Using An Image to Create A Poem
I’ve been thinking a lot, recently, about how to convey the art of giving life to an image through words.
I am a storyteller and my medium is free-verse poetry. In recent times, I have been doing a lot of writing that is in partnership with an image. My intention is to have the image – the voice of the image – driving the poem. I should probably provide an example of what I’m on about. I recently took a photo of two birds on the wing. It was a bad day in the world – rotten things happening, a storm was imminent, and two birds were flying. Here they are:
I try to make it my business to write every day and this image – on that day – spoke to me. Here is the poem:
go (my love) let’s go
let’s fly away
across the face
of the creeping
you and I
I hear the thunder
over everything . . .
but we –
you and I –
than any storm
my love . . .
Nothing special, but picking up on:
· The mood of the day.
· General despondency arising from local and world news etc.
· Covid misery.
· An approaching storm.
· Two birds (Sacred Ibis) flying before the storm.
· One bird leading the other.
The poem attempts to capture all of those things in the voice of the leading bird. Or so I assume from my own reading of the poem.
I find that most pictures really do tell a story. I’ll show another. In this case I had encountered a native orchid (the common bird orchid) on a ramble up onto a local mountain. Native orchids are a treat to find at any time, but this one in particular had a highly suggestive peculiarity – apparently common to all flowers in the species. I bet you see it immediately.
Here is the image:
I wanted to use this image for my next poem, and it could have gone a couple of different ways. I’m thinking of frogs, oysters, and teenage rebellion in the range of choices. Why?
· Frog – that yawning gape looks like it might have a tongue ready to unfurl, legs set to leap.
· Oyster, because that may just be a pearl.
· Rebellious teenager because . . . just because really.
Here is the poem:
the pretty (llurp)
wot you lookin’
a flower . . .
I can’t have . . .
’m jus . . .
leave me . . .
Clearly, I find images suggestive and, in writing, it is my wish to convey something of what I’ve seen, or heard, to a reader. To make my perception available to a random someone else.
So what goes in to an image interpretation. I’ll choose a fresh picture that I haven’t yet written about and explore a few possible part-answers.
Here is the image:
First question -not what is it, but what does it look like.
· Insect eggs
· Bugs, flies, wasps.
My sense is of living creatures in a state of suspension of some sort.
· If the primary object could speak, what would it sound like?
· Does it speak? What might it want to say to you (observer, writer, reader)
What will the next thing to happen be (if we had a subsequent image)?
· Emergence from the cocoon/egg.
· One at a time
After that . . .
· I’m not sure, but
· Let the initial writing response set up the subsequent possibilities
That’s as far as I think I can go with brainstorming this particular image. What I am confident of, though, is that if the image suggests a beginning, and perhaps a middle, the act of writing (capturing) those ideas will suggest the ending.
What do you think? I haven’t written the poem/story to go with this picture. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Do you want to know what the image is of? It is a variety of quaking grass gone to seed. That is another point perhaps worth making. Every picture tells a story. It isn’t necessary to go a long way from home to find inspiration of this kind.
I’ve put out a number of books, now, in what I have taken to referring to as picture poetry. The common feature of all of them is that I allow the images to speak to me. Feel free to peek inside.
Beechworth Bakery Bears Books
· The Beechworth Bakery Bears – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B091886W4X
· Waiting For Frank-Bear- https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09KG4Q8K6
Trash and Treasure
· Voices (In The Trash) – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08WYKCVMP
My Locale (Beechworth, Victoria (Australia))
· A Lake Sambell Walk – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09J1WKYF4
World War 1 (The Somme and Western Front)
· Sheep On The Somme – https://www.amazon.com/Sheep-Somme-World-Picture-Poetry/dp/1925963144
About Frank Prem
Frank Prem has been a storytelling poet for more than forty years, and has spent his working life in various parts of the public psychiatry system in Victoria (Australia).
He has been published in magazines, e-zines and anthologies, in Australia and in a number of other countries, and has both performed and recorded his work as ‘spoken word’.
He and his wife live in the beautiful township of Beechworth in the North East of Victoria.
Frank has published several collections of free verse poetry –
Small Town Kid (2018)
Devil In The Wind (2019)
The New Asylum (2019)
Herja, Devastation (with Cage Dunn) (2019)
Walk Away Silver Heart (2020)
A Kiss for the Worthy (2020)
Rescue and Redemption (2020)
Pebbles to Poems (2020)
As well as Picture-Poetry books –
A Beechworth Bakery Bears e-Book (2020)
A Beechworth Bakery Bears e-Book (too) (2020)
Voices (In The Trash) (2021)
The Beechworth Bakery Bears (2021)
Sheep On The Somme (2021)
Waiting For Frank Bear (2021)
A Lake Sambell Walk (2021)
Key Contacts for Frank Prem:
Author Page (Newsletter sign up): https://FrankPrem.com
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Frank-Prem/e/B07L61HNZ4
Frank Prem Poet and Author YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvfW2WowqY1euO-Cj76LDKg
Follow this link to read Frank’s Meeting the Author’s interview …
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12 Replies to “Friday with Friends: Using An Image to Create A Poem – Frank Prem”
Thank you so much for having me over to mull over my approach to picture poetry, Camilla. I’ll pop a link over to my place, shortly.
You’re welcome, Frank. It was great having you on MTA once again! All the best to you!
It just occurred to me that Frank’s discussion of picture poetry would be a very useful reading in a beginning poetry class to help students understand the role of imagery in poetry. (We can hit ’em with T.S. Eliot’s objective correlative after that, in a one-two punch.)
Absolutely, Liz. Nature photos are what inspired my poetry, also. Much like Frank I would spend time with a photo wondering what it would say to me. It’s fascinating.
YOU might well enjoy my current ptoject, Camilla. Native bees, wasps, hover flies ladybeetles . . . in conversation over the allium beds.
So very creative, Frank! Love it!
Crikey, I make a lot of typos in these posts – sorry about that – I rush across the keyboard and don’t check what I’ve done!
I’ve actually made a picture book out of the insect project – much like the Bears books. I want to ‘re-capture’ one image to make it as I want it to be. Proving elusive.
Crikey! Sounds like literature for the non-timid only. LOL
Thank you, Liz.
I guess a boxing metaphor wasn’t the best way for me to go, eh?
No, it’s good. Rough and tough. That’s the literature we want em to be raised on!
One of the joys of storytelling, Frank is we interpret things in different ways. I love your bears, the first image is smiley but the second one is creepy but all are great inspiration. 😀
Thank you, Voinks. Glad you’ve enjoyed the Bears.
That second pic reminded me very much of a young man I once knew who was very proud of his tongue stud. Quite revolting, really (to me). He always spoke with a sort of sodden slurp when the stud was present.
Nice, huh? LOL