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.