Writing Prompt #2: Six Things

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,

who’s brought

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.


6 thoughts on “Writing Prompt #2: Six Things

  1. Cre8tvCottage says:

    Your poem resonates with me that so many of us are trying to do so many things that we are missing the day to day of making sure when we are living in the moment especially when it comes to our children, and yet, you were living in your moment as you found your six details. Adults seemed to be going through the motions in your poem, but it was a child that gave you your reward for the day.
    I read the Art of Finding, and I am very intrigued by her stating that we need to find our images along with the details/sources that create special energy and vibrancy to make our poems luminous.
    Another prompt that I saw within Linda Gregg’s writing was the paragraph where she listed how she was made. That is going to be a morning pages for me. I am going to reread that paragraph and then write I am made… It could lead to a lot of feelings and discovery.
    I am a writer!


  2. Liz Stafford says:

    Cindy, I loved the line “the slippery brown shells of their acorn bodies.” You captured such ordinary life in such a unique way. Wow. I need to read Karen’s The Art of Finding because her idea of finding images to create a special energy in a poem sounds like I could have used that to support my research demo. Thanks for the inspiring blog post!

    • Cre8tvCottage says:

      I also liked the line “the slippery brown shells of their acorn bodies.” The first time I read the poem I went right by that line, and then I came back to it because I had to think about the meaning behind the words. When I finally came up with a meaning that made sense for me, I thought what a great way to say that idea. I never would have seen that image and that makes it special.

  3. Carl Daniel Swanson says:

    I liked the ideas of distracted over-worked parents. Aren’t we all that way. Totally scattered. to busy to focus completely on our children and often distracted from completely focusing on our work. Definition: to be a parent is to be standing in two worlds one foot in each trying not to do the splits. Yet somehow, life has meaning and is beautiful. Great job capturing these ideas. I hope that I will have time to read The Art of Finding later. It is now on the list.

  4. blogessor says:

    Thanks for your responses, everyone. It was interesting to see the effects of the images in the poem because they weren’t entirely what I intended. I didn’t want it primarily to be a poem about judging overworked parents (though I was pretty miffed by the Space Invaders guy). In fact that’s not really what I wanted to emphasize at all. Hearing readers’ responses is good feedback for a writer and is now making me think that I may want to change the stanzas around to reflect my intent more fully.

  5. Cre8tvCottage says:

    Thanks for helping us explore more ideas and images through the morning pages you are providing us on your blog, so we can continue our journey this week. I also am glad you are finally sharing the writing that you are creating.


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