Connect with Colour

One easy way to start engaging with the world around us is by noticing the colours in our immediate environments and personal spaces. Maybe you are lucky enough to have access to a garden full of vibrant greens and colourful flowers. But if not, you can find colour within your living space, or you can look out of the window and notice all the different shades and hues of the sky. 

Noticing colour is more than simply noting things that are yellow, red, green or blue. It is about deeply investigating the ways in which colours play with our perceptions; noticing the ways that different colours carry different personal meanings for each of us; and thinking about the ways that different colours affect our moods. 

In her book Conscious Creativity, Philippa Stanton writes,"appreciating and observing colour is a bit like learning a new language" (73). She suggests that "[t]ruly seeing colours that are right in front of you demands a completely different level of visual engagement," that can provide "an alternative level of understanding and unspoken emotion" (72). 

Let's take a look at some poems that engage with colours. 

Aimee Nezhukumatathil's poem, Red Ghazal, focuses deeply on details of red in an everyday context, some of which are bodily (tongue, freckles, red hair) and some of which relate to objects (a wastebin, red playing cards). She draws connections between them using a loose ghazal rhyme scheme (note how the end word of each second couplet line loosely rhymes with 'red'). 

 

Emily Dickinson's A Slash of Blue, is brief and succinct but brimming with colour as she explores the differences between an evening and a morning sky. Colours are given a sense of painterly texture, quick movement and ephemerality with active verbs like 'slash,' 'sweep,' 'slipped,' and 'hurried.' The poem's lines are short and broken up with Dickinson's trademark dashes (--) which add moments of pause and interruption. 

Christina Rossetti's Coloruses a traditional rhyming structure to explore a range of colours. The first line of each couplet follows a question-and-answer format ("what is pink? a rose is pink"), while the second line is shorter in length, ("by a fountain brink") giving the poem a rhythmic and echoic quality as words and sounds are repeated. 

Rachel Contreni Flynn's poem, The Yellow Bowl, has as its focus a colourful household object, which acts as a fulcrum for the poem's emotional mood; a shift between loneliness and a quiet contentment. The poem uses a conditional 'if' to outline how the differences between these two types of quiet might be registered, and anchors this difference through vivid concrete images: the light, the rug, the bowl, the plums, her body. 

So, how might we engage with colour more closely. Here are some ideas to try out:

  • Choose one colour to focus on and look for all the versions of it you can find in your environment. Make notes on all the different shades and how they vary from one another. How does, for instance, the yellow of a sunflower differ from the yellow of a lemon? How do their textures, contexts, lighting contribute to that difference? Write a poem or paragraph that explores all these variations, and how each of these variations make you feel.

  •  Over several days, make notes on the different colours of the sky: how its colours vary at different times of the day; how these colours affect the light in your environment; what these colours remind you of. Notice the changes to the landscape in relation to these colours. Notice how these changes make you feel. Write a poem or paragraph that explores the sky's changing palette of colours over time. 

  • Choose an everyday object from your environment that has a striking colour. Consider, and make notes on, this object: the function and purpose of its colour, its context and placement in your environment, how you and others around you interact with it, the meaning of its colour to you and any memories you associate with it. Write a poem or paragraph about this colourful object, exploring its relation to you, your everyday life, and your memories. 

  • Choose one particular place or space in your environment, and make notes on all the colours around you that you can see. Focus on each one individually: how each one makes you feel and what it reminds you of. Make notes on how all these colours interact with one another. Write a poem or paragraph exploring all the different colours you experience in this one place. 

If you'd like to share any of the work you make as a result of following these writing prompts on our site, email your work in the form of a Word file to e.j.perry@kent.ac.uk