Tanka Tuesday: Ekphrasis; Lady of Lilac

The Ekphrasis approach to stimulating a haiku has been a great source of learning and inspiration for me as I look forward to each weeks #tuesdaytanka from Colleen on her Wordcraft site. It’s fascinating to read everyone’s poem and see the connection with different impressions and interpretations of the painting from each writer. Blood and then wine have been my own focal points from the previous two Ekphrasis challenges, today it’s “old love” and I wonder if you realise “why” as you compare my poem with the painting?

Portrait of Lady Agnew of Lochnaw (1865-1932) by John Singer Sargent, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Eyes portraying calm
hand betraying hidden angst
heart wrapped with lilac
a message of renewal
secret thoughts of old love

The Two Doctors

The last three Ekphrasis challenges have resulted in my focusing almost exclusively on a colour in the image. This one has been the same with my eyes constantly staring at the lilac part of her dress, and for some reason this in turn prompted me to look up any hidden meanings concerning lilac. I found many, some even dating back to Greek mythology but the one that appealed to me most was the one from Victorian times when lilac symbolised renewal and old love. Victorian women didn’t choose colours randomly or by accident. Hence the tanka!

Categories: Haiku, Senryu

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

16 replies

  1. I love the lavender color reference in your tanka, Dr. B. I agree… she could be thinking of an old lover and even sending a message that says she still loves him. I liked your deep dive into the psychology of color. It’s one of my favorite ways to inspire poetry. 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice take on the image and good to know about lilac!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I never got past her eyes. I love your incorporation of the hand and the emotion it exudes. Great poem, Dr. B!

    Yvette M Calleiro 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Very cool going for the Victorian meaning of lilac! Yes to the hidden symbolism!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. So many emotions are embedded in this tanka! I too noticed the hand, it conveys a lot and the color is as dominant as her expression. You have captured all within a few lines. Well-done!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Lovely but sad, or perhaps merely reflective. Alas, we have lost the language of both colours and flowers. To think one could once send a message in a bouquet, and I don’t mean the little card.

    Liked by 2 people


  1. #TankaTuesday #TheSpiceofLife #Poetry Challenge No. 309, 2/28/23 – Word Craft Poetry

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