7:33 a.m. — Atlanta
listening to the washing machine, maybe music later
Hullo, everyone. I hope you are well. Welcome new readers. It has been a while since I have done that and I know I have several new names. Please, if you have any questions about the way the blog works, pop into comments on any day. If you have not read the poems from last week’s contributors, visit for a while. There is always a lot of conversation so look for the red links.
I was wandering through Steve Kowit’s book In the Palm of Your Hand and came across this exercise, which I thought you would enjoy. I’ve adapted it a little, at least, put it into my words.
Imagery is the representation in words of a sensory experience. A poet uses imagery to make the reader see, hear, taste, touch, and /or smell what the speaker of the poem senses. Okay, that’s basic stuff, but sometimes we forget to include it with our stories, memories, narratives, even descriptions of a place. Our exercise today is one of detail. It’s a list poem. It does not require story. The objective is to provide a sensory experience.
You are going to create an inventory of everything in a particular place. I used to send my students out and tell them to find one place on campus and sit for twelve minutes, before writing a list of everything in their area they could describe in a sensory manner. Twelve minutes is a surprisingly long time, time enough for the surface stuff to disappear and to become aware of what is beneath.
Place is up to you: a park, the beach (some people are in the other hemisphere!], your yard, a room where you work, a file cabinet, or a desk drawer. Kowits says: Perhaps if you are ingenious or ambitious (and I know you are both), you can take something as small as a flowerbox and describe dozens of minute objects and creatures–from small pebbles and ants crawling on the leaves, to the colors of a single weed and the curled form of a desiccated leaf.
As with any list poem, you can’t start the poem before you have a list. When you have your place (and I’m thinking the smaller the more fun, because of the challenge), list every single thing in it. Then go away and do something for a few minutes. It doesn’t require long, but it does require a completely new view for your eyes. You will be amazed when you return, the amount of things you missed. I should know. I’m a Hidden Object game devotee.
As you choose what you want to include in the poem, you can spread what you choose among all the senses: sight, sound, taste (go ahead, lick that pebble), smell, touch; or, you can choose a single sense by which to describe the items. Another possibility is a ‘it looks like‘ list. Take that pebble and look at it through a magnifying glass. Hey! It looks like the surface of the moon. Go further. How about a list of metaphors for what you have discovered: the pebble is the surface of the moon, a lost planet, a fossil…
Yes, I am asking you to play, but to work at it. With poetry we have the chance to describe things so that, as poet Francisco X. Alarcón writes,
makes us see
for the first time.
(found in Wooldridge’s Poemcrazy). This applies to both reader and writer of poems. Go, find, absorb, list, turn into imagery that allows us to experience things for the first time.
Format seems to go without saying; it’s a list. But, I have learned that you are a wild and crazy bunch, so if you think of a way to present your list in an un-list form, do so, but only if that form supports the content.
I will see you Thursday for something on The Poetry Giveaway (yes, it’s that time again), and the poetry challenge I am involved in with The Found Poetry Review. If any of you have a National Poetry Month announcement they wish me to add, let me know: margoroby[@]gmail.com. I’ll see you Friday for the prompt roundup;and, next Tuesday is our image prompt.
Happy writing, all.
listening to Randy Travis singing Deeper Than the Holler