Ekphrastic poem mentor texts by high school students

Use art to hone descriptive writing skills

Six examples of ekphrastic poems written by my students

Images of the artworks that inspired each poem

A link to my mini-lesson handout

In November, I posted about a lesson I was planning to teach on ekphrastic poetry. Well, I’m happy to say that the lesson was taught and the poems were written. At the conclusion of that previous post, I indicated that I would soon pass along to you some examples of the poems written by my students. This post will do just that.

In case you’re unfamiliar with ekphrastic poetry…

An ekphrastic poem is a poem written in response to or about a work of art. These poems will naturally hone your students’ descriptive writing skills, as well as help them engage creatively with art and words.

For a classic ekphrastic poem, show students Ode on a Grecian Urn by the Romantic Era poet John Keats.

According to the Poetry Foundation website

“An ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the ‘action’ of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning.”

Poetry Foundation

Without further ado, six of my students’ poems from that November lesson appear below. (Feel free to use them as examples for your students as they embark on creating their own ekphrastic poems.)

It’s amazing how each artwork below reflects the unique interests of each of these students.

Here’s the link to the handout:

Here’s the link to the ekphrastic poetry handout I created for my classes. And by the way, this was also a project students could choose for our writer’s workshop portfolios! If you choose to incorporate an ekphrastic poem into your workshop, this handout makes a great info sheet for students to reference as they work.

One more note: I recommend that students NOT randomly search “Google images” for art, but to instead peruse Google Arts and Culture for a juried source of masterworks.


…for many students, viewing and responding to art is uncharted territory. To that end, ekphrastic poetry is a good way to expose students to art they might never have reason to investigate or ponder.

Marilyn Yung

In addition, I like that ekphrastic poetry shows high school students a new way to express themselves while developing their descriptive writing skills and providing practice in word choice, imagery, and sensory language.

If you’ve never tried ekphrastic poetry with your students, give it a try.

I think you’ll all enjoy it! Thanks for reading!

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Featured Photo by Yamaitrop Vioreenlack on Unsplash

ELA Brave and True

Published by Marilyn Yung

Writes | Teaches | Not sure where one ends and the other begins.

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