Visual Verse : Poetry meets Painting

Painters and poets experience a similar process.

Something internally or externally sparks an idea.

The idea threads through materials or words.

The materials or words are edited, revised, and worked through a journey of additions and subtractions.

A composition is generated.

The composition is then interpreted and reinterpreted by an audience.

It felt like a natural collaboration for Ascha Drake’s Painting 1a students to work with Ellen Greenblatt’s Poetry students.

Part of the collaboration was inviting the Poetry students into the studio space.

They were greeted by a sea of monochromatic self-portraits.

The poets spent a class period communicating and connecting to the works with words, phrases, imagery, and emotion.

(In the meantime the poetry students were writing autobiographical poems about their selves,which the painting students were going to interpret visually.)

The Painting 1a students waited in anticipation for the poems. They were excited to discover what another artist saw in their work, and looking forward to understanding how words can transform how they see their selves.

Poet: Yeva Cifor

Artist: Will Boettcher

Staring out of the corner of his eye

In the direction of that fin corner,

Skin tinged sea foam green of the

Palest hue.

Remembering a far off day

When he wasn’t so disconnected.

When that fin was not an eye corner

                                          But flesh and blood

That slapped and manipulated the green sea with ease.

Traces of its former home left behind,

The two wave crests of hair; the squid ink black

Pupils and hair; the fin-cornered eye.

The body longing for the sea,

Stranded, stuck in this

Mammalian form.

In that split-second gaze

Thousands of years rewound.

But then the spell is broken,

Just a dream, he tells himself

Just a dream.

Poet: Amara Taylor

Artist: Isabelle du Moulin

Drowning in a sea of blue,

eyes shut, patience everlasting,

she waits for something,

something different.

A kelp bed of hair

cradles her in a tender, caring hold,

protecting her from

the wind’s anger.

Across her face,

the shadows of clouds

drift lazily on the wind.

But she lays still.

The expanse of blue

is all she can see.

It surrounds her, encompasses her,

muffles her.

And yet, still,

she radiates peace, radiates serenity,

waiting for the key

to happiness.

Poet: Jessie Rice

Artist: Elizabeth Arellano

She looks away

Behind a pair of shiny glasses.

Deep in thought,

Skeptical and shy,

But strong in the mind and heart.

A wave of perseverance,

A flash of quick thought,

She is silent; but holds true to

Herself, from without and


Poet: Karis K.

Artist: Jude Driscoll

Hurt hurt hurt

He has burnt all his fuel

Deep deep dark

Crevices lining a forehead uneven with

Chasms these wounds

Lead to his mind

Riddled riddles

Of white and red swatches

Messy messily fallen

Hair tossed and swung

To and fro to and fro

Brows furrowed stuck in focus

Focus click flash

Impressions on his lips

Up in tears or up in flames

What upset you, child?

That is how it really is

Hurt hurt hurt

He has burnt all his fuel.

Poet: Alice Blecker

Artist: Kevin Anderson

orange boy with hands covering his face


folding together

curling and molding

the color of peaches and clay

woven together

by thin black lines

to form a solid fence

covering the mouth

holding back the flood.

Poet:  Karis K.

Artist: Alex Ahrens

Her legs itched

The clean cut grass

Smelled of summer

Watermelons were promised

And diamonds of sweat

Were welcomed in the

Encompassing sunshine

A mother calling

She spun to face the camera

Too busy dancing in the sun

Click, a moment gone, but

The yellow hue remains.

Poet: Alice Blecker

Artist: Shani Abdallah

exactly and terror

are etched into every surface

every feature

every crease and color

her eyes wide, her mouth stretched open,

as though she is trying to swallow the

moment whole

store it within

where it can shine through her

red with passion

thick with rage

for an eternity

4 Replies to “Visual Verse : Poetry meets Painting”

  1. Absolutely amazing. So creative, thoughtful and perceptive . I really loved the impact of the words and the visual together.

  2. Geez, this is a deeply impressive exercise in collaborative imagination. These are two classes of lucky kids.

    Thanks, Ascha and Ellen.

  3. My students and I loved the collaboration with Ascha’s students and Ascha. I can’t wait to see my Poetry students’ reactions to the paintings that their autobiographical poems evoked from Ascha’s students.
    Tune in for more next year!

  4. A remarkable collaboration. Wonderful imagery from those poets ~ and some analyzing too!
    The self-portraits are executed with such sureness and passion ~ extremely strong work.
    II agree that both classes were very lucky to have this opportunity for creative interchange.

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