I saw a presentation at AWP last year in which the presenter discussed a workshop activity that I’m somewhat basing this on. The presenter’s activity wasn’t quite like this, but it involved using many steps, writing, drawing, and folding the 8-page book. The photographs here show a book written/drawn by Kelly McQuain.
When trying this out with friends, I introduced the idea that the writing would involve writing and drawing and involve writing about place.
Before the first drawing step, we discussed “outside/inside” places we remembered from childhood
The writing/drawing process went roughly like this:
1. Draw an outside/inside place (using half the paper).
(Using nice paper is fun; and providing colored pencils, markers, etc. is good, too)
2. Draw things in boxes (using other half of paper).
3. On a different piece of paper, write. Consider these quotations from Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space:
“The tick tock of our watches is so mechanically jerky that we no longer have ears subtle enough to hear the passage of time.”
“From being imagined, calm becomes an emergence of being.”
“Every day this April, nearly 80 poets will write one poem per day by applying constrained writing techniques sourced from the Oulipo (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle — or “workshop of potential literature”) group.”
(It’s a bit late to join officially, but the blog posts are great prompts.)
Here’s a prompt I saw recently that I liked. It combines three things I love: Twitter, visual art, and poetry (not necessarily in that order):
“ART/140 a joint effort between the creative agency POSSIBLE and the Museum of Modern Art, asks web viewers to “share what you think about art.” The ART/140 website instructs users to choose one of the listed works of art and tweet what they think about it. Comments on Painterly Architectonic by Lyubov Popova range from simply “linoleum” to “Pile of Broken Glass in a Sunset on Mars.” I think you now know where I’m going with this.
Peruse the lists of tweets for each work of art listed on the website. Remix into a poem. Share the poem in the comments here. Also, why not join the experiment? (Do so by following the ART/140 instructions and tweeting).”
If you break open enough fortune cookies, pretty soon you’ll find a fortune with enough mystery, pithiness, and flexibility to serve as a refrain line in a villanelle or pantoum. So have dinner in a Chinese restaurant, and you just might find that your dessert brings you a great line for a poem.
The fortune-cookie-refrain-line prompt is very effective in class. I sometimes buy a quantity of fortune cookies and hand them out in class, usually two to a student. Chances are at least one of the fortunes will work as a refrain line…and the students enjoy the snack.
Some of my students have written amazing poems with fortune cookie refrain lines.
Here’s an exercise for writing about a place. Choose a place that’s important to you (emotionally resonant) or simply very memorable.
Make a list of questions (10 plus) about each of the following:
Your town or hometown
One or more houses you have lived in
One room in the house (or each of the houses) you have lived in)
Answer these questions in detail.
Locate one or more artifacts relating to your writing.
Include words and descriptions based on this in your next draft of your poem.
After some time has passed, return to your writing. Try to convey the sense of the place through the language and syntax of your poem. Try to reorganize the ideas, stanzas, or images. (Try something completely different from the original order.)
For discussion– How is the spirit of place being hinted at or pictured?
Are you using place names and other proper nouns? If so, how and why?
http://www.leafscape.org/press1/v5n2/freewrite.html It begins: Write fast. This Vertical Free Write Fold Prompt was written by Meg Pokrass and published in Press 1 a few years back. Meg writes about telling a story, but this can be applied quite easily to drafting a poem.
We thought you might use this prompt over the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. The prompt is based on an idea suggested by Don Riggs.
Take some field-notes on your holiday experiences. Describe in detail your Thanksgiving day rituals. Write from the perspective of a specific type of scholar. For instance, you might use the voice of an anthropologist. As preparation, read one or both of the following:
“‘We Gather Together’: Consumption Rituals of Thanksgiving Day” by Melanie Wallendorf and Eric J. Arnould, from The Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 18, No. 1 (June 1991).
For a view from 1952, “Thanksgiving Is Worldwide” by Horace Loftin, from The Science News-Letter, Vol. 62, No. 21 (Nov. 22, 1952).
You can find the Loftin here: http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3931471?uid=3739808&uid=2134&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21102905793321
As an alternative style, write a flash fiction piece based on your field-notes.
Naturally, you might substitute other occasions or holidays for Thanksgiving.
Often I use photos to help me write poems. I will probably have remembered the main point of the poem, but looking at photos can help me if I am stuck, or need to go in another direction – or just want to remember supporting details. Here are some photos I took recently on walks around my new neighborhood (in Mexico City). I am certain a couple of them will turn up in poems….