An Ekphrastic #TankaTuesday

This week’s prompt from Colleen Chesebro’s is to write an ekphrastic poem about the following Singer Sargent portrait. The whole idea of #TankaTuesday is to write a syllabic poem according to prompt. Syllabic poems are quite different from what I usually write. They are formed by certain patterns of syllables.

By John Singer Sargent – Own work by Ad Meskens., Public Domain,

I love that Colleen wrote: “REMEMBER… don’t just describe the woman… we can all see her. Like all of us, this woman has a story. Write THAT poem….” I have been working on my ekphrastic poems, as well as syllabic, so this was a fun exercise. I chose to write a Reverse Cinquain. And, I’m sorry if this seems like a strange response, but all I could think about once I put myself into the woman herself is how uncomfortable I feel wearing this outfit. Then, my second thought was, but I sure feel beautiful (and I can’t wait to unhook my bra and the spanx and take off my shoes, etc.).


My dress

itches my breasts,

my corset produces

heartburn, this beauty I strive for


This dress

my dressmaker created from

lavender gossamer

soothes mind but not



Filed under #amwriting, #TankaTuesday, Poetry, Writing, Writing prompt

43 responses to “An Ekphrastic #TankaTuesday

  1. Thank God for floppy sweat pants and sweat shirt. All minus the sweat, of course.

  2. Ha, ha, ha…exactly. Good one. I feel it.

  3. Lovely dress and lovely lady…but your poem sums up what that dress might actually feel like. I think this was an interesting take on this portrait. I love the color lavender. I painted my bedroom that color when I was a young girl and I had sheer lavender curtains to match. I was captured by the beauty of the dress itself when I looked at the portrait. I think it is interesting that you considered how this beautiful woman might be feeling in such a garment.

    • That color of pastel lavender is so beautiful. Was your lavender to the pink or to the blue? I like it to the pink as it is in this portrait. I was captured by the beauty of the dress, too, but immediately felt how uncomfortable it was. That’s because I had determined to put myself inside her and see what came of it. And I have an aversion to uncomfortable clothes (tags that scratch, fabrics that feel icky to the touch or that play games with my skin–touch, don’t touch, touch. Hahaha, does that even make any sense, Linda?

  4. I just want to know how she kept all the bows done up. And to Linda Raha’s comment, my brother helped me paint my bedroom lavender when I was 13. The walls were made of different materials: weatherboard and masonite, so the shade came out differently on each.

    • Oh no, I am imagining all those shades. Were you able to pass it off as psychedelic, kind of a hippie look? Yes, she must have had a personal maid like on Downton Abbey to dress her!

      • By the time I finished with that bedroom it was like a Moroccan Bedouin tent – all lilacs and blues, coloured glass vases, brass bibs and bobs, and other what-not. A pinky-lilac chenille bedspread (remember them?) and a blue shaggy rug that my dog slept on beside my bed. Hand-made curtains and repurposed furniture, and a fringed purple paper lampshade on the single light dangling from the ceiling on a cord. All paid for from my after-school jobs.
        Don’t laugh – but – I was pretty proud of myself.

        • Oh, that sounds lovIely, especially for the time period! I did something similar at that age, but different colors. It was a good era for those kinds of home decor hahaha.

  5. Ah… whale bone corset – I actually remember watching a show where a Civil War Re-enactor (guy) wore a corset to slim his waist – those with high rank did that. Why I’m not sure. I think I’d always rather breath freely!!

    I also remember crinolin slips to make your skirt poof out – and horrid tights that never fit right. So I can imagine her discomfort.

    I’m sure she had some maids in waiting… to keep her refreshed.
    But the smile…(Thank goodness I can lean back!) that does have a unique story that I think only a woman can relate to. Well done!

    • I find that about a Civil War reenator wearing a corset horrifying. I can’t believe the men also did that. It’s so dangerous and for someone doing physical labor or exercise even more so.
      Thank you so much!

  6. I love your take on the painting. While her expression appears serene on the surface, I think it’s more that she’s resigned herself to getting her portrait done in that uncomfortable dress.

  7. No need to apologize! I think I’d probably go there, too. I only wear comfortable clothes and hardly ever a bra!

  8. I love this, Luanne! I can completely relate to wanting to rid myself of uncomfortable clothing no matter how beautiful it is. Great poem!

    Yvette M Calleiro 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Yvette. It usually just doesn’t seem worth it to me, to get dressed up–and I’m sure I’ve never worn anything as uncomfortable as women in her era did!

  9. Such a fun response to the prompt, Luanne. I don’t know if the dress would be uncomfortable, but the corseting must have been!

  10. Luanne, this was an exceptional take on the painting!! I love the way you share how she must have felt. Although, I wonder if the women of this time just took it all in stride—being wealthy enough to dress the part? But, I’m right there with you… I’m all for the comfort!! 💜

  11. Amy

    The poem made me laugh! I am totally a comfort clothing person—sweats, yoga pants, jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers make up about 85% of my wardrobe with the other 15% only for occasions where I cannot get away with wearing what I want.

    But I don’t understand the reasons behind these rules for structuring a poem. Are they just to be challenging? Is there some aesthetic reason or other purpose behind them?

    • Me too, except even jeans are too uncomfortable for me.
      Syllabic poetry mainly originated in languages that are different from English. English is pretty stress-driven. So more typically it’s Japanese or French, etc. For the most part, until more recently, syllabic poetry was not very common in the United States (or in English). But there’s been a resurgence of formal poetry, which includes syllabic. But formal also means sonnets, ballads, etc., and those are not syllabic forms. I am participating in the syllabic challenges for what I think a lot of bloggers who do are–because it is challenging. It’s much harder to write a good syllabic poem than it is to write a good free verse poem. But IMO syllabic poems also have a lot of limitations. And I think they work better read on the page than aloud. Recently I started to think that I should work on my weak areas of poetry which I identified as ekphrastic and syllabic, so that’s what I’m doing :). Turns out, I like writing syllabic for the same reason that I liked Wordle and before that Sukoku, etc.

  12. I think we’ve all been there…(K)

  13. Poor girl. Maybe a tight corset too….

  14. I’ve never been one for uncomfortable clothing. Closest I have come was a fetish for wearing onion sacks on my head when I was 5 years old. I have no idea why now, but I was a strange child. 🙂

  15. hehe, I know what you mean. And with such a corset, one cannot breathe so one just sits and looks pretty. hehe. Go corset-less. Be like G.G. Marquez’ “Remedios The Beauty” who insisted that corsets don’t make ladies. And so, Remedios the Beauty, fond of her cassocks, corset-less floats to heaven. hehe. I guess now you know I like G.G. Marquez and Remedios the Beauty’s way of thinking. Thanks so much for writing this. Loved it.

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