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Ekphrasis in Haiku, Tanka and Related Forms:
II. Exercises in Ekphrastic Writing

As I was researching online resources for this article, I came upon an education website called ReadWriteThink, which has posted a high school lesson plan for writing ekphrastic poetry. A handout with prompts offers various approaches. I decided to match examples of my own work to the prompts and see how many of the possibilities I had actually tried. One or two pieces had to be written on the spot, though I found haiku, tanka, haibun and tanka prose to fit most of the prompts.

It was a learning experience. I realized that I am rather canonical in how I choose which form to use—haiku for those that ae more descriptive, tanka for personal response, haibun and tanka prose for persona pieces. I've resolved to try to shake off my art historian's concern with verifiable historical fact, and to stretch myself more by working on dialogue. But I've also realized that art figures in my writing more than I thought it did, and that's a good feeling.

So all in all, it was a good exercise. If you're interested in this genre of writing and want to broaden or honey our skills, I recommend doing as I did and completing all the prompts.

My Set of Responses
to the ReadWriteThink Prompts


1.Write about the scene or subject depicted in the artwork (Monet).



2. Write in the voice of a person
or object portrayed in the artwork (Obata).



3. Write about your experience
of looking at the art (Rembrandt).



4. Relate the work of art to something
it reminds you of (Butterfield).



5. Imagine what was happening while
the artist was creating the piece (Van Gogh).



6. Write in the voice of the artist (O'Keeffe).



7. Write a dialogue among characters
in a work of art (Munch).



8. Speak directly to the artist or
the subject of the piece (Picasso).


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