What’s Happening? Tuesday Tryouts

28 Feb

7:23 a.m. — Atlanta

Hello, all. Let me start with an announcement that has nothing and everything to do with poetry: Saturday morning I became a first-time grandmother to Hazel Selene Roby, all 9 pounds, 7 ounces of her. Some of you already know and asked for a photograph. This is the easiest place to take care of that and segues nicely into today’s playground, er, prompt.

A reader of the blog [thank you, fidgetandsqueak] commented that it helps readers of poems to have an inner 360 of place to ground a poem. Even in photographs that are closeups, there are details of place, as connected to something within the photograph. In this case, the blanket the baby is on [we rotated the photo], the blanket that covers her, and the hat, are details of place. What, you say? Here, I am thinking of the inner 360 being the baby’s, whose world, at one day old, is the surface on which she lies and the things that touch her. With as little detail as is here, a poem, rooted in place, can be written.

I mentioned a few days ago that I am trying something in the nature of an experiment with this post: I am sending you elsewhere, but to a specific elsewhere. For this prompt, I have combined two previously introduced sites to produce a board: nine photographs, with as much descriptive [idea-confining] material as possible removed. Pinterest provides me with the ability to try this and the Smithsonian Institution Flickr Stream is the source of the photographs. For close-ups of any photograph, click on it, but resist, for the moment, going to its origin, because knowing the truth can hamper story. [Later, do explore the Smithsonian’s photographs and their site The Bigger Picture, both a rich resource, if you haven’t had the chance.]

Jot notes, as you look at the photographs I have chosen, details that strike you about place, about the people and what is happening in the space, and how the three are linked. Narrow down to the photograph that most attracts, compels, repels you. Look at it as a whole and jot what you see, and what you think about what you see. Speculate. What’s happening? What’s the story? Who are these people? Make something up.

Now go over the photograph as you might with a magnifying glass. Start in the lower left corner and move up and across, noting everything. Note as many sensory details as you can.

A poem based on a photograph can go in many directions. The only constraint I want to put on you is that details of place are part of the poem. That does not mean place needs to be front and centre. You may be subtle, but whatever you choose, the story, and therefore the poem, should be rooted in place. Look back at what we have covered over the past several weeks. Follow one of those prompts, or strike out on your own with whatever came to mind as you looked at your chosen photograph.

The poem-brain is an unpredictable thing. I realise you may look at a photograph and be captured by some seemingly tiny and irrelevant detail, but this tiny, seemingly irrelevant detail, has captured the poem-brain. Go with it. It might take you wondrous places. In this case, the person, or people, in the photograph might become just one of the details of place, rather than the focus.

I made the comment, on Joseph Harker’s Reverie for this week, that his prompts and mine often dovetail. If you can’t get to a people-watching place this week, let my board be your coffee shop and follow Joseph’s instructions. That might make for an interesting poem.

I can’t wait to see what comes out of this for us to read, quite a variety I suspect, so write and post. Remember: there is no wrong. None.

I shall see you Thursday for a synthesis of last week’s comments on commenting; Friday for the roundup; and Tuesday, 13 March, for our final prompt on place. I shall be dark next week, as I visit Hazel and her parents [who will now realise they have become somewhat peripheral :-)].

Happy writing, everyone.


Posted by on 28/02/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


Tags: , , , , ,

66 responses to “What’s Happening? Tuesday Tryouts

  1. The Happy Amateur

    28/02/2012 at 8:59 am

    Margo, congratulations! Wonderful news, thank you for sharing. Such a beautiful girl, so intelligent, too, probably analyzing her surroundings and drafting a poem on place ๐Ÿ™‚
    Enjoy your time with the young family, all the best.

    • margo roby

      28/02/2012 at 9:03 am

      Sasha, I laughed right out loud at your comment. Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. R.Ross

    28/02/2012 at 9:13 am

    Congratulations Margo – small people are a wonder. Enjoy.

  3. R.Ross

    28/02/2012 at 9:15 am

    Is Hazel a family name it is one not so common these days. Selene is lovely.

    • margo roby

      28/02/2012 at 9:19 am

      Thank you, Ros. I’m not sure where Hazel came from. I know they went through hundreds of names while brokering something they both loved and Hazel surfaced not too long ago. I plan to ask them for the story, when we visit in a few days. I’ll also ask if the initials was a deliberate thing: H. S. R. are my son’s, my husband’s, his father’s, and his father’s initials!

  4. Janet

    28/02/2012 at 9:34 am

    Gorgeous baby! Congratulations:))

    • margo roby

      28/02/2012 at 9:39 am

      Thank you, Janet! I wonder when the huge smile I get every time I think about her will disappear. It’s such an odd event because it happens without any deliberation. Rather nice.

      • Janet

        28/02/2012 at 10:33 pm

        Margo, your comment reminded me of when I became a first-time Mother. I think I smiled for at least two weeks without stopping. Partly because I was thrilled and partly because it felt SO GREAT to be un-pregnant!!!

  5. MiskMask

    28/02/2012 at 9:48 am

    Hey, Grandma! Welcome to the wonderful world of I-am-a-grandmother. It’s so much fun! Best wishes to all!

    • margo roby

      28/02/2012 at 10:24 am

      Hey, yourself, Misky! Thank you! Here’s where the budget explodes, right? ๐Ÿ™‚

      • MiskMask

        28/02/2012 at 11:06 am

        Yes, but it’s so much fun! ๐Ÿ˜€

  6. Mary

    28/02/2012 at 4:43 pm

    Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy! What a beautiful little girl she is. Hardly looks ‘newborn’ at all! You have many wonderful years ahead of you with Hazel!!

    • margo roby

      28/02/2012 at 5:46 pm

      Thank you so much, Mary! Apparently the no newborn look is because she stayed in long enough to grow big enough to fill out the wrinkles ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. whimsygizmo

    28/02/2012 at 5:40 pm

    What a beauty. And already a poet. I can tell by those wide eyes, and the way she wears her hat. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Congratulations on all of this pink splendor.

  8. whimsygizmo

    28/02/2012 at 5:40 pm

    PS: LoveloveLOVE the name. A poet, indeed.

    • margo roby

      28/02/2012 at 5:48 pm

      Isn’t the name something, de? I love it too and if the parents need to use the stern parent voice on her the three names roll off the tongue just right ๐Ÿ˜€

  9. Diane Belleville

    28/02/2012 at 8:28 pm

    Congratulations first time Grandma, I am happy for this new joy in your life. I can’t imagine there could be anything more joyous.

    • margo roby

      28/02/2012 at 8:59 pm

      Thank you, Diane. I admit, I haven’t even seen her and I spend all my time smiling.

  10. seingraham

    28/02/2012 at 8:30 pm

    Congratulations Margo – Hazel’s a little love … in my view, being a grandparent is one of the coolest things ever … I know you’ll be a wonderful grandma; she’s a lucky little girl! Enjoy!

  11. tmhHoover

    29/02/2012 at 2:25 am

    Love fills the tiniest of places. What a wonderful blessing. xo teri

  12. MiskMask

    29/02/2012 at 7:24 am

    Okay, let’s give this one a try. ๐Ÿ˜€

    I sure hope that I’ve understood the prompt correctly. (sigh)

    • margo roby

      29/02/2012 at 8:00 am

      Am I going to have to come over there and smack you, Misky? THERE IS NO WRONG WAY. Good heavens, you made me yell at you ๐Ÿ™‚

      However, I shall tell you, if you want, whether your poem follows one of the many directions [how can it be wrong?!]… maybe. Heading over now.

      • MiskMask

        29/02/2012 at 9:02 am

        So you write 3,955 words, including spaces, with the intent that it’s not instructional? ๐Ÿ˜€

        • margo roby

          29/02/2012 at 9:18 am

          Uh-oh. Nooo, no. Okay, how about there is no wrong way in the poem that results, but it might not necessarily follow the prompt and, I do see how you might want to know that. Following prompts can be an art in itself ๐Ÿ™‚ And, you did, as you will see from my comments. In fact, while I have you [^__^], you did the hardest, which is to have only enough detail of place as needed to ground the poem, without that being the focus. I’m going to miss these place prompts and their resulting poems ๐Ÿ™‚

      • tmhHoover

        01/03/2012 at 12:39 am

        This made me laugh out loud…. I hope I get beyond my fear of “doing it right” in the near future and just write something….

        • margo roby

          01/03/2012 at 9:12 am

          I’m not sure we ever lose the fear, but we can learn to beat it back into its room and slam the door for a while.

  13. markwindham

    29/02/2012 at 9:07 am

    Its a start, great set of diverse pictures.

    I’ll bet you had me pegged to go for the dead soldiers…..The pull was strong.

    • margo roby

      29/02/2012 at 9:14 am

      I’ll bet. The hard thing with the dead soldiers is to do something with them, not obvious. Hmm. They might work well with Joseph’s instructions…

      • markwindham

        29/02/2012 at 9:19 am

        True, I did not stray to far from the obvious with the one I picked.

        Determined to get another Reverie done this week. I ‘should’ be able to do something with this weeks.

        • margo roby

          29/02/2012 at 9:28 am

          You didn’t need to. The occupation is interesting. Dead soldiers, however… we see so much of it. How to make it newly meaningful and not be cliche.

          This week’s reverie is like last week’s for me. I’ll get a poem eventually…

    • whimsygizmo

      01/03/2012 at 7:12 pm

      Hi, Margo.
      Just wanted to thank you for your kind comments on my site about the poem. I fear it went a little cliche, which was not my original intention…perhaps not terribly up to the challenge of the peripheral feel of the prompt…started out going from the hill’s perspective…but it had a mind of its own, as these naughty phrases often do, for me. ๐Ÿ˜‰
      I’m intrigued by the photo of the man, the iceberg, and the sea…still pondering…

      • margo roby

        02/03/2012 at 10:14 am

        Oh, de, I am rarely kind. I think you took it out of the possibility of cliche when you started following the poem’s instincts.
        A second poem? How lovely, if so.

  14. purplepeninportland

    29/02/2012 at 3:56 pm

    Congratulations, Margo. So sweet.
    Challenging prompt. Mine is up.

    • margo roby

      29/02/2012 at 5:31 pm

      Thank you, Sarah [h?]. I think she looks rather formidable, but I will see this weekend! I’m heading over.

  15. The Happy Amateur

    29/02/2012 at 6:01 pm

    Hi Margo,
    I wrote a short poem yesterday as soon as I saw the pictures, but it seemed way out of place in such a happy thread. I have this “thing”: I post poems on my blog on Mondays (I’m just a little funny that way.) Monday wouldn’t be too late to post a link here, would it? (I know you’ll “go dark” next week, but maybe when you return you could take a look at my poem?..) Thank you!

    • margo roby

      01/03/2012 at 11:05 am

      Sasha, I see below, that you put the poem in, but wanted to say, that you are quite correct, that it is never too late to post a link [we’re talking a year down the road if you want :-)]. I will always get to poems when they are posted.

  16. wordsandthoughtspjs

    29/02/2012 at 7:33 pm

    Gorgeous baby, Margo. Congrats! I am wishing you many happy and joy filled days ahead. I love the prompt, too!


    • wordsandthoughtspjs

      29/02/2012 at 7:34 pm

      good grief, that should be “years”, I have the flu and I feel yucky.

      • The Happy Amateur

        29/02/2012 at 8:53 pm

        Oh, so sorry… feel better soon!

      • margo roby

        01/03/2012 at 11:07 am

        Poor Pamela. Few things feel worse than the flu. The only mercy is that the flu is usually quick. I had no problem with ‘days’ as I applied it to our upcoming visit! Thank you for the good wishes ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. The Happy Amateur

    29/02/2012 at 7:57 pm

    You know what, you’ll probably think I’m crazy, I’m going to post here after all. I went back to my original poem, and now I think it was too ‘obvious,’ just like you warned it might be, so I wrote another one. Haven’t come up with a name yet.

    Lay them down in the fields of sweet barley and rye,
    Let them pause just a bit till theyโ€™re ready to fly,

    Donโ€™t bend over them, donโ€™t morn, donโ€™t weep,
    Donโ€™t disturb their rest, let them sleep, let them sleep.

    They will gather their strength, and together theyโ€™ll rise,
    All like one theyโ€™ll take flight to the still paradise,

    Where the children await, where the wives of their own
    Theyโ€™ll embrace at the gate, where the fields lie unmown.

    • margo roby

      01/03/2012 at 11:11 am

      Crazy is okay, Sasha. I like this very much. The lullaby quality suits. I realised as I reread it that you have the same rhythm as William Blake does for many of his poems. Now I’ll need to go in search…

      For the horrors of war, you have given the soldiers peace at the end. It’s quite lovely.

      • The Happy Amateur

        01/03/2012 at 11:41 am

        Oh, I’m so relieved. I was not sure about posting directly here. Thank you very much for the kind words. I loved the photograph, had no doubt which image to choose out of nine. One of the things about it is that the soldiers further away from us lay as if they were flying in a “V.” I wanted them to fly home. The rhythm came first, and the words followed.
        (I hope William Blake doesn’t mind your comparison too much… ๐Ÿ™‚ )

  18. sweetopiagirl

    29/02/2012 at 11:13 pm

    Reblogged this on Inspiredweightloss.

  19. nan

    01/03/2012 at 7:28 am

    A new baby! Yes, indeed, it is everything to do with poetry! Enjoy the special moments, and I offer heartfelt congratulations to you and your family in welcoming the new one to your lives!

    • margo roby

      01/03/2012 at 9:10 am

      Thank you so much, nan. We head there day after tomorrow. I don’t remember the last time I held a baby and have no idea how I will react, not being a particularly maternal sort. I may surprise myself! I do know I am very excited!

  20. MiskMask

    01/03/2012 at 8:12 am

    Here’s my battlefield piece. I hope that the length doesn’t put you off reading it. Or the rather icky subject matter and content…. Okay, ’nuff said…

    A Conversation with a Crow

    – Misky

    • margo roby

      01/03/2012 at 9:08 am

      And, this makes me want to race right over. Uh huh. I skip icky stuff in books and television, you know. Alright, I shall gird myself…

  21. MiskMask

    01/03/2012 at 8:13 am

    Sorry, two links in the comment sent it into moderation. Here’s the link:

    – Misky

    • margo roby

      01/03/2012 at 9:07 am

      Interesting. Love the title, already. Will be right over.

  22. vivinfrance

    01/03/2012 at 8:54 am

    Ues. for a spell, parents of newborns become peripheral: Hazel is like the Mappa Mundi, a centre of the universe.

    I’ll think about your prompt, but not promising anything. My brain seems to have gone to sleep since arriving in Northumberland.

    • margo roby

      01/03/2012 at 9:06 am

      I love that, ViV, and will convey that to the parents, in case they haven’t quite realised it yet.
      Hey, if you can’t hibernate in Northumberland in early Spring… Pop up and wave if you don’t have poems.

      • vivinfrance

        01/03/2012 at 9:09 am

        wavy smiley

        • margo roby

          01/03/2012 at 10:54 am


          • vivinfrance

            02/03/2012 at 8:02 am

            BTW a propos of inviting comments: I’ve added this to my profile, which appears at the top of the comments pages on my blog: “Please don’t be inhibited from correcting my bloopers and making suggestions: Most of what I post here is instant, ill-considered and off-the-cuff, in serious need of editing. ”

            I managed to write a poem today – unfortunately not to prompt, but force majeure took over.

            • margo roby

              02/03/2012 at 10:07 am

              Okay, I shall experiment when I return from the grandchild visit, ViV. Thank you for pioneering!
              Force majeure and ranting mad in the URL. My anticipation mounts!

  23. Joseph Harker

    01/03/2012 at 11:10 pm

    Finally, FINALLY got to this: Arctic Circle

    • margo roby

      02/03/2012 at 10:09 am

      Poor, Joseph. No, no, I was laughing with you, not at you. Truly. Coming over now.

  24. b_y

    02/03/2012 at 6:25 am

    About time. Not real satisfied with it. Whatever it was that was niggling didn’t get all the way out, so it’s just going to have to wait for me now. I’m tired of waiting for it.
    Hope you like my companion photo.

    • margo roby

      02/03/2012 at 10:08 am

      You know as you ignore it, it will start hammering. At least one hopes so. Heading over. A photo, too!


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