Friday, June 06, 2008

June Poetry Prompt 1 - Words and Image

There’s a strong poetic tradition of poems written in response to works of art, and I have a great book, Voices in the Gallery (sadly out of print but available second-hand on Amazon), edited by Danny and Joan Abse, that’s an anthology of poems and their corresponding paintings and sculptures.

The first prompt this month is to write a poem in response to Van Gogh’s painting above. There are several ways of ‘entering’ a visual image in order to write a poem and here are a few suggestions that might get you going. But please respond to the painting in any way you'd like:

1. You can describe the picture. You can say what it makes you think and feel. But remember description is not just about decoration, it needs to be significant too i.e. it needs to mean something, it needs to carry ideas and themes.
2. You can let the picture act as a ‘trigger’. It might remind you of something in your own memory and you take that journey and leave the picture behind.
3. Voice 1 – You can become one of the characters in the picture and give an account of your experience, your pre-occupations and dreams.
4. Voice 2 – You can adopt the voice of someone or something that’s outside of the painting, e.g. a character’s mother, their next-door neighbour, or even the artist himself.

I look forward to reading your work.


Annie said...

Hi Lynne, I just discovered applehouse and may dip in from time to time and write poems, or just read. What a great idea and womderful writing prompts

Lynne Rees said...

Look forward to seeing you here!

Mary Rose said...

Words and Image June Prompt 1.

They walk together towards the brightly lit café
unaware that this moment will immortalise them,
capture them through the artist’s brush.

She is light-hearted unaware of the blow
he is preparing to deliver.
He is weighted with the burden of a guilt he cannot avoid,
scans the empty tables, selecting one
on the outskirts of the lighted area, away from diners
whose orders are being taken.
He pulls her chair out waits silently for her to sit
takes the chair opposite.
They are outside the artist’s remit now.

The sky is littered with crystalloid stars
at odds with the strong light shining from inside the café
casting shadows on the cobbled pavement and the two
carefully chosen seats.
He has avoided the unnecessary light from the lamp,
aware that her eyes have not left his face.
She watches as he summons the waitress, hands him the menu
asking him in whispered words to choose for her.
Soon he will tell her.

There are only ten minutes left
before she will receive the blow
which is to leave her life shattered.

he will eat without tasting, leave
the table unable to bear her anguish.
He will enter the café, settle the bill
walk out of her life.
She will sit motionless
stare at her untouched meal

Mary Rose.

charlotte segaller said...

A gift from Vincent

I’m peering into strangers again,
through his eyes.
Here we reveal
and hide.
A light too bright
uncovers a worn leather bag,
worn out lives.
Now I see,
the one constant thing,
his stars are like flowers,
grace falling.

Sharra said...

Charlotte - I really liked yours :)

Here's mine...

Overlooking a café at night time

Loading her brush
with Cadmium Orange
she brings the lamplight below
to her blank wall.

Now she can see.

Shutters stripe her face
like prison bars.
The tables beneath beckon her
to sit, to stargaze,
but she cannot leave.

Shades of Payne’s Grey and Yellow Ochre
carve cobbles across the floor,
arching her toes over roundness
after the flatness of wood.

Raw Sienna sculpts a chair,
Titanium White, an empty table.
And Olive Green branches sketched
on the walls, overshadow
footprint-smudged cobbles.

On her ceiling she paints Orion, Cassiopeia
Pegasus, staring up at them,
moving her mouth
in silent conversation.

At the table she paints another chair
with Lamp Black boots tucked under.
Her brush strokes legs, chest
arms and face, up to
hair and hat.

his paint-stained hands,
she points out
the constellations to him.

Lynne Rees said...

Thanks for posting your poems. And so quickly!

It's great to be able to see the variety of ways different people tackle the same material.

There's a 'notebook idea' just up for the next week.

charlotte segaller said...

Sharra, I really liked yours too! :)

Sharra said...

Thanks Charlotte :)

martin cordrey said...

Café Terrace at Twilight

My first impression; you are a child, if not,
childish – a brush with innocence, lush colour,
amateurish, dots of leaves, dabs of trees,
the cobble floor bubbles like soap, the door,
the people, more? The overbearing hood
warmed by a yellow flood of bright lights
of now, of today, of possibility .

My next impression is the stark darkness
of their past – this hour will not last,
these cats eyes in ripe skies – no dishes –
peoples wishes – alien saucers – shapes,
this look is a periodic dream; a splash
of damson, a dash of plumb, a flick
of brick, a lick of candlewick on the table,
a jot of wood, a blob of stone people stood
frozen for ever together, unable to leave,
to start a new conversation, a new liaison.

The walls are faces, creatures of the twilight,
the window slates are prison bars
on the tables ghosts in pickled jars –
no, the tables are Jupiter’s moons, the lives
of fools sprawl through the street, retreat
like medieval monks or primeval skunks,
the mirrored eyes of wives and unfaithful lies
like migrating birds and herds of wilder-beast
feast on rare-meat: This is my blue period.

Lynne Rees said...

Hi Martin - thanks for posting. I love some of the imagery in this poem.

Caroline M Davies said...

The Night café

How the lights shine out
bright yellow on the terrace of the café.
See the face of the waitress
smiling. The shadows
cast by sunlight
banished for these night hours.

The table tops gleam with a green sheen.
The constant chink of glasses
and the hubbub of conversation
suggest conviviality.
All is bright but outside
the night waits down the street.

Call for another beer.
Chuck another franc to the guitar player
to make him play on.
Lean back against the wooden
embrace of the chair.
Put off for a few moments longer
the pain of stumbling out
alone into the dark.

Linda W said...


His last drink soothes as the night cools.
Soon the waiter will pile chairs on tables,
dim the light that swills onto the street,
bustle a sweeping brush around his feet,
clearing away fag ends and bottle tops,
the detritus of the day.
And he will stand and stagger, start for home,
lit by lozenges of lighted windows
yellow on black like the last summer wasp,
till he reaches his own dark stair.