Sketching Poetry advice from Robert Hass

April 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

In my last post I had mentioned the first of my online classes through the University of Iowa and the Canvas project- did I mention this course was free? There is good in the world. I had really enjoyed some of the suggestions that Robert Hass had offered for coming up with ideas for poems and which are all apart of the beginning of the course of How Writers Write. I’ve been journaling/notebooking, scraping, and sketching since I was a teenager, but I had never really thought of it as a part of my writing process. Honestly, I’d never really been sure what I was doing and I definitely didn’t know what to do with all of the words, ideas, and thoughts. My notes and writing have always lacked discipline and I’ve gone months with out writing a word, so having this class is a nice way to start jotting down some randomness.

In my last post I also wrote out Robert Hass‘s breakdown of sketching. My understanding of it is that you don’t really plan out your thoughts or words but just let things fall as they may. It could be nonsense, it could be bad, or you could get something really inspiring, but the outcome at this point doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are generating some ideas, some words onto the paper.

  1. Start with a basic line
  2. write a second line: try the call and response- let the second line surprise you.
  3. Write out three lines which is the rhythm of the body
  4. Write out four lines- the rhythm of the mind.

His first video instruction was to look around your room, and your space and write a single line. I had stopped the video and wrote down 5 lines based on observations around me.

  1. This empty bottle waits for me to fill it.
  2. On my night stand I see a Chinese warrior with a bronze Japanese rabbit at his feet, and the bone of an ancient civilization safely kept behind a framed piece of glass.
  3. My laundry hangs like wilted flowers over an overturned bed frame and opened lockers.
  4. Oh these books these awful books.
  5. How I wish my lamp were a crystal ball.

Next was to write the second line. I could do either a call and response or whatever came to my mind. In the next following sentences I didn’t really take much time to think about what I was writing but just to allow myself to write- something whatever. The most important point that I’m taking away from it is not to critic what I’m writing but to just write it.

  1. This empty bottle waits for me to fill it
    but who will drink from it when I’m gone?
  2. Dear Chinese warrior with the bronze Japanese rabbit at your feet- do you know what is behind you?
    Ancient words carved into bone as fragile as glass and as clear as stone.
  3. Oh these books these awful books
    lies of little children.
  4. I wish my lamp were a crystal ball.
    And if it were, what would you ask for?

 

For the three lines he suggested another approach- one was to quickly write out a paragraph that came to your mind and then to pull the three lines from the paragraph.

  1. I awoke with a panic this morning. The same if not worse than before. There was drool, actual drool on my pillow, my heart was racing, and my mind was sunk into some kind of a hole. Where was I? What kind of anxiety was attacking my dreams, and what were my dreams telling me? There is no manual for this kind of suffering.
  2. I awoke with panic
    The same and worse then before
    dreams lost in the whole of my mind

Then for finding the four line poem he went back to suggesting that we take our ideas from the room that we are in. To use your observations and to just let the lines fall into place one after the other.

  1. I’m sitting on the dirty floor
    watching and listing to you read poetry
    We’ve never met before
    but I’m here, listening to your stories.

Anyway, something like that. Are they poems? No. Can they be? Sure it’s possible. Can I scrap them and toss them away? If I want- that’s my choice. It’s just the beginning. Only the beginning.

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Poetry Lessons Day 1

April 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

The online course from The University of Iowa’s International Writers’ Program has begun. The course is “How Writers Write Poetry”. I found the course on the Canvas Network which has many free online classes.  I’m really very thrilled that taking this course is a possibility for me, and even though I can’t afford to get the certificate (I like that it’s an option) I can still take the course and do the work.

The first lesson was on Note-taking, basically the beginning steps that any kind of writer needs to gather information and to practice writing and capturing images, conversations- anything that you need to build your poems or stories. I watched a video with three poets discussing their note-taking processes.

The first was Lia Purpura who spoke about keeping journals and the process of note booking which is different than keeping a diary. The key points were to keep an active journal and to keep it with you all the time. You could also just have scraps of paper or small notepads both of which can be transferred to your main journal. The point is to capture the world around you. She also mentioned a way of collecting your thoughts through something she called a found journal. This is a journal that is created from all of your notes of life; meaning your check book, your lists, your calendars, e-mails, whatever you do to record and archive your own life can be transferred to your journal. I had liked this idea because it is new to me. I’ve kept journals since I was 16 (not always active journals) and I’ve done the scrap method, and attempted to use note pads, but unfortunately I’m pretty bad at keeping them on me and remembering to take notes. This found journal is something I think can be fun to try because I have tons of scrap notes that keep reminding me of what I need to do and what I haven’t done.
A couple of things that she noted that I found to be useful to hear was her opinion of the reason behind the journalling and how it is different from a diary. The reason that we journal for the purpose of writing poems or stories is to look for patterns. Patterns of thoughts, images, types of conversations. To see what you gravitate toward in your observations of the world. According to Purpura the purpose of taking notes and  keeping a writing journal is to teach yourself about yourself. I thought this was very insightful because as a person who has kept a journal for years I had never quiet figured out how to make use of the journals which tend to be a combination of observations, and diary. and story ideas. I had never thought to look for patterns of what I tend to capture, and I like the idea of looking at my jottings in this objective manner.

The next person on the video was Kate Greenstreet who spoke about her notebook or collection of words that she called “The Epic”. For Greenstreet “The Epic” is her way of collecting her words and then swirling them around until she gathered or saw what she wanted from her words.

Lastly, Robert Hass spoke and offered his experience of what he called “sketching” a way of collecting your fleeting bits of thoughts and words. Hass also offered up a loose formula to play around with your thoughts and ideas and he numbered this sketching 1-4.

  1. Start with a basic line
  2. write a second line: try the call and response- let the second line surprise you.
  3. Write a third line which is the rhythm of the body
  4. Write a fourth line- the rhythm of the mind.

I will explain more on Robert Hass’s sketching in my next post since he offered some moments in the video to pause and to try some writing.

On thing he did was give out a sentence like this one:

I’m asleep on skis, and, The rain fell all afternoon

Then he said for us (students of the course) to write our own response- what are the first thoughts that come to your mind? Below are my responses to Hass’s first lines:

I’m asleep on skies
and you are not here.

The rain fell all afternoon,
and still the grass did not grow.

So far I’m enjoying the course, and I’m grateful to have found it. Although, I won’t be getting the certificate I’ll at least be writing and listening to people talk about writing- and right now- I need that.

 

Free Poetry Courses-

March 18, 2015 § Leave a comment

It’s a pretty exciting time when you can take University courses for free.

I’ve signed up for a course through The University of Iowa on How Writers Write Poetry.

I’m looking forward to taking the course, and I hope that I can learn some things, and open up my creative mind, so I can figure out what to do with all the jumbled words and ideas I’ve collected below:

A lock of red hair in a clear velum envelope.
A woman in lace and silk underwear standing in a Parisian hotel room she is smoking a cigarette and leaning over the iron rod railing of her balcony.
A dilapidated building.
A marble façade of angles and gargoyles leaning over ornate gigantic wooden doors.
A painting of a naked woman lounging on a blue chair she is looking over her shoulder at her painter and the viewer.
Black notes on a sheet of music.
Cobblestone streets. Pebbled roads. Graveled lanes. Brick walkways.
Milk spilled over a linoleum floor.
Wood paneled walls.
A white clawed foot tub. A gold faucet.
A glass filled with rusted water.
Water bubbling into a pool of blue and gold.

Trains like caterpillars

Black dawn,
She is rising now

Pink Carnations

January 5, 2015 § 2 Comments

In her lair she lies
tangled in a shawl of
dead carnations
given to her by
ancient lovers.

She is still wishing one
would return to save
her. Still waiting for a
White Knight
(in shining armor of course),

But knights never
rescue hags
they save their energy
for lily virgins
sleeping in snowy woods,
and dragon guarded
castles.

The witch is moody,
throbbing, and greedy for any love.
She’s a dark spider with traps to set
and snares princesses
(loneliness breeds jealousy like ugly babies).

Sometimes, when the moon
is right, and the light
is forgiving,
an unexpected prince
will stumble like a drunk
into her dark cave,
and the perfume
of dried flowers
like a potpourri can
intoxicate and blind
a fool

Then she croons
a soulful tune

“Purr into my mouth, sweet youth, for centuries I have longed for you.”

Morning light reflects against her
Snaggle-toothed grin and careless,
skin- this is what the prince, hung-over
and embarrassed, sees: tooth, and wrinkles
dark imperfection not a princess,
but an aged witch.

He apologizes for bothering her
and seeks the sunlight. And hopes to leave
the cave and the forest unnoticed.

She sings to his back as he
gathers his armor and shield
(his sword is lost).

“It’s nothing my boy, just remember my purring sighs, and leave me pink
carnations at the edge of the cave.”

To The Man at the Bar with the Red Tie

November 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

He was September cool.

We ate peaches. French music played in the background, and a car door slammed.
The Soundtrack to an evening with the man in the red tie.

I rubbed my hands over the pockets of his dark leather vest and straightened his red tie- from left to right to tighten it.
Lastly, I ran my fingers through his coarse Turkish hair fixating on the silver at his temples.

We told stories of kindred love. Or, at least, I did and he went along with it.
Flirtatious illusions like bullets moving clean through him and he was sweating.

I awoke to the train. Alone, in a blank hotel room. A single black cord held the light from the ceiling. It swayed like a ticking clock.
And nothing else, but the memory of a man walking away.

In the morning, I walked to the spot where we had met, inhaled the past,
held it in my lungs: cigarette smoke, musk, and hints of whiskey shots,
got high on the story I created in our drunken romance.

Who is to say it wasn’t love? A small momentary speck of love?

No one can say anything.

Hlavní Nádraží Station, Prague 1:00 a.m.

November 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

I leave you and walk toward
the last exit. I see the
marble tables like
backgammon pieces,
but no one is playing.
I jump empty chairs except
for where two junkies
sleep with their
heavy heads rested in their
folded arms, using their
elbows for pillows
and drool catchers.
A junky
lifts his head mumbles to me.
His mouth barely opened,
a soft grey hue, like
crusted milk around his lips.
He’s falling from his seat.
I stumble backward to
exit doors, and escape.
On to the open street.

The Last Painting

November 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

This is still an early draft of a poem I’m working on. I can’t seem to grasp what I’m trying to capture or how to say what I want. The poem at this point is visually interesting and uses many references to actual paintings, but there is a disconnect in this version. Who is talking and who are they talking to and why? These are the questions I still have around this poem. Why is it so important to write it, why not throw it out and move onto something else? Another question.

Fixed like a Japanese etching; He sat alone in his blue
painted room. In the smallest corner, a yellow bed frame.

one pale chair turned out waiting for a guest- any guest
perhaps another painter?
He wrote letters: “Dear brother, dear sister
they do not see what I see.
They do not see what I am showing them.”

In the wheat field crows
gathered around the lonely scarecrow.
Dutch, with an orange beard
a palette in one hand, a brush in the other
supplicating in a blue smock.

He painted thick strokes of yellow wheat.

Ocean blue sky, and a road
long, bending, and coming to an end.
Where are they going?
They had sat on his easel and cawed at his brushstroke.
They scatter like dark clouds spreading news.
The gunshot? Did he paint the expectation of sound?

They flew.
They are
still flying,
all of them,
from painting
to painting-

Over his yellow fields of golden sunflowers;

swirling starry nights;
past the harvest women
and their round full bodies bent

over rows of crimson and purple grapes.
Perched atop his maddened trees
soared over lavender lilies, and
 picked through tactile gardens.

Once the shot was fired they 
drank in his night cafes.
Poured one out for the fallen artist.
Triste! Triste! Caw! Caw!
A TOAST to an artist! CAW!

The crows the murderous ravens.

They love him now.
They covet him, now,
tour his history, now,
his home, his life, his pain.
They understand him now.
In life they never once 
reached
to touch his dark wounded face.

He must have,
before that moment,
silently swayed 
peacefully as golden wheat. His quartered ear
covered by orange hair the color of
a monk’s robe. Smoke at his heart, vermillion at his feet.

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