Art @ Home: Write a Poem

During Spring 2018, the poet Richard Blanco was the Lunder Institute for American Art artist in residence. He worked with students and the community on poetry activities.

Try your hand today at creating your own poems inspired by works of art in our collection. It’s easy to find images of works of art using the the Search the Collection feature on our website—just type in the name of an artist or the subject you’re interested in like flowers or shoes.

One poetry form that is great for all ages to work with is the cinquain. The cinquain was created in 1911 by a poet named Adelaide Crapsey. It is a poem of five lines, and the traditional format calls for a specific syllable pattern. However, there is a modern format that focuses less on syllables and more on types of words. Here’s the form:

Line 1: What one word (noun), or a short title would you give this work of art?

Line 2: What two descriptive words (adjectives) come to mind as you look at it?

Line 3: What three action words (verbs) come to mind as you look at this work of art?

Line 4: What short phrase expresses a thought or feeling that you have about this work of art?

Line 5: What is another one word (noun), or short title, that refers back to the first line of your poem?

Here’s an example, written about this work of art, Untitled by Jocelyn Lee.

Jocelyn Lee, Untitled, 2003. Chromogenic color print. 30 in. x 40 in. (76.2 cm x 101.6 cm). The Lunder Collection. Accession Number: 2004.160

Muddy Morning
Foggy, Soggy
Soaking, Growing, Waking
Sun says, Don’t worry—I’ll be there soon to dry out this day
Quiet Transformations

Another poetry form that you could try is a haiku. This poetry form began in Japan hundreds of years ago. Haikus often are inspired by nature, but they don’t have to be. Things to keep in mind:

  • The traditional form is three lines with a syllable count of five for the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five in the third line. 
  • You don’t have to be absolutely correct with the count; the flow is important too. 
  • Include phrases and words that focus on the senses (sight, sound, smell, and touch).
  • Write in the present tense.

Here’s an example, written about this work of art: Monhegan, Maine by Rockwell Kent.

Rockwell Kent, Monhegan, Maine, c. 1950. Oil on canvas. 28 in. x 44 in. (71.12 cm x 111.76 cm). Gift of Corliss Lamont. Accession Number: 1964.045.

The water sleeps first
Then, soft clouds stretch, yawn, and snore
Sleep, the trees whisper

Give it a try for yourself!