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How to Write a Poem from a Piece of Art Work - Markings 117

Writing a Poem from a Piece of Art Work

This can be a very creative and interesting subject for writing a poem

There are many approaches that you can take:

You might decide to tell the ‘story’ of the painting.

You might decide to tell part of the ‘story’ of the painting. In other words you select a detail from the painting rather than the whole picture.

You select a character from the painting and write about them. Your poem could focus then only on the person you have selected and have nothing much more to do with the painting.

You might select something in the poem that is inanimate (without life)e.g. a bowl of fruit, an umbrella, a car, a piece of clothing, a house and use that as a focus for your poem.

You might actually ‘enter’ into the poem and become a part of it. This requires an enormous amount of imagination and not everyone is able to do it. If you can it might provide the most wonderful idea for a poem.

You might let the painting act upon your imagination and senses to such a degree that you feel or get a very strong emotion from it. Sadness, loneliness, jealousy, etc. Again, another idea for a poem that might begin with the painting but ‘take off’ in another direction altogether.

You might take any other approach you like so that the painting in turn becomes words on your page in the shape of a poem.



Having chosen your painting or piece of art, please sit quietly and look at it closely allowing it to really work on your thoughts and imagination. Study it in detail. Examine it minutely. Ask it questions. Close your eyes. Now create it in your mind’s eye.

A Working Title:

Name your painting or piece of art. You may simply want to leave the name the artist has given it or change it completely. It’s up to you but this must be done before you move on. This is only a working title and may remain or be changed again later.


Please work quickly here and really brainstorm your painting or piece of art on paper until you feel you’ve exhausted the process. Make notes, scribble down words, sentences, colours, feelings, memories, etc. etc: anything however seemingly irrelevant or silly. Write everything down that seems to suggest itself to you until you’ve exhausted the process completely.

A Poem:

You are now ready to begin your poem. Write the title down you chose earlier, first - at the top of a clean page and begin. Use the ideas you gathered above in BRAINSTORMING but don’t try to use them all: you will have a sense after a few minutes where the poem is heading and what to use and what to discard. Try not to make the poem too long: aim for perhaps 20-40 lines.

Good writing and good luck!

Remember: the painting or art is only where you begin your poem - it can be about the painting or art but it doesn’t have to be. It’s up to you.

©Jeff Guess 2019


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