‘painted precisely’: Portrait Poems

Students read Instructions to the Artist by Billy Collins before crafting their own portrait-inspired poems.

Lesson Note: According to findings by the leading researcher on the power of writing and journaling for healing purposes, James Pennebaker, Ph.D., of the University of Texas at Austin, ‘…expressive writing occurs on multiple levels–cognitive, emotional, social, and biological–making a single explanatory theory unlikely. However, there is little doubt that writing has positive consequences.’

Ms. Ruan, 7th and 8th Grades

Instructions to the Artist
Binhao L.

I wish my head to appear perfectly square
The background should be black like the night in winter
My eyes should be as white as the snow and perfectly circle
Make the size of the canvas as big as the moon when it is full
My hair should be like a pineapple
The body should be like thin as a toothpick

Instructions To The Artist
Sally H.

Make my face as round and grey as the moon on a dark night.
The background should be black like the night in winter.
My eyes should be as brown as the mud after it rains during the spring.
Make the size of the canvas as big as the full moon.
My hair should look as straight as an arrow.
My body should look as strong as a bodybuilder.


Ms. Wright, 8th Grade

Instructions to the Artist
By Suk Min Q.

Make my face
as round and grey as the moon on a dark night.
Each feature painted precisely
like the making of a calligraphy brush
The background should be
dull but has a hint of reflecting light like the moon
My eyes should be
mysterious but appealing as if it’s reading you
like some sort of book
Make the size of the canvas
as big as you want but as small as you like

Make my hair fluffy and curled
like a sheep who just got washed
hours ago…
My lips should be smooth and not splintered
like the abandoned wooden deck

Little Artist
By Meiqi H.

I wish to make my face as round as plat for your food. Not an oval so I don’t look like a nice sunny side fry egg. However, a nice patty round face is also nice.

Make the size of the canvas like was a colorful folder of yours. That always makes you think about candy. So in the background, there should be a beautiful sun like a nice orange waiting to be eaten.

My eyes should be as big as the bottom of your glass cup with your morning milk. Draw my mouth like a nice slide of juicy melon. Then give me a body that looks like the gingerbread man with a nice sugar frosting on top. Please at my glasses so I can see the delicious food out of the painting.

Mrs. Wright, 8th Grade

The Way To Draw Me
By Crystal S.

Make my face like a potato,
and round like a Ferris wheel.

The background should be blue
like the bright morning sky.

My eyes should be round
and dark like boba.

Make the size of the canvas big
like my obsession with TNT.

My lips should be shaped
like a heart.

The expression on my face
should be emotionless
like a mannequin.

Instruction to me
By Zebin L.

my face is not that fat but not that skinny
But I want my face to be skinny
My face is not big but not small
My face skin should be peach

The background should be as a rainbow as a color after a spring storm
The sky should be blue or light
A house nearby
The floor is wet
My eyes should be small but not too small
My eyeballs is black

My body size should be as big as a pig

My leg should be as tall as a giraffe
Not too fat, but a little fat




“Writing poetry makes me feel like I can see myself, like I can see my reflection, but not in a mirror, in the world. I write and I know I can be reflected.”
-Oscar S.

“Writing poetry makes me feel free.”
-Buenda D.

“Writing poetry is like your best friend.”
-Jessica M.