||9 – 12
|Lesson Plan Type
||2 90-minute sessions
Hahnville High School
In this lesson, students explore ekphrasis—writing inspired by art. Students begin by reading and discussing several poems inspired by works of art. Through the discussion, students learn ways in which poets can approach a piece of artwork (for instance, writing about the scene being depicted in the artwork, writing in the voice of the person depicted in the artwork, speaking to the artist or subject of the painting, etc.). Students then search online for pieces of art that inspire them and, in turn, compose a booklet of poems about the pieces they have chosen.
Perspectives in Writing Ekphrastic Poetry: This handout describes several approaches that could be taken when writing Ekphrastic poems.
Ekphrasis: Poetry Confronting Art: This page from the American Academy of Poets explains ekphrasis and provides links to poetry inspired by art.
FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE
Poets have used art as inspiration for centuries. John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is one famous example, but even ancient poets such as Homer have turned to artwork as a source of stimulation for their writing. Honor Moorman notes: “William Blake said that poetry and art are ‘ways to converse with paradise’ (Farrell 6). In the Phaedrus, Plato observes that when paintings and poems are put together, they ‘seem to talk to you as if they were intelligent’ (qtd. in Foster and Prevallet xv)… Georgia Heard calls language ‘the poet’s paint’ (65), and many other writers and artists have commented on the parallels between these two modes of expression.” (46-47) In Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art, Jan Greenberg explains her belief in “the power of art to inspire language” (4). She notes that “What the poet sees in art and puts into words can transform an image . . . extending what is often an immediate response into something more lasting and reflective.” (4). This lesson allows students to harness the power of visual images to inspire their own poetry.
Greenberg, Jan, ed. 2001. Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art. New York: Abrams.
Moorman, Honor. “Backing into Ekphrasis: Reading and Writing Poetry about Visual Art.” English Journal 96.1(September 2006): 46-53.
knowledge of social,
and personal life
approaches to create
meaningful works of
art or design.
NCTE/IRA NATIONAL STANDARDS FOR THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS
Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
RESOURCES & PREPARATION
MATERIALS AND TECHNOLOGY
- Packet of Ekphrastic Poems
- Paint Me a Poem: Poems Inspired by Masterpieces of Art by Justine Rowden (Boyds Mills, 2005) (optional)
- Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art, edited by Jan Greenberg (Abrams, 2001) (optional)
- Make copies of Perspectives in Writing Ekphrastic Poetry handout, Ekphrastic Poetry Booklet Checklist, Ekphrastic Poetry Booklet Rubric, and Prewriting Chart.
- Preview and select several ekphrastic poems (including the lyrics to “Vincent”) to use for discussion. As you choose poems for this lesson, look for a variety of perspectives from which the poems are written. Also note the types of poetic devices being used (e.g., sound devices such as alliteration, metaphors or similes, rhyme, imagery, etc). For a ready collection of poems, use the Academy of American Poets’ Ekphrasis: Poetry Confronting Art, which includes a list of poems in the left sidebar, or poems from The Poet Speaks of Art from Emory University. Once the poems are chosen, assemble the collection in a packet and make copies to share with students.
- Depending on your students’ familiarity with reading and writing poetry, you may wish to create a handout that defines the poetic devices you plan to use. Refer to the Poetic Forms & Techniques for brief definitions and examples of poetic devices.
- If not using an LCD projector, prepare overhead transparencies of artwork and accompanying poetry.
- Test the ReadWriteThink Printing Press, Acrostic Poems, Line Break Explorer, and Diamante Poems to familiarize yourself with the tool and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.
- read and analyze poems inspired by art.
- discuss the methods poets use to write about artwork.
- use Internet searching techniques to find several inspiring art pieces.
- compose poems inspired by the artwork of their choosing.
- Hand out copies of “Vincent” lyrics by Don McLean and additional poems from the prepared packet.
- Play the song while students follow along with the lyrics. The song is played by clicking on the title “Vincent” in the Don McLean Music Player located on the bottom right corner of the home page.
- Ask students to reflect on the song in their writing journals, answering the questions, “Who do you think Vincent was?” and “What do we learn about Vincent from the song?”
- Discuss students’ journal responses. As the discussion develops, students will point out references to painting and art, and some students may realize the song is written about Vincent Van Gogh.
- Display an overhead or LCD reproduction of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. (The song also references other Van Gogh paintings—Sunflowers, Wheat Field with Crows, Self-Portrait—which you may choose to show students as well.)
- Continue discussing the song, noting how McLean uses Van Gogh’s artwork as his inspiration.
- Point out the songwriter’s perspective in writing this piece is to directly address the artist.
- Ask students to re-read the lyrics in their packet, this time noting poetic devices they find. Students may mark the text (underlining, starring, notetaking, etc.) as they re-read.
- Students then share their findings with the class, noting examples of devices such as rhyme, alliteration, repetition, etc.
- Encourage them to add to their notes during the discussion. Point out literary devices students may have missed (tone, for example).
- Introduce the term ekphrasis and define its meaning—“writing inspired by art.”
- Take a few minutes to have students explain how “Vincent” is like an ekphrastic poem and therefore offers a good preview of their own analysis of ekphrastic poetry.
- Mention that students will have the chance to write ekphrastic poems of their own after analyzing several as a class.
- Share several ekphrastic poems and accompanying artwork on the overhead or LCD projector as students follow along in their packets.
- Refer to the Websites listed in the Resources section for examples. Alternatively, read aloud from Paint Me a Poem: Poems Inspired by Masterpieces of Art, by Justine Rowden, (Boyds Mills, 2005) or Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art, edited by Jan Greenberg (Abrams, 2001).
- As you read each poem, have students mark the text for poetic devices (or take notes as you read) as they did in response to “Vincent.”
- Lead a discussion of each poem, noting the various perspectives poets take towards the artwork as well as the poetic devices they use (e.g., sound devices such as alliteration, metaphors or similes, rhyme, imagery, etc).
- Introduce and discuss the ekphrastic poetry booklet, and distribute the Perspectives in Writing Ekphrastic Poetry handout, the Ekphrastic Poetry Booklet Checklist, and the Prewriting Chart.
- Display an overhead transparency of the Ekphrastic Poetry Booklet Rubric (or pass out copies for students to use), and explain the connections between the checklist and the rubric.
- Have students use the Websites listed in the Resources section to search for artwork they find intriguing.
- As students select artwork, they should complete the Prewriting Chart.
SESSIONS FOUR THROUGH SEVEN
- Allow students time to draft a series of poems about the pieces of artwork they have chosen.
- As the class works, circulate through the room and briefly conference with students as they complete their first poems. Make sure that students’ first poems reflect an understanding of the assignment before they complete the remainder of the series.
- Students may wish to conference individually with the teacher or ask their peers for feedback as they write and revise the remainder of their series.
- Students should finish final revisions and editing of their poems.
- Lead students through the tutorial included in the ReadWriteThink Printing Press.
- Allow students time to assemble their poems into booklets, using the ReadWriteThink Printing Press.
- Teachers may wish to add sessions for peer response, revision, and sharing of the finished poetry booklets.