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Welcome to the second week of the online book club with poetry participation. laurasalas and I are taking turns hosting this conversation and poetry playtime. You can pop over to Laura's blog to read last week's conversation if you missed it.

I chose Chapter 7 from Writing the Life Poetic because I have always been fascinated by the original poem, 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird (by Wallace Stevens) and the many variations it has spawned. I confess, I've wanted to do my own take on it but have been a bit too lazy.

These are very short chapters so if you haven't read this one yet, you have time to go read it and come back. Really. It's just a couple of pages long. I'll wait.

What stood out to me in this chapter is the phrase, "Writing poetry is discovering ways of looking." It's all about learning to be here, now, and in the moment during days when we are usually busy racing around trying to get more things done in less time. If you are going to look at something in 13 different ways you're going to stay with it for a while, long enough to slow down and get up close and personal. And while you're looking at whatever has captured your poetic mind, you may (and will likely) wander away from the original subject. And that's okay.

I think one of the reasons I love writing poetry is that the nature of it forces me to slow down and be more in the moment.

This chapter advises that when you want to write about a particular subject and you're feeling stuck that you can utilize one or more of the various ways of "looking" at the subject to jumpstart your poem. I won't list all the ways of looking. They're in the book. :)

I'm not going to try and use all 13 ways of looking that are listed in the book but I'm going to pick one and do a poem around it. I think I'll go with #2, which says, "If it moves, how does it move? In what direction? Using what energy source? Toward or away from what? If it doesn't move, describe the quality of its stillness."

I'll leave my poem in the comments (as soon as I write it.) I hope you'll play along. You can do the same exercise I'm doing, or if you have the book, feel free to pick a different way of looking at your subject.

This is just rough draft play time. No need to stress over this. Have fun!

If you want to be prepared for next week, Laura will be doing chapter 9.
There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 15 comments — Leave comment )
March 23rd, 2011 06:10 am (UTC)
I would call this more of a poetic thought than a poem but it's something I might go back and play with at a later date.

Thick, like butterscotch pudding,
paint pools on the canvas
until I push the brush
making waves from corner to corner
drops of yellow to drops of orange
a droplet of red, then another,
swirling the bristles until the colors
blend then burst
across the page
like a sunrise
calling for me to come out and play.

Susan Taylor Brown
(Deleted comment)
March 23rd, 2011 05:20 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Laura. I liked the way it went into a social scene too and think if I worked on this more, I would try to add to that feeling.
(Deleted comment)
March 23rd, 2011 05:21 pm (UTC)
Yes, exactly. So much always going on and to actually think about writing poetry and then sitting down to do it, well, it means we HAVE to slow down. It's the way I felt with last week's exercise...oh no, I don't have time for this. I'm too busy. But then once I did slow down and think about the neighbors and picked one to write about, I felt it easier to be in the actual writing moment.

One more reason that poetry is good for us.
March 23rd, 2011 12:34 pm (UTC)
Very nice, Susan! Coincidentally, I read a great student poem about thirteen ways of looking at a dachshund yesterday.

All this looking reminds me of how in the movie Avatar, Na'vi people greet each other with "I see you."
March 23rd, 2011 12:34 pm (UTC)
Of course, I forgot to include my name! I'll remember sometime...Tabatha
March 23rd, 2011 05:22 pm (UTC)
Thirteen ways of looking at a dachshund sounds hilarious, Tabatha! I wanted to do one on my dog but I was just too tired last night.
(Deleted comment)
March 23rd, 2011 05:25 pm (UTC)
Re: Subway
This is terrific, Laura! I love

Like a rusty dancer
Like a dog chafing at a stoplight
Like a student racing into class as the bell rings

They are all such perfectly vivid images. And I love the idea that a dancer could be rusty from not dancing but that subway, well it could be rusty in other parts.

Thanks on the link. It's fixed now. I should know better than to write the actual post just before bedtime. :)

Oh, and notice I never said I liked the poem "13 Ways...." but I am fascinated by it.
March 23rd, 2011 02:56 pm (UTC)
I chose movement also. Best read to the end. :)

strong fingers
grasping, squeezing
skilled fingers
pressing, rolling
hands expertly
moving with love -
kneading fresh bread
for breakfast

(I hope this was ok to share)
(Deleted comment)
March 23rd, 2011 05:25 pm (UTC)
Like Laura, even with your warning, my mind went elsewhere at first :)

Lovely description of a vivid scene.
March 23rd, 2011 07:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you both. This was ellie rushing back to my baking. Susan, what I love about your poem is the waiting, waiting because it made me really interested in what you were going to paint. Laura, I can never look at a subway as a simple object again. The rusty dancer was my favorite comparison.
March 23rd, 2011 05:20 pm (UTC)

Susan, loved your first line- it was a "page turner" and just drew me in.

Laura, loved all your similes.

Here is my attempt on the same prompt.

Moving On

Two small hands
patting, grasping, feeling the stability
of the black leather chair.
Tentative, tottering, a tiny baby foot
steps away.
One hand on safety, his lifeline.
One hand stretching, yearning
for new adventure-
the rocking chair.


March 23rd, 2011 05:27 pm (UTC)
Cindyb, thanks for joining us and thanks for the kind words.

I could easily picture this scene that you captured so perfectly! I have a video of my grandson learning how to walk and my mind went to that immediately.

Love the patting, grasping and tentative tottering.

March 23rd, 2011 06:51 pm (UTC)
Cindyb, this is lovely, and you wrote in free verse, a stretch for you if I remember your post last Wednesday. I am not sure if you meant this image, but as the toddler leaves the sturdy chair to grab for the rocking chair, it could tip. As a mother, I would want to be ready to catch, just in case. And since the ending is a bit uncertain (for me), I love it. Seems more adventurous and playful.

March 30th, 2011 11:59 pm (UTC)
10 ways of looking at my cat, Spike:

Someone's been splattering orange paint on that cat.
Hiss, bap, she runs off her ex.
Cat snuggles, kneads, purrs, when I move, growls.
Cat sneaks through weeds, wild turkey face to face. Streak!
Cat rolls, sweetly purring, on her back. I'm not sucker enough to pat that belly.
A spike of orange down a black face.
Cat stalks over to the dog and cleans its ears.
One ear is clipped because cat was supposed to stay feral.
Calico cat batting a blue ball around the deck. Dog watching, panting.
Catitude: green eyes glaring.
So many mice, so little time.
Calico cat controlling the dog food bowl.
Black tail sticking up in the weeds as the queen progresses around the kingdom.

I'm not sure any of them work.
April 8th, 2011 10:25 am (UTC)
( 15 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.

Susan Taylor Brown

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