Take a Pic, Write a Poem

Step 1: Take a picture. It could be something you see at home or something you encounter on a walk outside.

Step 2: Write a poem. We recommend the tanka form (which is similar to haiku; see the instructions below). But use any form you like.

Step 3 (optional): Post to your preferred social media platform and tag the Newberry Library and the Poetry Foundation.

In honor of National Poetry Month, and in the spirit of photographer/poet Jun Fujita (whose work appeared in a joint exhibition by the Newberry and the Poetry Foundation this winter), we're encouraging everyone to document their experiences in these quarantimes.

Start by taking a photo of something that represents your thoughts or feelings right now, or that reflects your approach to getting through this period of social distancing. It could be a nature scene you come across on a walk or a still life in your home.

Then write a poem inspired by that photo. You can choose to write a poem in the tanka style preferred by Jun Fujita, who published Tanka: Poems in Exile in 1923. Or you can write in another style that you may prefer.

Tanka is a short, unrhymed Japanese poem (from tan, “short” and ka, “poem”), often composed of 31 syllables. It is a form of waka, a highly imagistic lyric poem. Many English translations divide tanka into 5 lines of 5/7/5/7/7 syllables.

Like many tanka and haiku composers, Jun Fujita did not compose tanka that adhered to strict syllable counts, instead crafting poems that honor the tanka’s movement, sensibility, and shape.

You can read the tanka poems Fujita published in Poetry and also find other fun writing exercises on the Poetry Foundation's website.