8:32 a.m. — San Antonio
listening to Hanohano ‘O Maui sung by Keali’i Reichel
Hello, everyone. We have lovely autumn weather (for San Antonio). I’m in a long sleeved shirt, three layers, and my wooly socks. Yay! With coffee in hand let us peruse. Today’s exercise is adapted from Jack Penha’s adaptation of Richard Jackson’s “five easy pieces” from The Practice of Poetry.
- Think of people you know well. – for the sake of the exercise, you need to have someone you can easily visualise. Pick someone.
- Imagine a place where you can picture the person. This does not have to be a place the person has been.
Whether you are a NaNoWriMo-er or poet, we are going to write five sentences taking us through the four modes of writing: description, narration, reverie, and dialogue.
1. Describe the person’s hand or hands in one sentence.
Description takes place in no time; i.e. time stands still for description. So do not let that hand or those hands move. You can describe what they look like or how they are poised or where they lie. But time in description does not move.
2. Narrate something she does with her hands, in one sentence.
Narration takes place over time. That’s what distinguishes it from description. So let time move. Describe the person eating a crab, or shaving, or tending to a plant.
3. Reverie takes place in the mind of a character or a narrator.
Your person is thinking of something that, although he may not know it, is a symbol for something he experienced in the past. Or something he dreams of experiencing in the future. In one sentence, write about the metaphor in the person’s mind–without telling us what it stands for. Indeed, you do not even need to know what it stands for.
4. These next two are examples of dialogue—the rhetorical mode of drama.
a. (probably relevant to numbers two and three above,) Write the question you would love to ask this person. Just the question—as a sentence. Not, I would love to ask. Just the question. As if it were in quotation marks.
b. The person looks up or toward you, notices you there, gives an answer that suggests she didn’t entirely hear or understand your question. One sentence.
NaNos, you can stop there or expand on what you started. Poets, find the poem in your sentences. Feel free to make changes—small or radical—that seem to make it a better poem. Feel free to leave out bits.
I don’t usually show examples, but this exercise might cause furrowed brows, so here’s my take:
1] Her hands are translucent with age, her skin leafy to the touch.
2] Spidery fingers poke the earth around the bottom of the plant.
3] Once a deep purple, now faded to pale blue, veins like spikes of delphinium.
4] It’s cold; are you coming in?
The weather has changed; I must prepare the bonsai.
poke the earth
around the bonsai’s base.
Once a deep purple,
to pale blue,
veins like spikes
hands translucent with age,
her skin leafy to the touch.
Go forth and write and I will see you again, Thursday for links and then, my friends, not for a week. My husband, having decided we need a break, booked us into a hotel in New Orleans. Who am I to argue?
Happy writing, all.