This past week’s Bixby Library writing workshop session freed our associative thinking muscles. Our prompt from last session opened up our minds to unexpected connections and generated a list of imagery that might be used in any number of poems. Several writers who don’t identify as poets created in ten minutes work that sounded a looked an awful lot like poetry. Last night’s session built on that beginning.
First, we read two published poems last night to help inspire us. Both engaged with last week’s prompt and suggested alternative ways to develop and use imagery. First Jill McDonough’s “Path to Nowhere” develops a compelling voice that appears convincingly spontaneous. The stream of conscious grumbling is full of concrete details that texture the world of the speaker’s yard. Repetition and corresponding development of ideas spur the reader forward to the conclusion of the poem. The speaker twists the titular line into significance that dawns slowly. Initial acceptance of the qualifier “nowhere” transforms behind our awareness into “forward” and the significance of every detail of our lives, grudging acceptance that even the “bitch-ass” neighbor textures the speaker’s life.
Charles Simic’s “Seeing Things” uses a structure that echoes our prompt last week. “I came…,” “Saw,” and a list of concrete images create a texture and a vivid set of details. In contrast to the unexpected combinations that came up last week, Simic’s images imply significance in the space between and around details. Excepting the “ailing” light, the details are concrete, and sensory (based on the five senses). Through multiple readings what seems like a list of unconnected imagery builds connections which lead to meaning.
Both of these poems use sensory details and the appearance of spontaneity to achieve their goals. Let’s try to mimic that with our writing prompt.
Set your timer for 8-10 minutes. Start with the phrase “I came…” and pick a moment in your memory. Then use the verb forms of your five senses to expand that memory. Use either “I saw…” or “Saw…”, for example to list out concrete, sensory details from that memory. Try a variation (“I heard…” or “Smelled…”), if you get stuck, or repeat the same sense over to build a list like Simic.
For next week, distill that into a poem. Work and rework those details into something that brings that memory alive.