Picturing America Poetry Programming and Ekphrasis
Poetry programs that feature discussions, readings, or writing workshops can be a great way to program around your Picturing America collection. The Academy of American Poets’ (AAP) Picturing America Web pages offers content that may be useful during program development, including a bibliography of poems that relate to the Picturing America collection, as well as information about ekphrastic poetry.
Ekphrasis is a form of poetry that focuses on or is inspired by a work of art:
Homer’s blow-by-blow description (of the Shield of Achilles), which occurs in the eighteenth chapter of The Illiad, is among the earliest examples of “ekphrasis”—a vivid description of a thing. … Ekphrastic poems are now understood to focus only on works of art—usually paintings, photographs, or statues. And modern ekphrastic poems have generally shrugged off antiquity’s obsession with elaborate description, and instead have tried to interpret, inhabit, confront, and speak to their subjects. (AAP, “Ekphrasis: Poetry Confronting Art”)
Hosting an ekphrastic poetry workshop at your library can be a great way to highlight your Picturing America collection. To get started, consider the following tips:
- Select an image(s) from the Picturing America collection for the focus of your workshop. You may wish to highlight a single image, a group of images linked by theme, or invite participants to select any one of the 40 posters in the collection.
- Offer an introduction to ekphrastic poetry. Consider inviting a local scholar or poet to present information on the form’s background and history, and offer readings of ekphrastic poems that relate to Picturing America images. Alternately, library staff may provide an introduction, offering participants a list of recommended reads to pursue individually.
- Host a poetry writing workshop in the library, or hold a poetry writing contest. Invite community members to create their own ekphrastic poem inspired by one of the Picturing America images. The American Academy of Poets offers a few writing tips in their online Poet’s Workshop.
- Share the results of the workshop or contest by including the poetry created on your library’s website, in printed newsletters, as part of a public display, or by creating a bound book of submissions.
For other resources to support poetry-based Picturing America programs, visit AAP’s Picturing America Web pages.