Poem Tryouts: Clothing Memories

23 Sep

7:57 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to Snow Patrol singing Shut Your Eyes

Hello, all. How are you? All well, I hope. I have shamefully neglected new followers, so welcome to all who have not been welcomed. Please, after looking around, if you have questions, ask. And, do jump in and try a prompt. I regard them as starters for poems, so if all you get is a draft, say so and post anyway. If you want to say something about process, do. If you have questions you want to ask about your poem, ask. Ready for today, everyone? Let’s start.

What does it mean when I borrow a prompt? I rarely [ever?] copy a prompt verbatim. Instead, I put it in my voice. Sometimes I adapt it, but I will always say so if I do. Bottom line is that the prompt is someone else’s and I thank whomever, in this case, Diane Lockward.

Diane Lockward is one of my favourite people to follow. She has a terrific newsletter and her prompts come with craft tips. When she published a book earlier this year, that was all about prompts and tips, I bought it immediately. I love books on writing poetry and I especially love them when they are full of ideas. Her book, The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop is not just full of prompts, but also mini-essays, tips, from some fifty-six contemporary poets, and a ton of example poems.

The exercise we are going to work with comes as a bonus prompt. As I looked for which prompt I was going to borrow — this was one of the earliest I came to — my mind kept coming back to this exercise, so I stopped looking. Get comfortable. Have stuff to jot on and with. We are going to think about our clothes, not just now but from the first article of clothing we remember.

What is the earliest piece of clothing you remember? Why do you remember it? The earliest I remember is a cowgirl outfit my parents gave me for Christmas. Bright red, it was. The memory is strong because I have seen it often on my parents’ old film reels. The memory of this outfit takes me down two tracks, Christmas mornings, and playing cowboys and Indians with my brother.

Your objective is to list articles of clothing through your life that stick in your mind, and to jot down why you remember each one. I remember my prom dress, a gorgeous deep blue Thai silk. Two accompanying memories: visits to the tailor who made it, and my date. My best friend and I, in a protest against senior boys taking freshman girls [it was a tiny school — we couldn’t afford the competition], invited our fathers to be our dates.

The clothing can be an accessory. Again, from my senior year in high school, I remember the knitted ski cap I wore [to my mother’s despair]. Mind you, we lived in Hong Kong, so while we did have very cold winters, knitted ski caps might have been excessive. I wore the hat indoors, always. Every class, all day. It belonged to my dad.

I still have the crocheted poncho my husband gave me when we were dating — some forty-five years ago. I remember coming into his dorm room where he had it casually hanging on the closet door. I think it was his first gift to me.

The clothing might not be yours, per se. One of my strongest memories associated with an article of clothing is of a baby’s dress, white with tiny roses all over. My daughter, who is about to turn thirty-seven, wore it. I have never been able to let it go.

You get the idea: clothing + memory = story. There are a couple of ways you can tell the story. You can narrate a specific scene as a memory, or as happening now — even if it happened forty years ago. The bonus prompt suggests we let the article of clothing tell the story. You can speak in first person, or third. Not every story that is part of you has to be told from the first person point of view. Sometimes a poem works better if told from the third person.

Don’t remember a detail? Make it up. This is not autobiographical [and even those are somewhat fictional]; we make up what we need to get the truth of something across.

I shall see you Thursday for links; Friday for this week’s collection of prompts; and next Tuesday for our image prompt.

Happy writing everyone.


Posted by on 23/09/2014 in exercises, poems, poetry


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25 responses to “Poem Tryouts: Clothing Memories

  1. b_young

    23/09/2014 at 12:01 pm

    Good Morning, ma’am.
    Hope things are as fine down Atlanta way as they are here.

    • margo roby

      23/09/2014 at 12:38 pm

      Hello there. Things are pretty gorgeous down here. Tonight, rumour has it, we go into the fifties. Lovely.

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  3. georgeplace2013

    23/09/2014 at 12:51 pm

    It was cold and foggy here but the sun is breaking through now.
    I don’t know where the title came from or the way the poem veered – but howsomeever, here it is.

    • margo roby

      23/09/2014 at 12:58 pm

      I love veering poems.

      I noticed in the paper’s weather map that almost the entire U.S. has dropped in temperature.

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  5. Carol Carlisle

    23/09/2014 at 1:05 pm

    Margo I went to post a photo on my Photo Blog and it turned into a poem about memory. A naked poem or should I say one without clothes. But a Tuesday poem any way.

    • margo roby

      23/09/2014 at 1:07 pm

      It’s good to see your poems with or without clothes, Carol.

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  7. Hannah Gosselin

    23/09/2014 at 7:12 pm

    Hello, Margo! Borrowed and clothing became my leaping points…thank you!!

    • margo roby

      25/09/2014 at 9:18 am

      Intriguing. I’m on my way.

  8. Pingback: A WWII Treat | Vivinfrance's Blog

    24/09/2014 at 1:47 am

    I loved this prompt – so many poems I could have written, but here’s the first draft of a childhood memory, not very poetic but the feeling is there.

    • margo roby

      25/09/2014 at 9:19 am

      Feel free to wander back and add more, ViV!

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  11. Misky

    24/09/2014 at 6:03 am

    I’m glad that you gave me some wiggle room on this prompt because my brain just kept turning back on weather. And weather. And weather. And whether or not I like it, it’s weather.

    • margo roby

      25/09/2014 at 9:19 am

      There’s always wiggle room. The catch is finding it!

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  13. whimsygizmo

    24/09/2014 at 1:39 pm

    Thanks, Margo.

  14. purplepeninportland

    24/09/2014 at 11:03 pm

    This was just too much fun!
    Mine is up at:

  15. margo roby

    25/09/2014 at 9:21 am

    Fun? Did I say you can have fun!? I’m glad, Sara.


    25/09/2014 at 9:46 am

    Hose are worn with a doublet,
    a ruff and pointy-up shoes.
    Tudor glamour personified.
    but here is the latest news:
    I’n wearing tight support stockings
    garrotting my knees and my thighs,
    cutting off circulation
    and bringing on gusty sighs.
    Glamour and comfort, where art thou?

    • margo roby

      25/09/2014 at 9:53 am

      That woke me up with a laugh!


        25/09/2014 at 11:21 am

        It was your remark on De’s blog that provoked that one! We don’t call them hose these days!

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