This is Jack Martin’s prompt, too. He shared with us a really beautiful and profound essay by the poet Linda Gregg called “The Art of Finding.” In it she makes the case that “poetry at its best is found rather than written” and also that “the craft must not become the content of the poem.” On this latter point, she recommends this exercise:
“…write, very briefly, six things [you] have seen each day–not beautiful or remarkable things, just things. “
She discourages the impulse to… embellish the descriptions by “turning them into something poetic” (i.e., heavy on similes, symbolism, etc.) or to describe with “painful exactness.”
Here’s a poem I wrote after trying this exercise. (If you’re from FoCo, I wrote it on Oak St. Plaza. Also, I was feeling a little cranky about this writing thing at the time.) It’s been through a couple of drafts, including feedback from my writing group, so comments are welcome.
I will not write about
the potentiality of swimsuit children,
their tilting march around
the random eruptions of water from the plaza,
the slippery brown shells of their acorn bodies.
I will not judge the man
in the Space Invaders t-shirt,
pointing his daughter toward the geysers
so he can respond to one last text
before turning his Nikon back to achieve
the optimum depth of field.
Her arms outstretch.
She winces toward the random spurt and splat
from five feet back
in an image he will later title
I will not capture
the boredom of the dutiful mothers
who have acquiesced to
the Hi-C redness of vitamin water,
to organic potato chips
and canisters of raisins
splayed forth on well-worn quilts
Or bless the audacious woman
whose child may or may not being wearing sunscreen
depending on the wait time in the drive-thru,
chicken strips and fries,
so deeply fried and flagrant,
the smell of them layers pleasantly over
the aroma of urine-soaked bark
against which my back is resting.
I will not curse the fierce sunbeam
boring through shade
to mottle the skin of my feet
Or reward the smile
of the curly-headed girl
pattering by on the hot path,
her cheekside almost-wave
brave enough to break the plane.