Art sometimes inspires me to write poetry. Below are two paintings and the poems they inspired. Please read Lin’s post A New Way of Looking: Ekphrasis for an introduction to this idea. It is often not enough to just see a painting and write; sometimes research into the subject or the artist is helpful. I researched James Joyce for the poem, “Joyce.” The painting was incorrectly titled “Joyce in the City” on another website, where I was inspired to write the poem. The correct name for the painting is Paris Street, Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte, 1877.
Plotting out your novel
in the rain,
or so I imagine.
I struggled with Ulysses,
didn’t get past the first five pages
to be honest.
You wouldn’t kneel
at your mother’s bedside,
standing up against Catholicism
even in death.
Your get rich quick schemes
failed, until you acquired a patron.
Still you squandered the money
We’ll never know much about
the letters burned
by an overzealous relative.
Many eye surgeries later,
Joyce and an umbrella,
woman on his arm,
in the rain.
The second painting, The Little Deer by Frida Kahlo, 1946, also inspired a poem. I dug a little deeper into the research for this painting. The surrealism of the painting is reflected in this poem, “A Painting.”
You let your guard down
Didn’t see the hunter’s orange vest
Or didn’t care
Can the mute speak?
Still you run through the woods
You should be dead
A stag with the face of a woman
countenance as mysterious as the Mona Lisa’s
Run, deer, run
As if the plague were after you
As if followed by Roman soldiers
Aching to martyr.
What can you take away from this? If you need inspiration, look online for paintings to inspire your writing. They can be modern art, classical, fine art, or even photographs. You don’t have to research the subject of the painting or photograph or the artist, but it adds depth to the final work.