A Sense of The Land: Tuesday Tryouts

12 Feb

7:56 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to E Ku’u Morning Dew by The Brothers Cazimero — I know: I have eclectic tastes in music

Hello, all. How are you? Does anyone out there have decent weather? We’ll have to start building arks soon. I am aware of the irony that I am writing a prompt about land as I look at yet another day of water (which, ultimately, is good for the land). Not that we’re doing anything exciting weather-wise, just that it rains ad nauseam.

What is a sense of the land? Each time I woke up last night, I grappled with that question. I’m not sure my explanation will be particularly articulate. The good news, there, is that you can interpret the phrase in any way you please. A definition will be clearer as to how I am thinking of the land (before I take off on tangents).

‘Old English land, lond, “ground, soil,” also “definite portion of the earth’s surface, home region of a person or a people, territory marked by political boundaries.”

Etymological evidence and Gothic use indicates the original sense was “a definite portion of the earth’s surface owned by an individual or home of a nation.” Meaning early extended to “solid surface of the earth,” which had been the sense of the root of Modern English earth. Old English eorþe “ground, soil, dry land,” also used for “the (material) world” (as opposed to the heavens or the underworld).’ (Online Etymology Dictionary)

Got that? When you think of this, think of it as THE land, not land.

Here are the possibilities for a poem: you can write about what a sense of the land means to you. You can write about what a piece of land was and what it is, whether or not the sense of the land evolved with the land itself. All you gardeners have a particular sense of the land. A poem from a gardener’s point of view works as an intimate look at the land. Those who grow vegetables, as opposed to flowers, you have a slightly different sense of the land. Something to think about: Can an urban setting have a sense of the land? You might write about a sense of the land that you have gotten from a movie, or paintings, or a photograph. You can write a positive versus negative poem. Or, you can paint a picture in words.

What type of poem? Lovers of form rejoice. A sonnet is particularly well suited. However, as with all your poems, you should choose a form (to include free verse) that suits the content. It might be a fascinating exercise to write haiku. Consider a poem from the point of view of the land.

I am going to leave you with a couple of poems that embody a sense of the land and a link to a page of quotations about the land. You might use one of the quotes as your focus, or inspiration. If you do, let us know which one. In fact, for this prompt, you might want to give a context (but, of course, not necessary).

The first poem is ‘Puritan Sonnet’ by Elinor Wylie:

Down to the Puritan marrow of my bones
There’s something in this richness that I hate.
I love the look, austere, immaculate,
Of landscape drawn in pearly monotones.
There’s something in my very blood that owns
Bare hills, cold silver on a sky of slate,
A thread of water, churned to milky spate
Streaming through slanted pastures fenced with stones.
I love those skies, thin blue or snowy gray,
Those fields sparse-planted, rendering meager sheaves;
That spring, briefer than apple-blossom’s breath,
Summer, so much too beautiful to stay,
Swift autumn, like a bonfire of leaves,
And sleepy winter, like the sleep of death.

I love the intimacy of the speaker’s feelings against the vastness of the land and the way Wylie makes the speaker’s vision sound like a watercolour. The second poem, ‘Ozymandias’ by Shelley, gives a sense of the land as bigger and more enduring than even history:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert …Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things.
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Have fun. Note I did not ask you to list or jot. In this case, I want you to ponder. I shall see you Thursday for links and such; Friday for the roundup; and next Tuesday for something (I need to ponder).

Happy writing, all.



Posted by on 12/02/2013 in exercises, poetry, writing


Tags: , , , , , ,

24 responses to “A Sense of The Land: Tuesday Tryouts

  1. barbara_y

    12/02/2013 at 11:01 am

    Have you seen All Quiet on the Western Front in a theater? There was a screening here over the weekend. Talk about a sense of the land! Unrelenting desolation. The dirt was bled white. Don’t know if you can give that impression that in color. It’s a very painterly film.

    Wonder if I could do the same sort of thing with one of my stubborn revisions. hmmm Might kick it up a notch.

    Weather here this morning is fine, fine. Might make it to Atlanta by afternoon if you’re lucky. Chilly, though. Anybody Mardi-Gras-ing is gonna have cold baubles tonight.

    • margo roby

      12/02/2013 at 11:11 am

      I have, Barbara. I wouldn’t ever want to see it in colour. I think only the blacks and whites can capture the sense of desolation and isolation. I taught the book for years and find that the film captures what Remarque captures with his words. Talk about being able to convey a sense of the land!

      From my lips… as I finished the blog post out came the sun. It’s retreating fast and I see that in three days we are due to drop 15 degrees. That would be your weather reaching us. Good heavens, Mardi Gras. Easter is practically around the corner and then summer… I’m going to go find a deeper cave.

  2. vivinfrance

    12/02/2013 at 11:13 am

    I am rooted to my piece of land, but it may uproot me soon.

    Weather? blankety-blank awful. Wet, Wet, Wet. Gray gloom.

    I’m off to ponder.

    • margo roby

      12/02/2013 at 11:18 am

      ‘but it may uproot me soon’ — symbolic? metaphorical? portent?

      We appear to share weather, ViV. That’s exactly how I feel about it.

      Ponder away. I find it fascinating to think about it, not just from the point of view of, say, the desert, but land that I come from.

  3. Carol Carlisle

    12/02/2013 at 11:21 am

    Out here in the West were it is too dry I veered in my approach to land. I went to my phone for fotos to inspire me and came upon this crocus from this last Sunday I had been thinking about how to write about Mardi Gras that was not trivial and this is what arrived.
    More words than my poem.

    • margo roby

      13/02/2013 at 11:14 am

      Can’t wait to see what arrived, Carol.

  4. vivinfrance

    12/02/2013 at 2:18 pm

    Mine is an amalgam of an old freewrite, which became a poem, from which developed a new poem specially for you! I even took a couple of pictures in the dusk.

    • margo roby

      13/02/2013 at 11:15 am

      My mind thought, Ah, lovely, just reading what I have to look forward to, ViV. I’m on my way.

  5. barbara_y

    12/02/2013 at 2:58 pm

    More of an idea than a full-fledged poem

    • margo roby

      13/02/2013 at 11:16 am

      That’s what most of what I post are. Ideas are good.

  6. Pamela

    12/02/2013 at 4:31 pm

    Hi Margo, thought I would stop by to say “hi”. Speaking of weather, it is gorgeous here. Spring is in full bloom with nice warmish evenings. Soon the rainy season will be here, and I probably won’t be so jolly (not that I am particularly jolly now). I love this prompt by the way. Not sure I will get to anything right away, but it is in on folder for those rainy days 🙂


    • margo roby

      13/02/2013 at 11:19 am

      Keep stopping, Pamela. I can wait on poems, but not visits :-).

      Looks like we might have sun for a couple of days, along with cooler weather. That’s okay, so long as the rain stops.

      See you 😉 — margo

  7. rosross

    13/02/2013 at 2:34 am

    Things are busy around here so this is something I wrote a few months back but it typifies for me, my sense of the land I call home.

    • margo roby

      13/02/2013 at 11:19 am

      I’m just glad you stopped by, Ros.

  8. markwindham

    13/02/2013 at 10:50 am

    yes, I did have to get out of bed at midnight to write to your prompt again. Stop that.

  9. Hannah Gosselin

    13/02/2013 at 5:30 pm

    Hi, there, Margo. I have the flying one done, too but I’m using it for two public readings so didn’t want to post it yet…I will after this weekend though!

    Thank you for this one, too…it proved to be just the thing to get some things sorted out, sort of…or at least just voiced.

  10. margo roby

    14/02/2013 at 7:19 am

    Hi Hannah — Voiced is half the battle, I have found. Through the years my writing has sorted out all sorts of things.

    Enjoy the readings 🙂


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