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.