Ekphrastic Poems with the Poetry Sisters [Poetry Friday]

Happy Poetry Friday!


goddess in a shed
Photo: http://t‑s-k‑b.tumblr.com/post/2348399032 // (Source: lowpresssure, via baikuken)

It’s that time again–we Poetry 7 are sharing poems! Last month, we Poetry 7 wrote etherees, which I loved! This month, we tackled ekphrastic poems–all inspired by the same image. Tanita Davis shared this one, which caught our eyes and our imagination right away.    I was thinking of a human girl, not a goddess…a girl whose life, through the collision of forces beyond her control or understanding, is a series of tasks necessary for survival. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about both water and literacy, and how, if we could give every kid in the world those two things, this world could be such a different, better place. Anyway, that’s what was in my head as I wrote this.


Cage of the Refugee

dirt defines her
shoulders sag like tents
knees creak the globe

swarm crowds her,
shrouds her in invisibility

key liquids its way
away, slips away
like water
like books
like the rungs of a ladder
she could climb
(if she could only find it)
to rise up
from this life

–Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved


And, of course, I’ll be linking to the rest of the Poetry 7’s poems as they go live. I’ve only seen a couple of them in advance this time, so I’m interested to see what they came up with and how similar (or dis-) our poems are:>) If you get an error message, that just means their posts haven’t gone live yet. Please try back later!


  Here are the previous Poetry Sisters collaborations:

October 2015 Etherees
September 2015 Found poems
August 2015 Classified haiku
July 2015 Inspired by e.e. cummings’ poems
Jun 2015 Odes
May 2015 Pantoums
Apr 2015 Raccontinos
Mar 2015 Sestinas (Lord have mercy)
Feb 2015 Villanelles on hidden things
Jan 2015 Triolets on beginnings (And I posted an extra one here.)
Pre-2015 Villanelles, a crown sonnet, rondeau redoubles, and pantoums

Katya at Write. Sketch. Repeat. has the Poetry Friday Roundup!



30 Responses

  1. Laura,
    This is the first time all year I haven’t seen folks’ poems before they were posted. I rather like being surprised. Like you, I can’t wait to see how closely (or not) our ideas are aligned.

    I love your opening stanza. It captures the physicality of the goddess in the picture so beautifully. Reading on, I’m cheering for her, waiting for her and wanting her to rise up. This is lovely.

  2. In light of the current refugee dilemma, your poem is poignant and telling. The image is a bit disconcerting. I am curious about your form and what the choices of no capitals and limited punctuation communicate along with the words.

    1. Thanks, Margaret. For me, in this case, I used the lack of punctuation to reflect on/emphasize the lack of rules, orderliness, and justice in a refugee’s life. Of course, that might not be obvious to readers, and it was only a semi-conscious choice of mine, too, as I was writing! But somehow a precise, follow-the-rules kind of punctuation felt all wrong for a girl trapped in a world whose rules have suddenly changed. Whose rules no longer apply. Hmmm…maybe I should have used purposefully weird punctuation instead. cummings-style.

  3. So cool, Laura! I read it a bunch of times and got more out of it every read. I like the lack of puncuation, because it made me try different meanings and dig deeper. And I love the ending, the promise of rising up, which perfectly fits her posture. As if she is gathering strength and preparing to go forth…

  4. Thanks for sharing your poem, a sadly telling commentary on the reality that faces so many of our refugee sisters–and on other levels, that faces each one of us, imprisoned by so many constraints–self- and other-imposed. I’m struck by the juxtaposition of the frailness you described in words and the massive strength the image conveys. Guess no matter how strong or powerful we are, something can imprison us. Thanks for the hopeful ending. God bless!

    1. Thanks…I think there’s so much strength and potential hidden in so many children whose lives are…a struggle. And, yes, we’re all caged by something, aren’t we? Thanks for reading–and thinking:>)

  5. What a cool image. I like your connection to refugees. The figure reminded me of Alice, grown too big in the White Rabbit’s house.

    1. Oh, yes! That seems so obvious when you say it, but it never entered my mind. That would be another cool direction to go:>)

  6. The picture is alarming, all things pushing on her. Your poem with “dirt surrounds her” starts this poignant tale with such sympathy. I watch the news, give what I can, but still feel helpless thinking of those women drifting. I love the use of the word “liquid” as a verb, and am glad you ended with some hope.

    1. Thanks, Linda–I was back to Clair Saxby’s verbs in EMU, I think, and the poetryaction I did for that. My earlier draft was so mundane…I needed to step out of traditional language, at least a little bit.

  7. Having seen both, this one is really the sadder one, and it just… sits with you.
    I think the image itself could have gone additional directions. I am impressed by how much we all felt the pressure of growing out of bounds…

    1. Yeah, everything pressing in on her…that’s the core of what makes this image, isn’t it? Can’t wait to get around and read everyone’s this afternoon!

  8. Water and literacy. Yes. Those are the rungs of the ladder that are often missing. I love how you begin this poem in dirt, and end with a skyward hope. Poetry draws attention to what is beautiful, it’s true, but also to what is in need of more care, and yes, that idea that our outward appearance doesn’t always match with our inner strength/ weakness really is a compellng theme.

    1. THanks, Sara…it felt like a real meandering, poemwise, but…I feel like it might be the kernel of something worth working on.

  9. Wow what a powerful image and poem! (I have to admit: I had to look up the word “ekphrastic.”) I especially like the last stanza, and the idea of finding a ladder out of this trap. Lovely!

    1. Thanks, Marti–I never actually call it that, but that was the official terminology we were using in our little poetry co-op this month:>)

  10. Laura, I am fascinated by the photo that conveys a feeling of being cramped into a small space because of one’s lifestyle. Your image and poem reminds me of the plight of the refugees in a small town, Masese, in Uganda that is really a refugee camp. We have been building a school for the children but the mothers stay outside the school’s compound sitting on a blanket all day rolling paper to make beaded jewelry and bags to sell. The woman in your photo reminds me of Mothers of Masese’s plight. They too have risen from the dust to a hopeful state because they have been given the tools to sustain a living. While they are shrouded in invisibility, they now have an entrepreneurial voice. Your caged lady has a remarkable sense of strength and fortitude to move beyond the dirt to rise up. Interesting that you focused on water and literacy for that is what the refugee camps need the most. Our children now have both after four long years of building a dream for them in the town near the Nile River.

    1. Carol, that is amazing, what you’re doing. So hopeful and lovely! (And have you read One Plastic Bag?) Thanks for sharing this wonderful effort and change.

    1. Thanks, Catherine. Some folks find the ending hopeful, others hopeless. I was feeling her hopelessness when I wrote it. As a human, I wish for hope and solutions, but I admit I didn’t feel hopeful in the writing…

    1. Thanks, Liz. This month was hard. It was supposed to be easy, right? I write poems in response to images all the time. But this one kind of stumped me.

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