Friday, October 26, 2018

Let's Write from Museum Postcards!

Iran, Public Domain
Draft by Amy LV

Students - This week I had the good fortune to visit two schools in Glen Rock, New Jersey.  At Coleman School, I led two assemblies and loved meeting the children and teachers.  And at Hamilton School, where I have visited before, I did some notebook keeping with second graders and wrote about art with fourth graders.  Delightful!

Librarian Lisa Tomaselli asked if I would do this art writing with the two fourth grade classes as she had fallen love with Lee Bennett Hopkins's beautiful WORLD MAKE WAY: NEW POEMS INSPIRED BY ART FROM THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART (Abrams.) My poem, Young Ashoka Sundari, lives in these pages.

So we did!  I spread out all kinds of art postcards, each depicting a piece of art from The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  We looked at several postcards, we each chose one, we took some notes...and we wrote.  I chose the STORAGE JAR DECORATED WITH MOUNTAIN GOATS, and as I wrote about it, I fell in love with it more and more. I now feel connected not only to the goat and the pot...but to the potter.

Poetry about art is called ekphrastic poetry.  Writers and artists of all kinds are often inspired by each others' work, and sometimes when I do not know what to write about, I turn to art.  Many writers do.

If you choose to write about art, consider the point of view you will take in your writing. In this poem, I chose to be the potter, someone you do not even see in the piece.

Grey shared her draft with me at the end of class, and she was kind enough to allow me to share it here with you. Note how Grey clearly chooses which girl's voice to use in her poem. Note how specific she is with her descriptions and imaginings, offering us a possible insight to this young pianist's thoughts. Thank you, Grey! I have invited all of these young poets to all share poems here when they are ready.

Untitled Poemdraft by Grey
by Auguste Renoir, Public Domain
(Click to Enlarge)

                                                    Father's watching in the parlor,
                                                    Sister's helping read the notes,
                                                    I'm looking for the last note G,
                                                    black keys white keys candle hooks,
                                                    I cannot find the last note G,
                                                    I make do with B instead.

                                                    by Grey, 4th Grade Poet, Hamilton School

If you wish to read many wonderful poems inspired by art, I encourage you to visit Irene Latham's Live Your Poem, where each April, she writes and shares ekphrastic poetry under the project heading ARTSPEAK!

This weekend I look forward to the New York Reading Association Conference, where I will speak twice about POEMS ARE TEACHERS.  Will any of you be at this conference?

Kay is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup today at A Journey Through the Pages with lovely words inspired by today's morning - chicken feeding - sunrise. Please know that each Poetry Friday, we gather together to share books, and poetry ideas all at one blog.  Everyone is always welcome to visit, comment, and post.  We invite you!

Please share a comment below if you wish.


  1. Grey's poem is very touching, in that the student is willing to improvise rather than not move forward in the lesson. And of course, Grey's name is the same as my son's name, so that makes it special for me!

  2. It's lovely to read of that pot, but also the potter, Amy. And Grey's poem makes the scene come alive, doesn't it? I have done this in the past with students. The art cards really do inspire. Glad you had some grand school visits!

  3. Goosebumps, thinking of the ages, ages, ages back of that potter/painter (or maybe they were not the same person?) "One Life Can'' even in d r a f t is museum-quality, Amy.
    And thank you for reminding us of MAKE WAY WORLD, a gem gem gem.

  4. I love "One Life Can." You made the connection to the past come alive. I particularly love your last line, "One life can echo on."

    I've taught ekphrastic poetry to children, and it is the best! They are always so inspired. And it is so fascinating to see how different poets see different things in the same image when they choose the same one. We've used pages from old donated calendars and also spread them around the room. I like the museum postcard idea.

  5. Yes. Let's write from art...every day. I love that the artist in your draft poem sees forever in the goat on the pot.

  6. Grey did a terrific job bringing that postcard scene to life! And I love the reflection in the final stanza of your poem, Amy.

  7. Amy, it must be gratifying to have students write as young poets to your prompts. Grey did a marvelous job with the ending. Have a wonderful time at NYSRA Conference and I will see you at NCTE18.

  8. This poem reminds me of an archaeological find--you're exploring an artifact and gently dusting away the layers to uncover the shining connection between you and the unknown potter who created it so many years ago. We're all the richer for the treasure you reveal and so generously share. Grey's poem is wonderful as well and so richly dwells in that one moment. Great post!

  9. One of my favorite activities to do with kids is ekphrastic poetry. We've even gone to a local gallery and written in the wild. Your little jar is charming. Grey must take piano lessons because she has an understanding of the struggles of practice. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Grey's poem captures the struggle of making music and making do. I love how your poem moves beyond the pot to the potter and her life.

  11. Wonderful accepting voice in Grey's poem– I like the weaving in and out of the potter's voice in your poem, and the continuum of the potter's life.

  12. I remember walking through a museum recently and looking at all the strange bits and bobs from people's every day lives that had ended up on display - I wondered how the previous owners from many centuries ago would think about their cups and hair brushes and toothbrushes and other ordinary things one day being part of a museum exhibit!