One of my favorite poetry blogs is Tricia Stohr-Hunt’s The Miss Rumphius Effect. Tricia is an assistant professor of Elementary Education at the University of Richmond, as well as a blogger, poet, and all-around wonderful person. Each April, Tricia chooses a poetry theme, then writes daily posts based on her theme. These posts are incredibly thorough, informative, and inspiring. Yesterday’s post on ekphrastic poetry was no exception.
I had already been thinking about writing some ekphrastic poetry this month because of Irene Latham’s amazing National Poetry Month project, ARTSPEAK! and this painting, Mary Cassatt’s “Children in the Garden (The Nurse)” April’s image on the calendar hanging in my kitchen. The more I studied these people, the more they seemed like the perfect subjects to give voice to.
As I began jotting ideas about what each person in the painting might be thinking, or dreaming about, it became clear that there would be echoes between the three. Again inspired by Tricia and her compatriots, The Poetry Seven, I decided to try a villanelle. This form has a specific rhyme scheme and pattern of repetition. I’m not in love with the word “done” to describe when lunch is over, but it had more rhyme options than other choices, so I kept it for this draft.
Children in the Garden,
after “Children in the Garden (The Nurse)” by Mary Cassatt, 1878
On a June afternoon, when lunch is done,
baby dreams a sweet milk dream
as she dozes in the warm summer sun.
As she knits yellow wool, finely spun,
nurse’s eyelids droop in the sun’s bright gleam
on a June afternoon, when lunch is done.
I play in the garden, watched by no one.
Tipping my watering can, I pour a stream
of water, glistening, into the warm summer sun.
Bumblebees dart in and out, their work just begun;
welcomed by iris and roses; it’s part of nature’s scheme
this June afternoon, when lunch is done.
Spying a cricket, I give chase. I won!
My prize safe in my palm, my smile’s a beam
as bright as the warm summer sun.
Breezes stir; I’ve had my fun.
I snuggle next to nurse, soft as cream,
on a June afternoon when lunch is done
and doze in the warmth of the summer sun.
© Catherine Flynn, 2015
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