Ekphrastic Poems with the Poetry Princesses [Poetry Friday]

Figure by Rene de Saint-Marceaux. Photo: Kelly Fineman
Happy October, poetry friends. I love autumn, and I’m actually enjoying, kind of, the ongoing process of unpacking and settling in. And my writing has gotten back on track, too. I wrote all summer, but it was a frantic, meet-the-deadline-while-doing-a-million-other-things kind of writing. I’m still too busy, but it’s my normal kind of too busy.

This month was Kelly Fineman’s choice of art for our ekphrastic poem, and she chose this arlequin figure by Rene de Saint-Marceaux. One of her favorite aspects of it was the eyes carved behind the mask, even though you can only see them if you’re up in his face. I decided to try a French form, the tautogram, invented in the 1960s by the Oulipio movement, which I don’t know anything about. But it’s a whole poem with all the words starting with the same letter. I cheated on the title:>)

For me, this figure looked cruel and heartless, so I made him sort of a psychopath. Initially I had him deciding between mischief and murder, but that felt a little too extreme. I like malice and mischief better, as it made me think about the cruel jokes and pranks we often think are ok because we’re “just kidding.”

This poem also works for me today as Hurricane Matthew pounds Florida, where my family is. My dad’s in Titusville, alone and without power. For now, he has landline and water. I’m seeing Matthew as musing how devastating to be to Florida–I always manage to make poems connect to me personally!  Here’s my poem: arlequin tautogram poetry princesses Make sure to check out what my Poetry Sisters came up with:

We’re missing Andi this month, but she’ll be back! Feel better, Andi!

And here are the previous Poetry Sisters collaborations:

Sep 2016 Clogyrnach poems (“Monarch”)
Aug 2016 Ekphrastic poems
Jul 2016 Poems inspired by a Kay Ryan poem (“House for Sale”)
Jun 2016 Harpy poems
May 2016 Tritina
Apr 2016 “Channel-Hopping Through Grasshopper Reality TV”
Mar 2016 Sedoka
Feb 2016 Poem Inspired by a Picasso Sculpture (ugh)
Jan 2016 Crown sonnet (on the periodic table)
Nov 2015 Ekphrastic poems
Oct 2015 Etherees
Sep 2015 Found poems
Aug 2015 Classified haiku
Jul 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

And for more Poetry Friday fun, check out the Poetry Friday Roundup, with Violet Nesdolyl!         Save Save Save Save Save Save Save




29 Responses

  1. Intriguing, Laura — both your poem, and the form itself! I first learned about Oulipio in a book that the Poetry Princess herself, Joy Acey, gave me a few years ago, following a Highlights workshop…there are some really fascinating forms they created!

    1. Cool! I don’t know how I feel about the form–it’s very…stagey? But it’s fun to play with.

  2. Laura, what an intriguing form of poetry. I think you should show this type at the conference as a different type of an #imagepoem. I would think people will have fun flowing their words with the same initial letter. I found an app that is similar to Word Swag-Typorama. It’s fun and is free.

    1. Thanks, Carol. It’s a weird form, but fun as an experiment. Makes you think about vocabulary and synonyms, that’s for sure! I’ll check out Typorama–thanks! I’ve tried a couple others–Phonto and something else, but nothing has worked anywhere near as well as Wordswag. Great to have a free option to recommend, though.

  3. You definitely picked up on the sinister aspect of this statue, and I love how you tried a new form. Most of all, though, I love how you slyly worked in the word “Muse” as well—because, well—he WAS our muse for this challenge, and sometimes, the process of inspiration can leave one a little creeped out as to where, exactly, our ideas come from.…

  4. I love that you’ve tackled this form. I have tried it and just can’t seem to pull it off. You did beautifully. And I love mischief and malice.

    1. Thanks, Tricia–it’s like Scattergories but in poem form! Glad I started with “M.” Not sure what I’d have done with a different letter. Heyyyyy, wouldn’t it be fun to take the same pic and all write a tautogram starting with a different assigned letter?

  5. I hope your dad continues to be okay, Laura. It’s a form new to me, that tautogram, and you’ve brought out the alarming stance of the stature. I like the scary possibility of “maybes mingle”.

  6. Cool form, and I love your take, even though I didn’t find the character threatening. Maybe because I was next to it in person, and see it a little differently through eyes of memory?

  7. Ooh, Laura. Hold onto this form; next year (of course I’m already positive we’re all going to do this AGAIN) we’ll have to try it. I really love what you do to blend form and image into its own piece of art. And, I agree — malice v. mischief is a much better pair of minor things to balance than the first version! He IS smirking, he IS up to no good. Just how bad is it going to get? Only the masked man knows…

    1. Exactly–I wanted “murder” in there, really. But it was off-balance. This makes the poem better. It’s a weird form, so inauthentic in many ways, but fun!

  8. One of the many reasons I’m so glad I joined the online poetry community is that I am always learning and exploring new poetry forms and ideas — I’ll admit I had to look up ekphrastic, tautogram and Oulipio…! 😉

  9. Thanks for introducing me to the tautogram–A new-to-me form to play around with! I also found this figure creepy and enjoyed your reflection about malice vs. murder. Thanks for sharing!

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