Posts Tagged ‘ekphrasis’

Poetry Friday round-up is with Mary Lee at A(nother) Year of Reading.

My writing group is here this week with a new name and a new challenge. Formerly, the Sunday Swaggers, we are now the Inklings. Catherine Flynn challenged us this month to write an Ekphrastic Poem.

From the Poetry Foundation:


“Description” in Greek. An ekphrastic poem is 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.

A few weeks ago I was participating in #WriteOut, a virtual writing marathon from the National Writing Project. On this visit, we were in San Antonio, Tx. One of the prompts was a work of art by Georgia O’Keefe that is housed at the McNay Art Museum.

Evening Star V by Georgia O’Keefe, from the McNay Art Museum

Evening Star

Texas sky
into star-gaze
red glare haze
across blue waves–

And there–
a point of light
opens a minor C–
insignificant note
like a dust-speck
glistening then gone. 

Margaret Simon, draft

To see more Inkling ekphrasis:


For #TheSealyChallenge, I have read 5 poetry books. This week I wrote blog posts about Before the Ever After, a verse novel by Jacqueline Woodson, and Ilya Kaminsky’s Deaf Republic, a totally different novel in verse. I also blogged about The Bridge Between Us, a collection of poems about teaching through the Covid-19 pandemic. I’ve read Robert Bly’s Morning Poems and Naomi Shihab Nye’s Cast Away, but haven’t blogged about them yet. I am enjoying this challenge. It’s making me pick up poetry books that I have had on my shelves and never read through. I only heard about this challenge this year, but it’s been around for a few years. Is anyone else doing it? How are you handling and processing?

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Once again this year I have joined Laura Shovan’s February writing challenge.  Her birthday is this month, and she celebrates by inspiring others to write a poem every day.  I thought this was maybe my third year of doing this challenge, but the other day one of those Facebook memories came up and reminded me that I’ve done this for 5 years.  That’s a lot of poems!

This year’s challenge is writing ekphrasis which is poetry about art.  Every day a participant posts a work of art for us to respond to.  I’ve managed to write each day since the warm-ups started.

I’ve set up rules for myself.  When I see the image on Facebook, I save it and place it in a Google doc.  Then I do not allow myself to read other people’s poems until I’ve written mine. (I cheat on this one.) I write and revise quickly, no overthinking the process, and copy and paste my poem into the Facebook post as a comment.  I comment on at least 3 other poets.  The group has grown to over 100 people, so it’s just not feasible to comment on them all.

Ekphrasis is a good way to inspire poetry because there is no form attached.  You can write in any way you choose, form or free verse, short or long.  You can write a mask poem from the painting/sculpture’s point of view.  You can be on the outside looking in or on the inside looking out.

The flexibility of form appeals to me.  Some days the poems come easily and others I have to let sit a while.  Sometimes I research the artist.  When a sculpture by Rodin came up, I researched and found a quote to work from.  Sometimes I research the topic. I collect words and then write.

Writing a poem a day is a challenge.  But when you are participating in a group of kind responders, the writing is worthwhile and rewarding.  We need each other.  We need to feel a part of something bigger. We need affirmation and acceptance.

One of the most profound for me was Laura’s son Jay’s self-portrait.  Here is the portrait by Jay Shovan and my poem.

Unfinished portrait by Jay Shovan


Deep brown eyes
stare at me,
look through me,
hold me still.

Slashed and dripped
with strokes of green,
baby blue, white
on flesh, each brush
from the palate played

like a piper in a parade
leading me to you,
but all I see now
are your eyes

drawing me into a window
of my own soul. These
are my eyes.

–Margaret Simon, (c) draft 2018

On the more whimsical side was this funny spoon sculpture by Raul Zuniga circa 1971.

Owls three
Smiley, Cranky, and Boastful
perched on a branch of a safety pin.
Bring me your wise ole thoughts
Find me a place to perch
Help me be the Who
I am meant to be.

–Margaret Simon, (c) draft 2018

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Poetry Friday posts are with Katie today at The Logonauts.


My Southern comrade, Keri Collins Lewis, sent me a gem of a poem this week.  She knows where I live and how much I enjoy dancing with my husband.  She captured this in a wonderful poem celebrating me.   Keri, I cherish your words.  Thank you, darlin’. (Say it with a Mississippi drawl.)


Last week I led a teachers writing institute.  I invited our PF friend, Catherine Flynn, to present via Skype about visual literacy.  She left us with a Marc Chagall painting to ponder.  Since Keri wrote about “my love” and we are nearing our 35th wedding anniversary, I am inclined to share my response with you.

The Promenade

In a geometric village,
sculpted lawns, a steepled church,
houses on the hillside,
a man holds his bride’s hand.
His touch sends her floating
on the wind like a pink kite
dancing with the clouds.

Your touch does this to me
even now, far from this village.
Over the landscape of life,
your soft gentle love
is enough to send
me flying, reaching
for the joy-sky.

–Margaret Simon


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Poetry Friday round-up is with Dori at Dori Reads

Poetry Friday round-up is with Dori at Dori Reads


With the threat of flooding gone and a need to connect with others, I attended a writing workshop led by my friend Sandra Sarr.

Sandy moved to Louisiana two years ago and quickly embedded herself in the arts community.  From her travels here to research her novel, she met interesting people like Dennis Paul Williams.  She once took me on a visit to his studio.  In 2013, University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press published a large coffee table book of Dennis’s artwork.  I bought the book, but hate to admit that it just sat on the coffee table.

But Sandy’s ekphrastic exercise brought me closer to the images housed in Soul Exchange.  She made color copies and handed them out.  This is the one I picked.

DPWilliams painting


Before Sandy instructed us to write, I started writing.

Secrets shared
like a kiss
softly touching
a cheek.
Even while
she’s sleeping,
she hears
the sound
of singing,
a lullaby.

Sun glows
through the window.
She traces the line
of her face
in the mirror
only touching
the outline–
That space
where skin
meets sky.

She’s never lonely
covers of lace
because she knows
the secrets,
the ones whispered
on the wings
of a prayer.

Even her hair
glows like
rainbow light.

–Margaret Simon

This was just the free write, but I was happy with it.  Then Sandy asked us to circle words from our free write that had some power for us.  She handed out notecards for us to write our words on, tear them apart and put them back together into a new poem.


Words taken from my free writing.

Words taken from my free writing.


This was the resulting poem.

Enter dark space
a line draws her face

Her protector
in covers of lace.

Angels kiss
her prayer.

the path to grace.

–Margaret Simon

What I love about this activity is the abstract way it gets to the soul where you write with authenticity and abandon all at the same time.  I want to try this with my students.  I wonder how they will handle the randomness of it.  Will they get frustrated or enjoy the freedom?  Some days, and especially hard days full of sadness, I find solace in poetry, in the act of creating.  It gets me out of my thinking brain for a minute and allows me to relax into flow. Thanks, Sandy, for sharing Dennis’s art and leading me on a path of discovery.



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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.

Write Beside Them was the title of the NCTE panel of Donald Graves winners from the last three years. I felt so proud and privileged to be on this panel along with Heidi Weber, 2013 winner, and Emily Elizabeth Smith, 2015 winner. Donald Graves’ philosophy that the teacher of writing is a writer herself drives my interaction with my students.

On Monday, the first day back after a week long break, we had a field trip. Not usually a good idea, but I signed up for the first rehearsal spot for our play at the Shadows, a local historical home. The gifted students in grades 4-6 practice the parts and perform for first graders. They tell the story of one of the boys, Charles Conrad Weeks, his sister Harriet, and his friends Riley and Caroline who lived and worked in the home in 1840. My students look forward to this play every year.

In addition to the play practice, I led my students down Main Street to an art gallery. There they looked at local art. This is where we wrote together.

I wrote beside them. Each of us chose a painting or other piece of art to inspire our writing. I wanted to leave behind little snippets on the artwork, so I found miniature brown bags for the kids to write on. We left them next to the art pieces. When the owner walks in this morning, he will have words waiting for him.

I wrote a poem for the work in progress on the easel.

An empty frame
of color
a world,
a circus
of imagination.
–Margaret Simon

Writing and art mix well together. My students described the artwork as well as found some inner truth to express. I don’t have any of the poems to share here today, but check back on Poetry Friday.




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Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Margaret Gibson Simon and father,  John Gibson

Margaret Gibson Simon and father, John Gibson

I am visiting my parents in Mississippi. My father and I are working on the final touches of our book project. Yes, you heard me…book project. I am excited to announce the publication of Illuminate, a book of poetry and art.

I started writing poems to my father’s Christmas cards in December of 2012. I’ve posted some of the drafts on this blog. My friend Victoria Sullivan at Border Press will be publishing it. The book will be small, about 25 pages. The drawings to me are striking, done in pen and ink pointillism. I hope the book will be ready mid-October in time for Christmas.

In 2008, I wrote my first poem about my father’s art. There is a drawing framed in my bedroom of an American Indian woman with her child, wrapped together in a blanket as though she is shielding her child from all danger. The writing connected me to his art work in a spiritual way. I share this first poem in the preface of Illuminate. Check back in October to order your own copy.

My Father’s Drawing
Dots of ink and graphite rise in tension with paper
to form a likeness of mother and child.
The wild contrast of darks to light plays
in harmony creating a vision of love.

In the meantime, I grew up,
became a woman with children
living away from my father.
His letters come to me in thank you notes.

Yet everyday, I look at this drawing—
the dots of pointillism reach out from the wall
and grant me an audience
with his graceful praise.
–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

Mother Earth by John Gibson

Mother Earth by John Gibson

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Background & Ball by Song_sing
Background & Ball, a photo by Song_sing on Flickr.

Kaleidoscope Dreams

Look into your beachball crystal ball.
Hold the top with Mr. Pointer
and spin!

Colors swirl, fractals curl.
Spirals to a world
–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

I got an invitation to play on a website called TinEye Labs from my cyber-friend Linda Baie. This is a fun site to play on. You can select up to 5 colors and get a collage of 35 photos. For my poem above, I selected 3 colors and then chose this photo to write about.

I tried this in my classroom. The bad news: Our school network blocked the site. The good news: I have an iPhone. Bad news: Only one student can use it at a time. Good news: The activity was exciting and inspired fun writing. Since I only teach small groups of students, I was able to meet with each student separately and allow them to play. I sent the photos by email to my school account and printed them. The students glued the picture into their journals and wrote.

One student chose a psychedelic multicolored head to write about. Another student made the comment, “That is what a snake sees, not your face, but the colors of your temperature.” I’m not sure how true his statement is; Gifted kids often tell me things I don’t already know, while they also say completely untrue things with confidence. Anyway, that statement inspired this hilarious poem from Matthew. The photo is here.

Snake eyes…literally!

This is what a snake sees,isn’t it strange?

This is what he sees when he’s in your range.

This is all the heat that is in your body,

Kinda makes everyone a real big hottie!

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Tara at A Teaching Life.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Tara at A Teaching Life.

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Ocean Call

I am participating in the 2013 summer Poem Swap that Tabatha Yeatts is organizing. What fun it is to receive a poem in the real snail mail! This week Tabatha sent out a picture prompt suggesting an ekphrastic poem. Some poet will receive this poem this week.

The photo that prompted this poem is Noise of the Waves by Phillip Schumacher.

Ocean Call

If you feel small,
sit on the grass-lined dune
near the sea,

cross your legs,
cup your ear,

The wind will call to you
on wisps of white clouds,
over the roar of waves

your simple thoughts,
inviting you to be one
with the sculptor of things.

–Margaret Simon

For more Poetry Friday, go to Amy’s site Poem Farm.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Amy at Poem Farm

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Amy at Poem Farm

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E is for Ekphrasis. This is one of my favorite styles of poetry. I like to use art for inspiration. If you’ve followed my blog, you know this and have seen many poems I’ve written to go with art.

Today is April 7th, and I’m only on the 5th letter of the alphabet. I’ve had to give myself permission to not fulfill my own assignment. This next week is state testing. I may be a little grumpy, so I am going to write what I want to write. The students will not be coming to my class, so our daily poetry exercise is suspended until next week. We will take up where we left off.

My friend, fellow teacher and artist, Cathy Mills sent me images of some of her paintings. Today I am writing to another in her series of Stories. This one I wanted to play with the visual as well as the words, so I captured it as an image.

"Layer upon Layer" by Cathy Mills

“Layer upon Layer” by Cathy Mills


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Slice of Life Challenge Day 11

Slice of Life Challenge Day 11

A few weeks ago I ran in to an old friend at an art show. She was showing a new body of work. We talked, and I told her of my love of writing ekphrastic poetry. On Saturday, she sent me by email a number of her paintings. Here is my experiment with the first.

Inner Faces by Cathy Mills

Inner Faces by Cathy Mills

Inner Faces

If only I could see you in double,
inside and out,
like the wings of a butterfly
opening, welcoming,
letting me in.

If only you could know my desire
to be your only mother,
the one who loves you most,
maybe you would honor me
with your presence
and let me in.

If only our lives were connected
by a strong abdomen
we could share more than a name,
a recognition of two faces
mirrored and aware,
letting me in.

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