7:31 a.m. — Atlanta
Hello everyone! How are you, as we march towards Spring with unseemly haste, in some quarters, and Winter appears in the southern hemisphere?
Today’s prompt is the last I have in the series on Place, which is not to say I won’t occasionally have a prompt to do with place, so we remember its importance. Have you ever wanted to write about a place but felt overwhelmed by the immensity of things to describe? Here’s an exercise that will allow you to come to some sort of grips with it.
We are going to try a copy-change. For those who have never done a copy-change, it’s a valid strategy to create a poem, with the style and structure already in place. Rather like a Mad Libs, only, one that makes sense. I chose Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago” and have reproduced the text below for you to read. The indents indicate a continuous line.
We don’t need to worry about the line breaks too much, as it is the way the speaker tells us about the city, more than anything, that we want to imitate. First, choose a city, town, place, you know intimately. Write down everything you think of, associate with, conjure up, when you think of your chosen place. With it in mind, read “Chicago,” making notes of how the speaker is describing the city.
For example, I note he apostrophises, or addresses, the city directly. The first five lines are names, or phrases, describing its personality, and the last four repeat but in a different form. The parts of the next several lines that you want to note are the beginnings: “They tell me you are…” and the repetition. I have made orange the parts to consider as your framework.You can copy them exactly. The -ing indicates a verb of your choice in that form. The pink indicates words, and phrases, that you should follow but replace with the words for your place. The rest gives you an idea of the sort of thing you can say. Note, also, Sandburg’s punctuation.
Yes? I feel a break in the force, young Jedis. Trust me, here. Jump in. Don’t over think this. Make a ton of notes. Write. Remember? There is no wrong. I think this poem can bring wonderful, surprising things, but if you feel panicky, then do an adapted form; follow your own path.
CHICAGO HOG Butcher for the World, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler; Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders: They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys. And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again. And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger. And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them: Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning. Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities; Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness, Bareheaded, Shoveling, Wrecking, Planning, Building, breaking, rebuilding, Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth, Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs, Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle, Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his ribs the heart of the people, Laughing! Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.
As always, I look forward to reading what you write. Draft, post, read!
A question for you: April is fast approaching with all the mind-numbing, hair tearing glory that is Poetry Month. Would you prefer frivolous prompts, no prompts, images…? How can I make your life a little easier on the writing front? I shall see you Thursday, for an account of how I use comments when I revise a poem; Friday for the roundup; and next Tuesday, for something (I haven’t decided).
Happy writing, all.