Ekphrasis means "description" in Greek
ekphrastic poetry is a form of creative writing
describing a work of art or a visual image
Consider the following approaches:
• Write about the scene or subject being depicted in the artwork
• Write in the voice of a person, animal or object shown in the work of art
• Write about your experience of looking at the art
• Relate the work of art to something else it reminds you of
• Imagine what was happening while the artist was creating the piece
• Write in the voice of the artist
• Write a dialogue among characters in a work of art
• Speak directly to the artist or the subject(s) of the piece
• Imagine a story behind what you see depicted in the piece
• Speculate about why the artist created this work
What do the colours remind you of? Make your own list. Avoid using common colour words in your writing – enrich poetry and prose with more interesting colour descriptions, such as those from the Derwent Pencil range:
0100 Sherbet Lemon 0200 Sun Yellow 0210 Cadmium Yellow 0220 Sicilian Yellow 0230 Golden Yellow 0240 Sienna Gold 0250 Cadmium Orange 0260 Burnt Orange 0300 Tangerine 0310 Mid Vermilion 0320 Scarlet Pink 0400 Poppy Red 0410 Hot Red 0500 Chilli Red 0510 Cherry 0520 Carmine Pink 0530 Crimson 0600 Shiraz 0610 Red Violet 0700 Fuchsia 0710 Deep Rose 0720 Thistle 0730 Dusky Purple 0740 Mauve 0750 Dark Purple 0760 Deep Violet 0800 Violet 0810 Lagoon 0820 Peacock Blue 0830 Navy Blue 0840 Iron Blue 0850 Deep Blue 0900 Iris Blue 1000 Bright Blue 1100 Deep Indigo 1200 Sea Blue 1210 Dark Aquamarine 1220 Green Aquamarine 1230 Mallard Green 1300 Teal Green 1310 Iron Green 1320 Ionian Green 1330 Vivid Green 1400 Apple Green 1500 Field Green 1510 Beech Green 1520 Hooker’s Green 1530 Felt Green 1540 Light Olive 1550 Spring Green 1560 Fern 1600 Leaf Green 1700 Mustard 1710 Amber 1720 Tan 1730 Oak 1740 Saddle Brown 1800 Baked Earth 1900 Willow 1910 Red Oxide 1920 Madder Brown 1930 Dark Chocolate 2000 Bark 2010 Sepia Ink 2020 Indian Ink 2030 Chinese Ink 2100 Charcoal Grey 2110 Payne’s Grey 2120 Neutral Grey 2200 Ink Black 2300 Antique White 2400
Some people experience one of more of the five senses involuntarily, when one sense evokes another. They hear music and see a colour or they associate inanimate objects with colours or tastes. Synaesthesia is defined as occurring when stimulation of one sensory modality automatically triggers perception in a second sensory modality. For example, numbers, letters, words, days of the week and musical tones may trigger a certain colour, taste, smell or shape.
Poets can use this to advantage by using synaesthetic metaphors by mixing the senses … Her voice tasted of caramel … orange is a loud colour … celery smells cold and wet, etc.
WRITE SHORT POEMS USING SYNAESTHESIA, IN ANSWERING THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:
What do stars sound like? – Example: Stars sound like tiny silver bells around the legs of dancing fairies. Or – A star sounds like a baby breathing; like an unexpected kiss on the nape of the neck.
How does sunlight smell?
What does fear taste like?
What does autumn sound like?
What is the texture of love?
Describe colour of music from a cello/violin/flute (choose one)?
How does standing in a rainbow feel?
What colour is a smile?
What does chocolate sound like?
The desert sparks with magic,
like a great hunk of flint,
rubbed by gusts of hot wind.
When darkness sets in
each star awakes and begins
to ring its tiny silver bell.
The night sky is breathing
down on me, caramel smooth
and full of fire music. Jude Aquilina
Related to figurative language (metaphor and imagery) but imbued with differing distinctive features; the most important characteristic of the symbol is that it is a concrete image or reality that means much more than itself and stands in the place of some idea, belief or abstraction that is usually recognisable. Its central significance and power in poetry lies in this hidden meaning. The cross, for examples, that stands for Christianity; the dove for peace, the red rose for love; scales for justice; a bird for freedom. The poet writes about one thing but points to or suggests another.
Symbolism in poetry magnifies, intensifies and surprises but unlike tis relatives, imagery and metaphor, it has more to do with intellectualising an image than with heightening emotion.
No symbols can claim exclusively. They can and do have different meanings. For example different cultural groups may use the same symbols but they may stand for different things. In some societies the colour red symbolises war and violence. In China, however, red represents good luck and marriage. That road out of town stood for freedom. She’d watch local cars, like flies on a sticky strip of tar trying to escape.
EXERCISE ONE: Think of your wardrobe past and present – choose an item of clothing that is redolent with symbolism: and old leather jacket, a bridesmaid’s outfit, a work shirt, a pair of boots. Write a short poem with the item as the title.
EXERCISE TWO: Write a poem about how a tool, instrument or workplace item is a symbol of a person or of the trade. (Guitar/rock star/phallic/sex …Needle/precise/mending/hiding)
EXERCISE THREE: Use a landmark as a symbol. For example a mountain, river, lighthouse, dry paddock, cliff face, lake, the sea, waterfall, etc. Invent a person and write a poem about how this place is a symbol to them – or how it symbolised them.
What was in an old aunt’s handbag, your father’s briefcase, top drawer, old trunk, wooden box, etc.? Describe the contents in a thoughtful, poetic way. Think about what emotion you could bring into the poem.
Handbag by Ruth Fainlight
My mother's old leather handbag,
crowded with letters she carried
all through the war. The smell
of my mother's handbag: mints
and liptsick and Coty powder.
The look of those letters, softened
and worn at the edges, opened,
read, and refolded so often.
Letters from my father. Odour
of leather and powder, which ever
since then has meant womanliness,
and love, and anguish, and war.
Write five similes of metaphors for the night sky
(includes stars, moon, milky way, comets, etc)
The night sky is a velvet cloak covered in sequins
The night sky is a wet panther, glistening
The moon is a toenail clipping
The stars are sand on the black beach of sky
End the poem with something about you and the night sky
The night sky is my mother, tucking me in to bed
The night sky is sea for my dreams to swim in
Make the night sky, the moon and the weather work for you in poetry or prose. Set the scene with a simile or metaphor and you will have the reader right there with you.
From ‘ Rendezvous’ by Jude Aquilina
Oh retro moon, why do you hang
like a ‘70s lampshade
dusty with memories?
I’ve followed you for years
crept from bedrooms
through long grass and shadows
to meet you over fences, under gum trees…
compiled by Jude Aquilina
Poetry is to prose as dancing is to walking. John Wain
The two most engaging powers of a poet are to make new things familiar, and familiar things new. W. M. Thackeray
Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what was seen during that moment. Carl Sandburg
A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language. W. H. Auden
Prose is words in their best order; poetry is the best words in the best order. Samuel Tayler Coleridge
You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club! Jack London
What is written without effort is generally read without pleasure. Samuel Johnson
Minds are like parachutes - they only function when open Anon
Those who write clearly have readers, those who write obscurely have commentators. Shakespeare
I have only made this letter longer because I have not had time to make it shorter. Blaise Pascal
Every style that is not boring is a good one. Voltaire
A sense of humour is the pole which helps us to walk the tight-rope of life. Anon
A poet is a person who puts up a ladder to a star and climbs it while playing a violin. Edmond de Concourt
Poetry is the access to the dream mind. Les Murray
I enjoy writing poetry. It feels as if there are no limits or restrictions. I don’t have to control or sensor my imagination. It feels indulgent, like spending the day in and out of a hot bubble bath. I feel annoyed when I have to stop writing, get out of the bath and go to work ... Evette Wolf, TAFE student
Poetry is the language in which man explores his own amazement. Christopher Fry
You will not find poetry anywhere unless you bring some of it with you. Joseph Joubert
Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people. Adrian Mitchell
The unfinished is nothing. Henri Frederic Amiel
Tip 1: Give your character an unusual feature, habit or saying, or liken them to something, such as an animal. You might say he was strong and bovine, then comment on the veins standing out on his neck. Later he might stamp his foot and bellow in rage. Simply by mentioning an unusual feature you are creating a mental image for your readers.
Tip 2: Ensure that the reader knows who is telling the story – whose viewpoint is put across – as early as possible in each scene. If your character has internal dialogue/thoughts, then the reader will know the story is being told by that character.
Tip 3: Mention character names a little more frequently early in the story. Choose names that suit the era and place the person is born. Use the internet to find the most common name for each era – you can even find lists of names for fantasy or science fiction characters. Be sure to make the names pronounceable (readers like to ‘say’ the names in their heads). Avoid too many names in the same story that begin with the same letter.
Tip 4: Give an early and brief description of your character. Don’t over-describe the character at the beginning, however give the reader some defining features so they can form an image in their mind. Give the reader enough for a 'first impression' in looks and personality.
Tip 5: Whose story is it? If one of your secondary characters appeals to you more, and is 'taking over the story', you might have chosen the wrong protagonist. Or you might decide to tell the story with multiple points of view. Some novels contain many characters’ points of view.
Tip 6: Don't reveal everything about your character in the beginning. Leave room for the character to grow; for the reader to become curious, and for you to get to know him/her. Interesting character information to reveal as the story progresses are dreams, memories, lessons learnt as a child, mistakes make, wishes, regrets, fears, idiosyncrasies, collections, etc.
Tip 7: Know each character's motivation for action. If the reasons for your character's actions and thoughts are not clear to you, the writer, then you will probably find your character doing or saying things that are not believable. Character motivation comes from within – and from the external events that have formed that character over the years. The character's actions will be a result of both internal and external motivation. Give yourself time to really understand your character.
Tip 8: Give your characters inner conflict. Allow your character to be pulled two ways, to explore the options, to make wrong decisions and to sometimes feel despair at having no acceptable options.
Tip 9: Base characters on a combination of people that you know or have met in real life. A character can often be a blend of many people. Feel free to use the stories, backgrounds and character traits of many different people. If you write about something that a real person did, it will come across as authentic.
Tip 10: A character’s dialogue reflects their background, age, education, social status and place of origin. If your character has distinctive dialogue traits, you can almost eliminate the use of speech tags. Think about using favourite words, sayings, nicknames, mispronounced words, etc. for your main characters’ dialogue.
Tip 11: No character is all good or all bad. Give your antagonists some endearing qualities and make your protagonists human enough to make mistakes, have dark secrets or a bad habit.
Tip 12: Dedicate a note-book to your main character. I like the little A-Z ones, then note down everything you can think of about them, from childhood and relatives to the time they appear in your story. You may not use it all, but merely thinking about all aspects of your character will make them stronger in your story-telling.
by Jude Aquilina
And don’t forget the importance of punctuation …
A teacher asks his students to punctuate this sentence:
"Woman without her man is nothing." The men all write, "Woman, without her man, is nothing." The women all write, "Woman! Without her, man is nothing!"
If you feel like a punctuation challenge, try punctuating this sentence:
James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher (11 x had)
James, while John had had "had", had had "had had"; "had had" had had a better effect on the teacher
Correct punctuation for dialogue:
‘That cloud looks like a dragon,’ said Ben. Comma inside quotation mark/lower case s for said
‘Look at the strange cloud.’ Obviously frightened, Ben pointed to the sky. Dialogue doesn’t run on, so use a full stop before the quotation mark and a capital O for Obviously
‘I’m scared,’ said Ben, ‘and I want to go home.’ Note the use of commas and lower case because sentence runs on with ‘said Ben’ in the middle
Ben suddenly yelled, ‘Look at that!’ If speech tag comes before dialogue use a comma before the quotation mark.
Jude Aquilina, 2018
Trove at the National Library of Australia; http://trove.nla.gov.au/; digitised resources includes books, images, historic newspapers, maps, music, archives.
State Library of South Australia; http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/site/page.cfm, digitised resources includes books, images, archives and family history research assistance.
Family History South Australia; http://www.familyhistorysa.info/; created by historian Barry Leadbeater in 1996. A very comprehensive resource, relating to the State's early history. Information provided on this site is free, and is multilayered with many links.
State Records of South Australia; http://www.archives.sa.gov.au/; the official custodian for archival records created by State and Local Government agencies within South Australia.
Genealogy SA, https://www.genealogysa.org.au/, is a leading resource for information on South Australian family history. Access to its full digitised database is limited to fee paying members only. Genealogy SA welcomes casual membership to use its resources. This website contains a helpful genealogy template guide for the family history researcher, and many other useful tips.
Other Useful Resources
Australian Dictionary of Biography; http://adb.anu.edu.au/; created by the Centre for Biography, Australian National University. Very informative site, with entries compiled by historians on significant Australians who have contributed to the Nation through their careers. Also created by the Centre for Biography, Obituaries Australia; http://oa.anu.edu.au/, a digitised collection of obituaries published in Australian newspapers.
Bound for South Australia 1836; http://boundforsouthaustralia.com.au/; website dedicated to the State's first pioneers. Packed with historical resources and passenger lists. Worthwhile for anyone researching their early South Australian family history.
Gould Genealogy; http://www.gould.com.au/, Terrific South Australian site, hundreds of free downloads available to assist with history research.
Family Search; https://familysearch.org/search, is the original genealogy website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Information on this site is freely available, but very basic.
Subscription and pay for view family history sites
http://www.ancestry.com.au/, http://www.ancestry.co.uk/, http://www.ancestry.com/, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/;
Popular genealogy websites operated by Utah based Ancestry Information Operations Company. Subscription, or pay for view only.
http://www.findmypast.com.au, http://www.genesreunited.com.au/; websites dedicated to genealogy research throughout the Commonwealth. Operated by UK Company Brightsolid. Subscription and pay
Each month, one our members shares their tips for writing. This month, Jude Aquilina has put forward her poetry editing checklist. Next time you're writing a poem, be sure to reference this list.
By Jude Aquilina