Ekphrastic Poems for Tanka Tuesday

Portrait of Lady Agnew of Lochnaw (1865-1932) by John Singer Sargent, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

She Knows

her sash,
like lilac is
an intimation of spring,
just this. . .she’s awakened, see her

I know

my sash
like lilac is
an intimation of spring,
just this . . . I’m awakened, see my

For Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday Ekphrastic Prompt. This is sort of a poetic exercise in syllabic verse. I wrote the first cinquain, and then I re-wrote it in first person, which I think empowers her. I love the way Sargent captured the light on her gown. You can almost feel the fabric, but it was that sash that first caught my eye, and then her direct gaze.

38 thoughts on “Ekphrastic Poems for Tanka Tuesday

  1. Yes!! I love the look of her gown. I could feel the coolness of the silk just looking at the painting. I like that used “spring” and how her “awakening” seemed like a rebirth of who she was as a woman. So much said, in such few words. This is excellent, Merril.

  2. Adore this painting. Wish I was far enough along to express light on fabric so well.
    You wrote a Tanka every bit as lilac love as the painting. Thank you, Merril!

  3. Interesting turn in those. I do like it in first person best, too. What a difference it makes. Without the lavender sash it would be a typical boring white dress. So why do you think she’s wearing white? She’s not a debutante, so is it a summer dress? When else did married women wear white?

    • Thank you! It was interesting to see the difference.
      I think married and single women wore white in the summer. It looks like a summer dress. I imagine though that poor and working women only wore white for special occasions because doing laundry was so arduous, and it takes a lot to keep white garments clean. (Gentlemen had spotless cuffs, cravats, etc.) So, I suppose it could also signal her status–wealthy enough to have servants.

      • Yeah, I knew that about summer dresses. But then I wondered if there was some significance to her wearing that dress beyond it being summer. You know: debutantes in white dresses, brides in white dresses, and I wondered if there were other occasions and if the portrait was for a special occasion or could it be a bridal portrait?

      • The painting was commissioned a few years after she was married. From what I read they don’t know the circumstances, but the Agnews may have met Sargeant through mutual friends. She was still recovering from influenza, so that is probably why she’s reclining.

  4. I don’t know if you know this Merril, I just found out today. Our friend and fellow poet Glenn Butkus passed away last Friday the 17th. I will miss his bold ways. Rest in peace Glenn.🕊

  5. John Singer Sargent and Lady Agnew would be very pleased. Merril – brilliant exploration. You have captured the feeling that comes through her expression: it seems that she is participating in an intimate conversation with whoever observes the painting. It is as if Lady Agnew speaks directly, and quietly challenges. And then there is that smile that tempts our imagination.

  6. Pingback: #TankaTuesday #TheSpiceofLife #Poetry Challenge No. 309, 2/28/23 – Word Craft Poetry

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