Three Trials: Tuesday Tryouts

21 Feb

7:50 a.m. — Atlanta

Hello everyone. It’s weird how some mornings the time feels earlier than other mornings. We have been on a marathon of place over the last few weeks. We have a couple more to go, before we shift our focus to self. Prepare yourself.

Writer Peter Huggins articulates the importance of place in poetry, far better than I, so let me give you a few of his words: “In painting, chiaroscuro, the use of light and dark, provides definition, contrast, the heightening or lessening of emotion; in addition, I would argue, it allows viewers a way into the painting. In poetry, place serves a similar function: readers can enter the particular world of the poem; however, if readers languish in the general world of no place, then nothing will happen for them, neither the excitement and explosion of language nor the complex connection of realized experience.”

“…I would suggest that these poems arise from these places and are rooted in these places just as day lilies or tulip poplars are rooted in the places from which they spring. I would even go so far as to suggest that these poems would not exist (or would exist in a radically different and probably diminished way) apart from their respective places. Place provides form, shape, and being to these poems…”

“Whenever I find myself having difficulty with a poem, I resolve that difficulty when I see the poem taking place in a particular place.”

Keep in mind that place isn’t just a house, a city, the ocean, but also can be a closet, inside a Jaguar [the car, not the beast, although that would make an interesting poem :-)], a roller coaster car… Go back over your own poetry [this one may take you a while] and note the poems that are rooted, or connected, to place and the ones that are not. What do you notice about the poems that you have set, however briefly, with details of place? Do you have a tendency that you notice about your own writing [e.g. you always have a type of tree in your poems, your poetry tends to be connected to more rural scenes]? How about the poems with no connection to place? Are they as clear, as strong as your other poetry?

Today, we have options. I know: Whoo hoo! The first, is to take a poem of yours that is not connected to place and is not working particularly well. Perhaps its rootlessness makes it vague; perhaps it’s a series of images with no connecting thread; maybe, you got started and then the poem went nowhere. Rewrite the poem as if it were a new idea, but first consider how you might set it, or connect it, in place. What kind of details can you give the story you want to tell, that ground the story for us?

The second, is to find a poem, or a short piece of narrative, that possesses a strong sense of place for you. How has the writer accomplished the sense of place? Take over that place and write your own poem. Perhaps you will focus on one aspect, maybe you have a story that will fit the place, or you might copy the structure, as some of you did for “Lying in a Hammock…”.

Third and final, whatever your idea, or story, start with the larger landscape, say Interstate 10. Within the poem, zoom in to one shot, inside the cab of a truck belonging to Dillon’s Farm Produce. Think of what you are doing as a word version of Google Earth. You may stay in the cab, or you can zoom out again. You can also reverse the process. Start in the truck cab, zoom out to Interstate 10 [which you can locate specifically, or not] and end, or zoom back in.

I know, you’ll need to reread those. My ideas aren’t always as clear on paper. Remember that there is no wrong. You may certainly ask for clarification, but your own interpretation of any of the prompts is valid. Remember, too, that every poem is a draft. Don’t worry about it. Fiction writers, I have not forgotten you. Any one of my prompts, unless to do with form, can be adapted to prose. Oh, and, of course, you may write to any and all of the prompts. Remember to post and to wander back in a couple of days to read the poems of others.

I shall see you on Thursday for a couple of interesting questions for you to ponder and respond to, as well as a request; on Friday for the roundup; and next Tuesday, when we will try an experiment for our image prompt.

Happy writing, everyone.



Posted by on 21/02/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


Tags: , , , ,

55 responses to “Three Trials: Tuesday Tryouts

  1. The Happy Amateur

    21/02/2012 at 9:10 am

    Hi Margo,
    I love the whole idea of exploring place, and this is a very tempting 3-in-one prompt, thank you! It’s nice that we have the option to write prose, too 🙂

    • margo roby

      21/02/2012 at 2:19 pm

      Sasha, I aim to please 🙂

  2. tmhHoover

    21/02/2012 at 9:20 am

    I just love reading your prompts- I just know they are sinking in. xo

  3. Yousei Hime

    21/02/2012 at 10:04 am

    What? Second week in a row I’ve written something that relates to your prompt? Well … Joseph gets the credit for that, with his Reverie Seven prompt. So it’s not entirely what your asking for, but I couldn’t wait until Friday to show it to you, and I still have to come up with a haiku for umbrella.

    • margo roby

      21/02/2012 at 2:18 pm

      I am glad you didn’t wait, Yousei! And congratulations on the two weeks in a row 🙂

  4. viv blake

    21/02/2012 at 2:03 pm

    I’ve really enjoyed these prompts focusing on a sense of place. Here’s my today’s effort:

    • margo roby

      21/02/2012 at 2:15 pm

      I have too, ViV. I’ll be sorry to move away from them. I’ll be over in a bit.

  5. markwindham

    21/02/2012 at 5:06 pm

    Round one! Or, maybe working up to round one. I did more a revision than a rewrite for number one, tried to add more sense of place. Maybe a little of #3 as well. Ok, stop talking and turn it in for a grade. 😉

    • margo roby

      22/02/2012 at 8:57 am

      Love it when you have a conversation with both of us. Comments are over with the poem 🙂

      • markwindham

        22/02/2012 at 9:32 am

        I find I am a very good listener to myself. Still don’t always obey, but I do listen and rarely talk back.

        • margo roby

          22/02/2012 at 9:45 am

          Good point, Mark. I often talk to myself when I need to be firm. Seems I don’t listen, otherwise.

  6. Annette @ Aspen Meadows

    21/02/2012 at 6:40 pm

    How funny — the poem I just posted for the Sunday wordle is about place.

  7. Hannah Gosselin

    21/02/2012 at 8:54 pm

    Hi there! I decided to use your first suggestion, Margo, and disperse some concrete “place,” thoughts throughout the piece I’d written earlier today for “Put Words Together,” Friday prompt. I posted them separately so we could see the differences. I had a great time with this, thanks a bunch!

  8. wordsandthoughtspjs

    21/02/2012 at 11:28 pm

    Love it! Margo, I have little to no time, but I will be thinking and recording as life winds on…

    (not sure when I’ll be back)

    • margo roby

      22/02/2012 at 9:24 am

      So long as you are recording, Pamela. You will have such a wealth of material for someday.

      Stop in to wave hello, when you can.


  9. MiskMask

    22/02/2012 at 12:57 pm

    And here’s mine. I took this one to the kitchen, the kitchen window, internalised memories, and then back to the windowpane.

    • margo roby

      23/02/2012 at 9:21 am

      I like that tweak on the idea, Misky. I’ll have to fold that into the exercise, having part of the close up be internalising.

      • MiskMask

        23/02/2012 at 12:13 pm

        Oh dear. I hadn’t intended that the way I wrote it be a tweak on your prompt, Margo. Perhaps I’ve gone wrong with it. It just made me think of my dad, and how much I miss him.

  10. purplepeninportland

    22/02/2012 at 5:54 pm

    Mine is up. My lens zooms in from street to school to classroom to students, and explores one student. This was a tough challenge, but a good one. Thanks.

    • margo roby

      23/02/2012 at 9:19 am

      That sounds cool, ppip. As soon as I have today’s post up, I’ll be over.

  11. b_y

    22/02/2012 at 5:54 pm

    Well, I’m going over my stuff, looking for something good. Might as well check out the bad ones, too while I’m at it, and do the place scan. And I’m in revision mode. Just need to do something about it.

    • margo roby

      23/02/2012 at 9:18 am

      Do I have a book for you, Barb. I just got it, so let me read a couple of chapters, but it’s on the revision process and it looks like a gem.

      • b_y

        23/02/2012 at 11:53 am

        Good deal. Most of my revision is 1) just change a word or so, or 2) write the poem over entirely and wind up with a new poem in need of revision

  12. irene

    23/02/2012 at 12:48 am

    I’m on go go go mode, but Margo, I am loving your prompt. Hope I’ll have time to sit and mull over it soon.

    • margo roby

      23/02/2012 at 9:17 am

      Anytime, Irene. Remember to breathe somewhere in there.

  13. Joseph Harker

    23/02/2012 at 1:10 pm

    Did the best I could with my limited time this week, and still can’t think of a title. Ugh.

    (thaw poem)

  14. The Happy Amateur

    23/02/2012 at 5:33 pm

    I tried the ‘Google’ version… sort of:

    ~ Golden Glows ~

    In the darkness a glowing ball of flames
    Floats, pouring golden grace. Myriads
    Of rays fall onto Earth, into
    The dark soil that breaths them in,
    Shoots them back up. They burst
    Through, brighten my sky –
    The yellow suns
    Outside my

    • margo roby

      24/02/2012 at 11:57 am

      Nice. I like that you like etherees so much. I enjoy reading the form and playing with it. You Google earthed well. I felt the swoosh as the poem took me from way out, to in close. Love the final four lines.

  15. whimsygizmo

    24/02/2012 at 7:43 pm

    This is something I’ve been wanted to get on the page for awhile, which required some past life channeling, and rib-poking some memories sometimes better left alone. Not sure it’s come together around the edges the way I wanted it to, but the idea is there.

    • margo roby

      25/02/2012 at 5:39 pm

      De, I shall get to this as soon as I can. I am wrapped up in becoming a first time grandmother. I start smiling every time I say that.

  16. irene

    24/02/2012 at 8:48 pm

    My late effort, alas and alack, with a damn long title.

    a lifetime past long after a spoonful of Mary Poppins’s sugar

    • margo roby

      25/02/2012 at 5:42 pm

      Irene, I shall get to this as soon as I can. Am being distracted by becoming a grandmother 🙂

  17. Mary

    25/02/2012 at 2:03 pm

    Margo, I finally had time to try this. I took a poem from 2009 and worked with it to add ‘a sense of place’ to it. I am not 100% happy with it, and I am not sure if I like the earlier one better or this new one. Feel free to comment on anything that strikes you with this one. In any case, I did some learning while doing:

    • margo roby

      25/02/2012 at 5:43 pm

      Mary, I will. I may be a couple of days. I am sidetracked by becoming a grandmother!

      • Mary

        27/02/2012 at 8:02 am

        What a joyful time for you!! Enjoy.

  18. b_y

    25/02/2012 at 4:34 pm

    Since most of my post was your post, copied, and my poem’s short

    They would have you think
    the ocean’s always restless, only hard and deep,
    but I have seen the rusted still
    and smelled the well-oiled morning breath
    on the slow side of too many drinks
    beside the place where creosote and barnacles
    blink heavily at the sunrise, and I know
    the ocean likes to pause a while
    beside the bay where Monterrey meets Troy.

    With a nod toward Cannery Row

    • b_y

      25/02/2012 at 4:36 pm

      That last line was not part of the poem.

      • margo roby

        25/02/2012 at 5:44 pm

        Gotcha, Barb. I need to write you about five different things, but am busy realising grandmotherhood. I shall get back to you on everything.

    • margo roby

      26/02/2012 at 9:30 am

      Oh good, Barb. If I reply here, I can ignore that Hannah said what I want to say, but then you know how I am with your poems. I do play Jeopardy and Bay is associated with Steinbeck’s Monterey [in my head] more than with any other bay to its place. I lived in Monterey three times. We should have hocked every thing we had to buy a house. Ah well. I also studied Steinbeck, one of my favourites. The allusion in your last line?

      I like your tight focus on a very specific place within the hugeness of ocean and land. I grew up with piers and jetties. Your poem has me smelling the seaweed, the salt, the oil slicks. Love the strong words ‘creosote’ and ‘barnacles’.

  19. fidgetandsqueak

    26/02/2012 at 7:55 pm

    This is very interesting! I think it’s important to give a sense of setting in writing, whether it’s poetry or prose. A reader can get so much more of a feeling out of reading something when they have an internal 360 of their environment, in some way or other. Great prompts!

    • margo roby

      27/02/2012 at 8:10 am

      Hello fidget, and thank you! I like how you phrase that: an internal 360. I may quote you 🙂

      • fidgetandsqueak

        29/02/2012 at 11:56 pm

        Haha, thanks! Go for it. 🙂 Freedom of ideas and all that!

        • margo roby

          01/03/2012 at 9:12 am

          Absolutely, fidget [I’m shortening you, so let me know if you don’t like being shortened]!

          • fidgetandsqueak

            01/03/2012 at 10:06 pm

            That’s fine. XD I’ll just have to get used to being called by my boyfriend’s nickname. (I’m the second half of the name, myself!)

            • margo roby

              02/03/2012 at 10:12 am

              Oh, heck, I can shorten from the other direction, squeak 🙂

  20. Annette

    12/03/2012 at 10:44 pm

    • margo roby

      13/03/2012 at 7:21 am

      I’ll be over to read when today’s blog is out, Annette!


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