Tag Archives: my tree

Wednesday Wrapup: Because There are Things to Wrap

winter maples

10:29 am, Wednesday, 17 November, 2010 – Atlanta


And, where the heck are the days going? I’m only wrapping up mid-week so that my brain doesn’t keep holding onto the several loose threads I need to tie up. I go to bed each night reciting the things I need to address in the blog. It does not make for easy sleeping. So, let me address them here rather than in the Friday freeforall, because I would like a clear mind tonight. I am going to look back a little, and ahead a bit.

Recap: If you are a newcomer to the blog, I have, so far, introduced some basics about writing, talked about the importance of  collecting words, images, phrases, lines, given exercises based on lists, set words, paintings, and on a passage from something you read. From here I plan to move into a series of exercises based on imagery and talk a little about some maxims of writing.

If you have not yet tried out One Word as an exercise, I suggest trying it. It’s a rush and as long as you don’t put a fullstop, you can write a little beyond the time limit.

Those of you have wandered through my blog, or been with me a while, know that I occasionally write about my tree: My desk butts up against the wall fitting just under the window sill. And I, I look into the treetops seven floors up. I am part of the tree on my own branch. If I were to raise the blinds and open the window, which I shall do some cooler day, I will be that much more part of the tree for I shall hear and smell it. If I were to crawl out my window and fly, a little, I could perch on another branch, a thinner less substantial branch than the one I perch on now.

Last week my tree began to lose its leaves. While its neighbour manages to hang on to more of its leaves, mine has a canopy of thin branches and twigs sticking up into the air. I discovered as it thinned that two more trees, different species of maples, stand behind mine, on the street side. They are holding onto all their leaves. Before it lost them, the leaves of my tree were a butterscotch, exactly like the candy, a bright warm yellow, in the morning light. In the afternoon, with the sun setting off to the right, behind the building, the leaves are a rich caramel. When it rained on Monday the wet branches, uncovered now, looked like the lines of black ink in a Chinese painting. When dry the bark is grey. While tall, the trunk is slim and the branches thin. If you are wondering why the digression into the trees outside my window, the blog has become a place to collect images and words about my tree that I will work into a poem.

Tomorrow I will share with you my response to a prompt I stumbled across that you may wish to try. You will have to come back to find out where and what. I know, sneaky.


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Posted by on 17/11/2010 in poetry, writing


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Tuesday Trial: Found Poetry

found poetry on throat lozenge wrapper

Image by Seven Morris via Flickr found poem came from the lozenge wrapper

1:29, Tuesday, 16 November, 2010 – Atlanta

Let’s move straight into Part 2 of the found poetry exercise:

You should have to hand something that looks like and sounds like a poem, but its words still belong to the writer of your source piece. The next steps help you take charge of the piece… help you make the piece your own… allow you to become the god of the world your piece creates. You are the creator of the story, the world in which it is set, and the speaker of the story.

To refine your found poem:

6. Ask yourself: What does the piece make me think? Wonder? Imagine? What is the story behind the piece? What is not told that should be? And who should tell the story? Freewrite a response for a few minutes. Allow your brain the freedom to roam uncensored. Let me show you a tiny article and how far a student of mine roamed. I envy the paths his brain takes.

Article from the Jakarta Post, September 2005. No author: “THE LAST MOHICAN : Risnan, 72, drives his helicak around Menteng, Central Jakarta. This is the only helicak left in the capital, and its days are numbered now that the Jakarta administration will ban three-wheeled vehicles on the city’s roads as stipulated by Bylaw No.12/2003 on transportation.”

Questions: What does this poem make me think? Wonder? Imagine?

vehicle similar to a helicak

Lost traditions, going more global.
Old man still has an occupation
Mohican: an old American folk tale that’s forgotten
No more bajaj=No more traffic
Jakarta with less pollution (from the bajaj’s)
Because they’re going to ban, some will be disappointed for losing their job
I wonder what it’s like working at the age of 72
I wonder what its like to have the only helicak
I wonder how much they get paid
I wonder how hard it is to build a vehicle
Where does steel come from?
Does Risnan know that bullet trains exist? What does he eat?Does it feel comfortable to be in a helicak? How long does he work for? Does he have a grand son? How old is his helicak
Why is it called a helicak?
Do helicaks exist in Jakarta only?

7. What might you do to make what looks and sounds like a poem meet your thinking, fulfill your fancy, answer your question? Again respond in writing or jot notes to yourself on the piece. You will need, in any case, to figure out for yourself how you want to annotate your work when you revise a first draft. I write notes on the diagonal and use arrows to connect to the part of my poem I want to change, or where I want to check for another word, or where I want to research a little background on something to add to my knowledge of what I want to write about.

My student’s response to this and what he ended up using was: The untold story that’s waiting to get out: The driver strives to protest against the government
Who should tell it: the driver, Risnan

To refine found poetry, ask:

What’s the untold story waiting to get out?

Who should tell it?

8. Do you need to revise or rewrite the whole piece because you are focusing on one part of the original which interests you more than the overall story? Do so if you wish.

Cross out unnecessary words and sentences.

Change words, names, places, facts if you think such changes help the piece. This is your story now and facts don’t necessarily have a place in your world. They may not fit what you want to create.

Revise to eliminate verbs of being. (Next week, I’ll talk a little theory about the whys and wherefores of some of the things I have suggested in the past couple of weeks)

Add words, names, facts you feel will help the piece.

Add an ending–as little as one word; as much as you like.

Give it a title. Credit the original. This can be done in a number of ways. Your attribution can come right after the title, or at the end of the poem. I usually italicize the attribution. depending on how far I have taken the poem from the original I might say: With thanks to author’s name; or, After the letter I in Granger’s Index of Poetry; or, from Proverbs. If your poem has become something so other that the original is unrecognizable then you needn’t attribute, but courtesy allows you to if you wish.

So take your poem and make it yours.

I haven’t mentioned it before but I would love to see what comes from these exercises, so feel free to link back to your blog in a comment, or copy and paste the poem.

I know, I know: my tree. But I know I should not make posts too long. Tomorrow I’ll give you a break from exercises – I  am going to assume you are revising away at your found poem. Tomorrow I will write about my tree and a couple of sites that are worth a visit.


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Posted by on 16/11/2010 in poetry, writing


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Monday Mayhem Mini: Found Poetry

St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writin...

Image via Wikipedia: Botticelli's St. Augustine writing, revising, rewriting

1:23 pm, Monday, 15 November, 2010 – Atlanta

The mayhem is because it is Monday: laundry and get the house ready for the week day. Therefore the post will be mini, or that’s the plan. I already made the decision to put off talking about my maple until tomorrow, while being aware I have not kept track of it as closely as I had planned. I do look at it every day, but that doesn’t do much for my collecting images of my tree for a future poem, if I am not writing about it. Because I worried I would forget exactly how I am seeing the changes, I started, yesterday, jotting notes on a piece of vermilion cube paper. I’m taking notes for my notes.

If you have been following me, you know you had homework: During the weekend, when you read the newspaper [or computer], or read someone’s blog, or as you are reading a magazine, keep your eye out for a story that is a little quirky, a little off the wall, a touch bizarre. Should you not read anything odd you can find stories on the net easily enough. Ideally, you want something between 70 and 90 words. Remember to make note of the source.

1. Affix the clipping to a page in your notebook so that you will have a record of your starting point for this exercise. Remember to include bibliographical information [author, title of article, title of article’s source, date].

2. COPY THE PASSAGE WORD FOR WORD FROM THE ARTICLE BY HAND INTO YOUR NOTEBOOK [now you know why the word limit]. This may seem like an odd instruction, but is based on what is known about how the brain works. When you write by hand your brain absorbs what you are writing, with the physical movements of the hand. It doesn’t work in the same way when we word process. Your brain is already making connections as you write.

3. Reread what you copied. The more times we read something, the more we see, the more connections are made.

4. In the belief that any piece of writing is always a step toward a better piece of writing, reread the passage one more time… but… as you do, put a stroke ( / ) wherever you think or hear or feel that, were this passage a poem, a poetic line should end.


A poetic line does NOT equal a sentence. Keep in mind that when a reader sees a full stop, they stop. If you want them to move through without stopping you won’t put a full stop at the end of a line until you want them to stop.

Key positions: Last words in lines …first words in lines.

Trust your eye and ear.

Don’t do anything else to the passage except stroke it–although if you see or hear any words/phrases that jar your eyes or ears, you may lightly cross them out. The reason I say lightly, and this goes for any time you go through and revise, is that you may later decide you want a word or phrase back in. If you have scratched something out so it is unrecognizable, your brain will not hold onto it, and it is gone as a possibility.

Trust your senses–all six–to guide you. They will determine what’s right and wrong.

5. Guided by your strokes and lines, recopy the poem so that it looks, as well as sounds, like a poem. As you move along, feel free to make any other changes. And since you are now the master of this passage, if you care to change the line endings from the way you first stroked them, do so.

This is basic found poetry. Tomorrow we will talk about raising the bar and moving it forward, so it becomes your poem, rather than the original author’s piece. Do not lose the source. We will talk about attribution when we talk about revision.



Posted by on 15/11/2010 in poetry, writing


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Friday Freeforall

1:43, 29 October, 2010 – Atlanta

The colour of my tree. What a lovely thing to see each day when I look out through the window beyond my desk. Oddly, its neighbour is still mostly green. I’m hoping my tree will turn red. As a maple, it should go in that direction. That would be something for someone experiencing fall for the first time in twenty years.

For the second day in a row, discovering the ramifications of keeping a blog is keeping me from working on poetry. And I thought all I had to do was write.  Today I learned about creating links [tomorrow I shall try to create some] and uploading images and documents. Note my first image: the tree. Now I have to learn how to make the blog a little snazzier…not something easy when the main point is words, not visuals. I may have to learn to create concrete poetry. I did stray just slightly down the other path and found another blog to follow: franciszka voeltz collects details and likes to collaborate.

Before the weekend when I don’t blog [thus ensuring I will work on my poetry, perhaps], let me go back to  advice for beginning, and not so beginning, writers. Almost any writer on writing will tell you: write write write do not stop write do not edit write do not stop write write write. The problem most of us have is that we have a self-censor sitting on one of our shoulders. This censor says That sounds silly. That’s not grammatical. What kind of syntax is that? Did you put a comma in there? Did you spell that long word correctly? What kind of image is that? It doesn’t make sense. Enough of that and you will talk yourself into not writing. If your mind goes blank because you are trying so hard not to self-censor, or your mind just goes blank, don’t stop. Keep writing the last word you wrote over and over again. Your brain won’t like that and will kick back in. The surrealist writers believed that they had to reach a state beyond reality in order to find and write that which is true. What we call free-writing developed from them. Ideally you want to write several pages without stopping. If you can do that you will find when you go back through that your mind and hand have taken you down many paths. You can choose one of the paths to follow knowingly, or choose words and phrases that speak to you and pull them out as a seed to a possible poem. Rather than setting a time, set yourself a number of pages. If you have never done this before, start with two pages and write. If it will help, pick a topic, but then don’t worry or panic if you notice that instead of writing about whales, you are writing about hot air balloons. Your brain made some kind of connection. Go with it. It may take you wondrous places.

Remember: You need to write before you can write well. You need to have written something before you can worry about revision. You have to write before you can craft.

After spending the last hour reading up on copyright and whether I may or may not share a poem here, I will leave with a poem from one of my favourite poets: Robert Frost. Given the sound of the wind in my tree these days the poem is apt. The title is “The Sound of the Trees” and can be found with many other poems at the Poets’ Corner.

The Sound Of Trees

I wonder about the trees:
Why do we wish to bear
Forever the noise of these
More than another noise
So close to our dwelling place?
We suffer them by the day
Till we lose all measure of pace
And fixity in our joys,
And acquire a listening air.
They are that that talks of going
But never gets away;
And that talks no less for knowing,
As it grows wiser and older,
That now it means to stay.
My feet tug at the floor
And my head sways to my shoulder
Sometimes when I watch trees sway
From the window or the door.
I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice,
Some day when they are in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.
I shall have less to say,
But I shall be gone.


Posted by on 29/10/2010 in poetry, writing


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Wednesday Wishes

3: 21 pm, Wednesday, 27 October, 2010 – Atlanta

I have had a number of wishes lately, although I hadn’t thought of them that specifically: I wished/hoped to have a set of poems published by a neat organization called the Origami Poems Project; I wished my maple tree would not blow over in the wind; I wished I could separate my poetry blogs from other stuff; and I wished I could settle on titles.

I will work backwards through the list. I decided my titles will alliterate with the day of the week and depend on what I want, or need , to write on any given weekday. That was easy, once I realised the alliterating words will give me more scope.

I decided I wanted to separate my writing on poetry from my writing on other topics. I took a deep breath and plunged into WordPress’ help pages, which are extensive. Turns out even I can follow their step by step instructions. I am now typing this on my new blog: Woolgathering. Next step/ wish: customizing. If you don’t hear from me for a few days, I have disappeared into the depths of the help pages.

My poor tree. A couple of days ago we had a rainstorm and high winds which had the maple flailing its long thin branches like the arms of drowning people, before they sink into the depths. Yesterday we had winds which signaled approaching tornadoes and the tree is flinging itself about with mad abandon; at least, the branches are. The second tree’s branches flutter a little, as if it feels it should exert some energy, given the show my tree is putting on. My tree is putting its back into the flinging: AHHHH! Wind! Fling! Fling! A sustained gust hits it and all the branches are pushed back slowly. Now the entire canopy bends [remember: this is a seventy foot tree], resisting, bending, pushing back. I am reminded of the motions of a fisherman playing a large fish. He pulls back on the rod, then lets the reel out, pulls, pulls, pulls; the line tautens, tightens, tenses, relaxes; pull, pull, pull, release…bend, bend, bend, fling fling! A few leaves are flung like confetti and sail past my window. I put the tree in a comment on facebook and received a wish that it might prevail. It is still here.

I received an email Monday telling me that a set of poems I had sent in to Origami Poems suited and would be published. They have a wonderful mission, as stated on their home page:

“Origami poems are bound together in a book published on a single piece of paper!

The origami is the book, of course. The poems are original, and the collections are amazingly charming.

The idea of creating and spreading these books of poetry à la Johnny Appleseed inspired the Origami Poems Project founded by Lynnie Gobeille, Jan Keough, and Barbara Schweitzer.

Free Poetry is the Origami Poems Project mantra.

Free the poet!

Free the poem from competition!

Free the world from economic barriers to poetry!

We have over three dozen poets who are participating in the project at present, but we hope to spread the word so that all poets can easily create handmade collections. We’re distributing the poems in small plastic boxes throughout Rhode Island. We were featured on on the “Poem in a Pocket” day with a list of our distribution places of libraries, coffee shops, art centers, and bookstores.”
I have seen the proof of my Origami booklet and am thrilled. I cannot wait to see the final product.
Now, into the Help pages…


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Posted by on 27/10/2010 in poetry, writing


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