Poetry Friday: “Work”-ing with a 2-year-old artist

Last week I shared a poem I wrote for my wife as part of our wedding vows 13 years ago – a post I traditionally re-share annually. So this week, I thought I’d let my daughter have the spotlight.

As a born artist, she has always been a creative soul, drawing, painting, sculpting and creating art in every possible manner everywhere she goes. Lunch crumbs, recyclables, anything she finds all have potential to become art in her hands.

Several years ago when she was barely 2 years old, she drew this picture:

I asked my daughter what it was and she replied, “A hand picking up stones.”

Given her age and cognitive abilities at the time (she was barely 2, remember), I assumed that was simply a random answer. But when her mom saw it and asked her what it was, she said the same thing: I asked my daughter what it was and she replied, “It’s a hand picking up stones.”

I thought it interesting that she said the same thing, so I decided to wait a week or so and ask again. This time, she actually sighed and said, “I told you, it’s a hand picking up stones!”

I guess she knew exactly what she was drawing.

So I thought it might be fun to write a poem to go along with her picture. (This is a form of “ekphrastic poetry”; that is, poetry written to accompany a picture. You can learn more about how much fun ekphrastic poetry is to write – and learn a little more about this poem – HERE.)



One by one
I set the stones
neatly in a pile.
Though labor’s long
and aches my bones,
its beauty makes me smile.

© (2015) Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved


This poem and picture were first featured together on Penny Parker Klostermann’s blog, as part of a series of posts she shared featuring collaborations between writers and child family members. For more poetry, head over to The Apples in My Orchard, where Carol is hosting today’s Poetry Friday roundup!


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24 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: “Work”-ing with a 2-year-old artist

  1. Matt: Love this story and poem. I am always amazed at the abilities of young children. This story reminds me of my oldest granddaughter, who made a new friend while waiting in line at a restaurant. I’ll have to write about that sometime…… Best to you.


  2. Matt, Your daughter’s persistent and consistent answer is amazing given her age at the time she drew this picture! Thank you for refreshing my memory of what ekphrastic poetry is. I will have to try it. My youngest son (19 years old) is an artist (making a living wage selling is work). I’ll have to write a poem to go with one of his pieces. Your poem captures your daughter’s art beautifully.


  3. Denise Krebs

    Ah, Matt, thanks for sharing your sweet ekphrastic poem and your daughter’s artwork. I love the detail she put into the picture. Your poem really brings out the stacked rocks in the lower left corner. Your words are even nicely stacked into a pile.


  4. I love what you did here! When Columbia Teachers College came to our district to do training so much emphasis was placed on having a conversation with a child about their picture. We were instructed to have them tell us the story. Amazing. Something my mother in law always knew. Something I have appreciated for some time. Thank you Matt!


  5. margaretsmn

    I’ve had similar experiences with my 2 year old grandson. My daughter is keeping all of his artwork. She believes he is an artist so I believe he will be. Thanks for sharing this story and poem.


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