Tuesday Tryouts: A Poem on Then and Now

27 Sep

7:52 a.m. — Atlanta

Hello! I hope all is well with you. One half of us is looking forward to an approaching Autumn, and the other half to an approaching Spring. What lovely times of year for a writer to look forward to. But, then, so is winter. Summer = vacation.

Yes, I was going to introduce you to a form, but on researching, I discovered there is a fair amount that goes into explaining how this form works. It’s not that the form is so difficult, but rather, that explaining it is. Give me another week to absorb what I am reading.

This week, instead, focuses on place. Place is a topic no poet can ignore, and I will write more about it in one of the Thursday Thoughts. We have had several prompts, in the past few months, on place and on memory. I’m going to ask you to combine the two.

A couple of weeks ago, I spent ten days in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. It is one of my favourite places in the world, because I spent concentrated amounts of time there, growing up. Every third year of my twenty years growing up, in Hong Kong, we went on a six month vacation. One of the places we always went, and where we spent a month each time, was Rehoboth Beach.

Because the visit was long and repeated, my memories are indelible: the boardwalk, salt water taffy, sand dunes, shelling, Coin Beach, the WWII watch towers, Funland, the shell shop, Pop [who came around selling fresh vegetables], our housekeeper Mary [who brought scrapple for us children], Rehoboth Avenue [the Main Street], and the porch at 6 Park, where everyone gathered during the day and evening.

I see each of these things, not just as an image, but as a running scene, a movie short, complete with sensory details. This trip, as I walked down Rehoboth Avenue, and along the Boardwalk, while I saw much that has changed, I saw many things still in place from fifty years ago. As I saw my childhood coming back to me in short scenes, I thought: there is a poem here.

I want you to list specific [you want micro like a pond, or a beach, or an ice cream shop, not macro, like a town] places you were in, or visited, in your childhood, that have left strong memories. These places need to be ones you have visited recently and can draw a strong picture of in your mind, then and now. You can use photographs to help, after you have tried your mind on its own. Choose one of the places to work with.

Reach for the childhood memory first, so the newer one does not blanket details. Let the place you have chosen inhabit your mind. Remember what it looked like, what it smelled like, the sounds you heard, things you touched, tastes maybe. Jot all the sensory details you can remember down [if you aren’t sure about one, write it down anyway].

Now freewrite what you remember happening there when you visited. Write about how you felt when these things happened. And, while nostalgia often implies happy, your memories might be of something traumatic, or fearful, or you might have had an epiphany. These memories do not have to be in any kind of order. You might choose details from three different visits, when you come to write a poem.

When you have mined your memory for everything it has of the old days, bring yourself back to the present. Take a break to clear your mind.

Follow the same procedure, for what your place is like now, jotting down sensory details, what happened when you visited, how you felt.

Once you have everything jotted down, write a poem about the place in the past, or write a poem about the place now, or write a poem which includes both. Make sure to include some of the sensory details you have listed.

We have been given several forms in the past weeks. Before writing your poem, check to see if conveying the experience is suited to a form, or to free verse.

I shall see you Friday for the roundup of prompts; and next Tuesday for the form, which I will have conquered.  Thursday Thoughts is now an as needed post. If I think of something I want to write about, or you send me a topic you wish me to write about, we will have a Thursday Thoughts.

Happy writing!


Posted by on 27/09/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


Tags: , , , , , ,

15 responses to “Tuesday Tryouts: A Poem on Then and Now

  1. R.Ross

    27/09/2011 at 9:42 am


    In solid, patient waiting

    my childhood refuge rests,

    its mirrored door reflecting

    the dusty detritus, of

    all that has no purpose,

    cast out of house and home,

    surrendered into storage;

    they wait to be reborn.

    I see myself within that glass,

    as child, in terror sent,

    to hide within your musty heart,

    until the world was safe.

    Carved hiding place of glass

    and wood, this cave of

    smooth, dark flanks, you

    took me in unquestioning;

    drew darkness on my pain.

    How I have grown and you

    have shrunk, your bosom

    narrowed now, and yet

    I know you will remain

    a place to heal and soothe.

    In solid, patient waiting

    my childhood refuge rests,

    its mirrored door reflecting

    the dusty detritus, of

    all that had no purpose,

    cast out of house and home,

    surrendered into sanctuary;

    she waits to be reborn.

    • margo roby

      27/09/2011 at 10:17 am

      I love the direction you went with this. You give the mirrored door and its refuge a strong personality. I can feel the mirror like a knight, protecting, and the comfort of its sanctuary. Thank you for this.


    • vivinfrance

      29/09/2011 at 3:30 am

      You have crawled into your past persona and shown it to us with skill and emotion. A lovely poem.

  2. wordsandthoughtspjs

    27/09/2011 at 11:33 am

    Margo, Excellent prompt. I am just today finishing up the poem from last week’s prompt. Oy vey! I have had a busy week, and I have a couple of days off this week. Well, today and Thursday, so that means I can write, yay!


    • margo roby

      27/09/2011 at 11:44 am

      Yay, Pamela! I have missed seeing your links, but you had said this was a busy time for you. So glad you will have time to write. It’s hard isn’t it? Not just time, but energy! Looking forward to seeing the poems.


  3. pamelasayers

    27/09/2011 at 9:38 pm

    Margo, por fin with last week’s prompt. Thanks for being here 🙂



  4. pamelasayers

    28/09/2011 at 1:20 pm

    Margo, I decided to remain in the then. I also posted this for We Write Poems as well. Thanks for the prompt, and I may expand on this in the future.



    • margo roby

      28/09/2011 at 1:43 pm

      I liked this prompt too, Pamela. And I really like it combined with the We Write Poems prompt. I’m working on a new exercise that is a slight takeoff of the two!


  5. Peggy Goetz

    28/09/2011 at 8:19 pm

    Not quite sure when you expect people to post but decided to jump in with this prompt. It is a poem about revisiting a place from my past now. Pamela it is good to see you around too. I hope this is a live link here.


    • margo roby

      29/09/2011 at 7:52 am

      Peggy, people may post anytime. I have one who posts almost immediately, a couple within a couple of days, and some who return long after I have moved to a new exercise. I thought of having a specific day, but people already work to so many deadlines, I was reluctant to add another. And, your link is live. I’m heading to that tab now.


      • Peggy Goetz

        29/09/2011 at 1:09 pm

        Thank you for your comment on my blog Margot. You asked if my parents had really started a university. Yes when I was 16 (1963) we moved from near Berkeley in N California (my dad was at Univer of Calif Berkeley) to start the new Univer if Calif campus in Irvine (south of Los Angeles). He was the first dean of bio science and set up the program which was quite innovative at the time but has now become pretty standard. The university land was part of a large cattle and agricultural ranch until the land was donated to the university system. The wives of all the early faculty were quite involved and so I am sure all the kids like me were very aware of it all. It was all a very exciting time.

        Peggy Goetz

  6. Annette

    05/11/2011 at 1:02 am

    I finished thinking about this one, finally, and put it on paper. I really enjoy your prompts.

    • margo roby

      05/11/2011 at 8:11 am

      Thank you, Annette. I enjoy both coming up with/finding the prompts and reading the poems that come from them.



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