lesson plan

Picturing America

Level

Any

The American Library Association’s Public Programs Office asked us to compile supplementary resources for Picturing America, the National Endowment for the Humanities’ initiative to incorporate visual arts in library and classroom activities involving literature and social studies.

The ongoing program operates on the premise that “the nation’s artistic heritage—our paintings, sculpture, architecture, fine crafts, and photography—offers unique insights into the character, ideals, and aspirations of our country.”

American poets have always engaged with the ever-changing landscape of their fellow artists. Below we offer a sample of poems that relate to historical works of art. To see reproductions of the paintings, visit Picturing America

LITERARY CONNECTIONS

Painting: 
The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere by Grant Wood

Poems:
"Paul Revere’s Rideby Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"The Concord Hymnby Ralph Waldo Emerson


Painting: 
George Washington by Gilbert Stuart

Poems:
"Washington’s Monument, February, 1885by Walt Whitman

"Occasioned by General Washington’s Arrival in Philadelphia, On His Way to His Residence in Virginiaby Philip Freneau

"The Father of My Country" by Diane Wakoski


Painting: 
Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze

Poems:
"On Seeing Larry Rivers’ Washington Crossing the Delaware at the Museum of Modern Art" by Frank O’Hara

"George Washington Crossing the Delaware" by Kenneth Koch


Painting:
Benjamin Franklin by Hiram Powers

Poems:
"How to get Richesby Benjamin Franklin

"The Busy-man’s Picture by Benjamin Franklin


Painting:
View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm—The Oxbow by Gilbert Stuart

Poems:
"Above the Oxbow" by Sylvia Plath


Painting:
The Last of the Mohicans by N. C. Wyeth

Poem:
"The Song of Hiawathaby Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Painting:
“American Flamingo” by John James Audubon

Poems:
"John James Audubon" by Stephen Vincent Benét

"Audubon: a Vision" by Robert Penn Warren

"Flamingo Watching" by Kay Ryan


Painting:
Catlin Painting the Portrait of Mah-to-toh-pa—Mandan by George Catlin

Poem:
"I Will Fight No More Forever" by Chief Joseph


Painting:
Looking Down Yosemite Valley by Albert Bierstadt

Poems:
"Exit, Pursued by a Sierra Meadow" by Robert Hass


Painting:
The Veteran in a New Field by Winslow Homer

Poems:
"Haymakingby John Clare

"Mowing" by Robert Frost

"Haymaking" by William Carlos Williams


Painting:
Abraham Lincoln by Alexander Gardner

Poems:
"When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom’dby Walt Whitman


Painting:
Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment Memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens

Poems:
"Boston Common" by John Berryman

"For the Union Deadby Robert Lowell

"An Ode in Time of Hesitation" by William Vaughn Moody


Painting:
Quilts: 19th through 20th Centuries

Poem:
"Quiltsby Nikki Giovanni


Painting:
Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room by James McNeill Whistler

Poem:
"The Peacock Room" by Robert Hayden


Painting:
Allies Day, May 1917 by Childe Hassam

Poem:
"The Waste Landby T. S. Eliot


Painting: 
Brooklyn Bridge by Walker Evans

Poems:
"To Brooklyn Bridgeby Hart Crane

"Granite and Steel" by Marianne Moore


Painting:  
Brooklyn Bridge by Joseph Stella

Poems:
"Brooklyn Bridge" by Vladimir Mayakovsky

"The New Colossusby Emma Lazarus


Painting:
American Landscape by Charles Sheeler

Poem:
"Chicagoby Carl Sandburg


Painting:
The Migration of the Negro Panel no. 57 by Jacob Lawrence

Poem:
"Theme for English Bby Langston Hughes


Painting:

Freedom of Speech by Norman Rockwell

Poems:
"The Death of the Ball Turret Gunnerby Randall Jarrell


Painting:
Ladder for Booker T. Washington by Dudley Randall

Poems:
"Booker T. and W.E.B." by Dudley Randall

RELATED READING

Notes on Ekphrasis
by Alfred Corn
“Ekphrasis (also spelled “ecphrasis”) is a direct transcription from the Greek ... and seems originally to have been used as a rhetorical term designating a passage in prose or poetry that describes something.”

Ekphrasis: Poetry Confronting Art
Discover the history of early ekphrastic poems, including works by Homer and Virgil.

Writing Exercise: Write an Ekphrastic Poem
A generative writing exercise to inspire engagement with ekphrastic poetry.

Explore Poetry & Art
Browse articles exploring the overlaps between poetry and the visual arts.

Free Verse Project
Hundreds of participants recast their favorite lines of poetry in the most unusual places.

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