explore -

By: Peter L. Fischl

'Read poetry like a writer of poetry.' What might this
statement mean? How do we do it?

Poetry Lesson

So many times in my career I've seen teachers add sections to a 'language contract' that say 'write a poem'. Often this section of the 'contract' is done with little or no scaffolding and oh so often that poetry falls into the 'dancing/prancing' realm where rhyme exists soley for the sake of rhyme and the poem is pretty much trite.

I like to see students exposed to many different types of poetry forms so they can experiment and play with words to construct texts outside their comfort zone. The added advantage of this is that they have a much greater range of possibilities to ignore the next time they have to 'write a poem'. :-)

One of the poetry types I have had a lot of success with over the last few years has been ekphrastic poetry.

'Ekphrasis' means 'writing inspired by art' and it offers the opportunity to explore 'deeper' issues. It enabels students to respond emotionally and intellectually to concepts presented in paintings, photography and installations.

Tips and Tricks for Writing Ekphrastic Poetry with Students

Here is a collection of teaching prompts I use to guide the students in creating their initial poems. By choosing one or a combination of the following prompts it is possible to create many, many different poems. Especially when you combine these ideas with those of a classroom teacher and a variety of students.

I tend to guide the students through about ten of these ideas and then get them to work with friends to choose a collection of lines that 'sound' the most 'insightful' and 'poetic'. I've have been most surprised over the years with the quality of what children can produce.

Biggest Hint - Pick only a couple of these ideas that you feel will give the children a different experience of poetry.

- Students ask questions of an artwork and simply list these questions to produce the poem.

- What is the 'big picture' meaning?

- Imagine yourself entering the artwork - look around - describe what your senses experience - pay special attention to:

- what can be seen
- what can be heard
- what aromas are present
- what looks like it has an interesting tactile sensations
- what tastes could be described
- what emotions are present & their effect on mood

- Use words that have your poem reflect the mood of the artwork. How will you explore alternative words?

- Notice the little things - Ask questions about the little things - State what they are for. Inquire why they are there?

- Ask questions of each character in an artwork, list their responses and this list becomes the poem.

- Describe the actions of each character in the artwork - this becomes the poem

- Describe the colours, techniques used, mood and use of light.

- Ask questions of the artist regarding colours, techniques, mood and use of light.

- Speak to the artist. What do you want to ask? - these questions become the poem

More Tips and Tricks for
Ecphrastic Poetry Lessons

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