Purple Plays (An Associative Poetry Prompt)

~Seth Haines

School-bus yellow. Fire engine red.
Dark black coffee.
Green beans, greenbacks,
pink Cadillac.
Sky blue, golden rule,
brown paper sack.

Some objects are often defined by color, and likewise, some colors are defined by objects. Men have long lusted after the cherry-red Porsche, or the ruby-red lips of their lovers. The perfect little black dress is the staple of the refined lady’s closet. Children have long dreaded the color “school-bus yellow,” and the slow death march to the black board at the front of the class. College students chase the red brick house, the white picket fence.

Color associations are not just relegated to objects. Emotional states are chromatically dressed. The hot-tempered see red, while the sad are blue. The overjoyed are tickled pink. The cowardly? They’re just plain yellow.

Our pigmentatious affectations, however, seem lacking for the colors purple and indigo. Sure, Prince danced in a purple rain, but that was hardly cliche. Who’d ever heard of colored rain until the release of his 1984 album?

There is also Violet Beauregard, the ill-mannered, hyper-competitive girl in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In the 1971 film adaptation of the classic, Violet disregards the warnings of Willy Wonka and chews an experimental three-course gum until she is transformed into a one-ton indigo blueberry. Luckily, Violet ultimately finds relief on the factory juicing floor at the hands of the orange-skinned, green-haired Oompa Loompa crew. Even still, I’m not sure exactly why Violet was painted in indigo hues, nor why Dahl chose to give her the colorful name. Of course, I may be unaware of some long-held association between impertinent children and the colors violet or indigo. (If I am, please feel free to inform me in the comments below.)

It’s true; there seem to be precious few associative references to the colors purple and indigo. But today, we’re here to change that.

What objects do you most associate with colors purple and indigo? What emotional states do the colors bring to mind?  For today’s poetry prompt, I’m asking you to explore those associations, to write them as vividly as you can in the comments below.

Who’s first? Go ahead; write a work that makes me green with envy.


Tweetspeak’s February Purple, Plum, and Indigo Poetry Prompt:

This month’s poetry theme at Tweetspeak is Purple, Plum, and Indigo, and we’re composing poems that play with the theme. Perhaps you can gain a bit of inspiration from this month’s playlist, from a particular piece of artwork, or from your local purveyor of plums, eggplant, or purple-hulled peas. How do you participate?

1. Think about the colors purple, plum, or indigo. Do the colors remind you of a particular place, a type of food, an experience, or a certain mood?

2.  Compose a poem inspired by the theme.

3. Tweet your poems to us. Add a #PurplePoetry hashtag so we can find it and maybe share it with the world.

4. If you aren’t a twitter user, leave your poem here in the comment box.

5. At the end of the month, we’ll choose a winning poem and feature it in one of our upcoming Weekly Top 10 Poetic Picks.

This week, Karin played with the ideas of darkness, light, and hope. In “Light Cracks Indigo,” she writes:

branches strain thin
as light cracks indigo
chasing away the night
with life’s promise

Good work, Karin. Thanks for playing!

Photo by Wonderlane, Creative Commons via Flickr. Post by Seth Haines


Buy a year of Every Day Poems, just $5.99 — Read a poem a day, become a better poet. In February we’re exploring the theme Purple, Plum, and Indigo.

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  1. says

    When I think of the color purple, I think of Alice Walker. . .

    “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” –Alice Walker

    Color Purple

    Alice Walker
    Never met a purple shade
    That she did not admire
    Which did not persuade
    Her regard for it would not tire
    She stood with God
    In fields of purple flower
    With beauty that would not cower
    Amidst splashes of the finest color
    In the countryside assured

    © February 11, 2013, Robbie Pruitt

  2. Donna says

    Seth, I always feel excited and thankful when memories find their way back to me. I have a kind of amnesia that I just have to live with… but wow… this prompt “prompted” so much just with the thought of purple… one thing lead to another and I was back at my father’s childhood home sticking to a lawn chair sipping ice tea. Maybe it’s not really about purple, but it came from purple and so I’m sharing it. And thank you… :)

    flower spirits

    not a trace remains
    not even a footprint or china cup or hair pin
    not even a cellar or wall or brick or rusty skeleton key

    not a trace remains
    of summer days sitting by the barn
    drinking ice tea
    and picking raspberries
    and saying cheese for the auntie who knows
    how fast time flies

    not a trace remains
    of floor radiator vents for cold winter feet
    or lilac bushes surrounding the house they were taller than

    not a trace remains
    nothing left
    but a subtle lilac haze
    dancing on the breeze like
    ghosts in gauzy robes
    marking this ground as sacred place

    the spirits of the flowers live

    and they feel like
    aunt nellie’s hands
    picking lilacs for my mother
    every spring

    and they sound like
    bees humming as they
    land and sway each branch
    of blooms

    and they smell like

  3. says

    Scent of lilac or lavender
    When purple blooms, the senses stir.

    Like sunset, wine, or jeweled ring
    Purple IS a passionate thing.

    Should I turn fifty (or fifty-four)
    Dare I wear purple out my door?

  4. says

    Donna, Robbie…your poems are beautifully purple. The lilacs brought memories of my mother’s bushes (irises, clematis too) I also remember the Purple Cow poem and “When I Am an Old Woman I Will Wear Purple” (author?).

  5. says

    Been meaning to refer back to this link since March. It’s amazing the things you find when you rummage through Gmail labels!

    Anyway, things I immediately associate with purple are royalty (the word actually comes from the Latin for a highly valueed dye called Tyrian purple — extracted from a slimy mollusc), mountains (purple mountains’ majesty), femininity (pink’s partner?), and the Purple Heart (awarded to those US soldiers wounded or killed in battle). Because of the Purple Heart, I tend to associate the color with sacrificial courage.

    Thanks for the prompt. I’ll be thinking and writing on purple. I’ll share what I come up with.


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