Man Ray Poetry

Ekphrasis comes from the Greek word meaning “description.” Throughout history, ekphrastic poems have been written to describe works of art, sculpture, pottery, and even the shields of Greek warriors! For example, in Homer’s Iliad he describes Achilles’s shield through ekphrasis. In our activity today we will “swim inside” a picture and describe it by inhabiting it. By pretending to live inside of a painting perhaps we can get to know it better!


No need to write anything! Take a moment to look at this painting by Man Ray (also known as Emmanuel Radnitsky). What do you see? What do the shapes remind you of? What about the colors? What do you think is happening in this picture? Think about the different elements (colors, shapes, lines) of the painting. What would each element say if it could talk?


Now “swim into” the painting. Imagine you are inside this picture. Choose one of the prompts below to write from. You do need not need to answer each question—these are just to help get your ideas flowing.

Write a story about what’s happening in the scene and what you think will happen.

  •     What’s happening the moment you swim in?
  •     What will happen?
  •     Are the shapes talking to one another?
  •     Are you friendly with the other shapes/colors in this picture?
  •     What will happen inside this painting? Predict this painting’s future!

Pretend to be one of the shapes or colors in the picture.

  •     What would you do?
  •     How would you act?
  •     Do you have any friends in the picture?
  •     As a shape in this picture, do you like it? Do you want to get out of the painting? Where would you go instead?

Talk to the other shapes/colors/elements in the picture. (Hint: try and write down a conversation you’d have with these elements)

  •     Would you ask the other shapes/colors anything?
  •     Would you tell them a secret? What’s your secret?

Compare the shapes/colors/elements of this picture to something in real life.

  •     Focus on just one shape in the picture. What does it remind you of?
  •     How is it similar to the thing it reminds you of? Write a list.


Share your ekphrastic poem with your favorite person or thing! Try sharing your poem with them before showing them the painting it is based off of! 


Education Level: 





Writing Prompt

Time Frame: 


Prior Knowledge/Skills: 


Required Materials: 

Paper and writing utensil

Literary model: 

"Decanter" from Revolving Doors by Man Ray