Monday, March 16, 2009

March Poetry Prompt 2 - What we didn't know then

For the second of this month's writing prompts I thought we could stay with childhood, or at least locate ourselves at a specific time in our past.

This is an exercise in stages. It's probably best to attempt each stage as you read it, rather than reading ahead, but not to worry if you can't do that.

Imagine a photograph of yourself when you were much younger.

Take your time to let it appear clearly in your mind. Take a good look at it.

Begin with the phrase: In this one I am...

Describe what you can SEE in the photo e.g. what you’re wearing, what you’re doing, who’s next to you, what the weather’s like, what’s behind you, anything in scene.

Now describe what happened just before the photo was taken, or even earlier in the day, perhaps what you were doing, or what someone else was doing.

Now use the phrase I don’t know yet... and describe something/s that will happen later in your life, that you have no knowledge of at the time of the photo.

Follow whatever comes up in your memory. If something leads you away from the photo/scene that has a lot of energy then follow it.

When you've finished writing, put your draft away for a few days before reading back over it and seeing if it can be shaped into a poem.

Good luck.

Monday, March 09, 2009

March Poetry Prompt 1 - Playtime

The Writer's Almanac posted this piece of news today:

It was 50 years ago on this day, in 1959, that the Barbie doll first appeared, at the American International Toy Fair in New York City. A woman named Ruth Handler noticed that when her daughter, Barbara, played with dolls, she liked to give them adult roles. At the time, most dolls were baby dolls, and only paper dolls were made to look like adults. Ruth's husband, Elliot, was the co-founder of a small toy manufacturer named Mattel, and Ruth suggested to her husband that Mattel make an adult doll for children to play with, but he thought it would be a failure. Then, on a trip to Germany, Ruth found exactly what she had imagined: a doll called the Lilli doll. Ruth didn't realize that Lilli was based on a prostitute in a cartoon, and had been created as a toy for adults. She bought three Lilli dolls, brought them back to America, and Mattel changed the doll's design, renamed it Barbie (after Ruth's daughter), and debuted it on this day in 1959. In the last 50 years, Mattel has sold more than 1 billion Barbie dolls.

I was a Sindy girl myself. What about you? What were the toys and games of your childhood? The ones you loved (that the blue teddy with the split in his armpit, marbles, Cluedo) and the ones you disliked (Pinky & Perky wooden puppets, clackers).

Write a poem about a toy or toys, a game, or your childhood play in general.

Write well.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

February Prize Poem

Thank you, everyone, for posting your poems last month, and also over the last year or so. I don't always have the time to acknowledge every post, and make individual comments, but I want you to know that I do enjoy reading them all. In retrospect it seems obvious, but I hadn't fully appreciated the difference moving to a non-english speaking country would make to me, both on a day to day basis, and as a writer. So, to open AppleHouse Poetry and read poems in english, by people I know, or am getting to know, is a joy. Really.

And now, on to last month's prize poem...

I laughed out loud at John Kenny's 'camel risen from the dead/ to haunt you in your room'! And Martin Cordrey's list of imperative verbs to extinguish the past had an accumulative energy and the interesting effect of actually reinforcing all those past events. But it's Annie Clarkson's prose poem, 'After the Accident', that I've chosen this month.

The title contributes so much to this poem: we read the poem in a very different light, aware of the narrator's need to recover, or settle, or find some kind of peace.

Despite being a list of commands, the force of the imperative is softened by the imagery in the poem, e.g. sit' and the movement of sunflowers in the wind and light, 'listen' and the sound of leaves and birdsong.

But the most surprising (and satisfying) thing about this poem, for me, was how it defied my expectations at the end with the instruction:

Imagine freeing the sunflowers from their tethers so they can experience all their sadness and pain and be truly free to move.

Poets often use Nature as a balm, as a way to comfort ourselves in the face of the harsh realities of life. And this poem begins that way, asking us to notice the natural environment and, by inference, take comfort from it. But the close of the poem turns us back onto ourselves, and asks us to recognise the need to experience 'sadness and pain' in order to be 'truly free'.

It's a beautiful and powerful poem, Annie. Congratulations. I'll put your prize in the post.

The first prompt for March will be up in a couple of days.


After the accident

Sit in a garden chair and stare at the sunflowers all day. Notice how they bend in the wind, how they lean away from the wall, straining to escape from the string that fastens them there.

Sit outside all day and watch the way light shifts. Follow the sunflowers’ shadows as they dance on the garden wall. Learn their complex movements so you can improvise your own flamenco: an intricate dance that matches the sunflower’s passion, the emotional turn of its head in the wind.

Listen to a cante libre in the rustle of leaves and birdsong, click imaginary castanets as you stare, stare, stare at gypsy flowers expressing all the emotions you feel inside.

Imagine walking across the grass. Imagine freeing the sunflowers from their tethers so they can experience all their sadness and pain and be truly free to move.

Annie Clarkson

For more about Annie, and to read more of her poems, go to her page at Poetry pf