Invented Poetry Forms – The Rothko

rothko colors

Having received such a seemingly enthusiastic response to my last post on the pollock, I decided to follow it up with yet another poetic form inspired by an abstract expressionist visual artist – the rothko. Created by poet Bob Holman who named the form after the painter Mark Rothko, it is a three-line poem with each line consisting of three words. Emulating Rothko (who was notorious for his bold use of color), the poem must contain the names of three different hues. These colors have to appear in the poem in either a horizontal, vertical or diagonal line (much like in tic-tac-toe). Another one of Holman’s rules for writing a rothko is that it can only be written while standing in front of an actual Rothko painting. Because of the difficulty for most poets to follow this, I think it is definitely permissible to ignore that particular rule. Instead, I found images of Rothko’s masterpieces online, and used them as my inspiration for the following examples:

Chasing Spring

Frisky black spaniels
Pursue grey squirrels
Through green grass

The Leaf Peepers

Everywhere they seek
Heralds of autumn –
Red, Orange, Yellow

Our Daily Quarrel

Verbal purple explosions
Puncturing white hush
Of amber afternoons

Tragedy on the First Day of School

Blue skies above,
Yellow bus runs
Red stop sign

Endless Mourning

Beige bones buried
Under umber earth –
Grief      so      black

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21 thoughts on “Invented Poetry Forms – The Rothko

    1. Thank you so much, John! I really appreciate that. The original rothkos by Bob Holman were more abstract (like Rothko’s paintings), but I tried to make mine more narrative. I’m so pleased that you like them.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Thank you for telling of this ‘new-to-me’ poetic style Paul, it is thrilling to make the connections between art and literature in this way. I loved your poems, and have had a go myself at writing in this poetic form. Loving it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, that is great! It is a fun form to play with. My rothkos turned out to be more narrative than the original ones by Bob Holman, which had an abstract quality similar to the paintings that inspired them.

      Liked by 1 person

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