Monday, December 23, 2013

Daily Prompt: The Parts of the Sum

I studied classical guitar for eleven years and practiced my share of scales. 

The Day Poems practice (writing a poem-a-day for a set amount of time) is similar to playing scales. The discipline of paying attention, striving for accuracy, and listening closely transfers into the poems you write outside of the Day Poems series. It works.

Thoughts to encourage you to get started on Day Poems

Poets are list makers. We collect images, words, snippets of conversation, symbols, sounds, flavors, forms, rhymes, titles. We are jackdaws, filling our nests with shiny things that catch our eyes. Use the power of list making as you write your Day Poems. List newspaper headlines to select from as titles for your poems. List words in Italian or Aramaic or Farsi to include in your poems. List all the names of your neighbors’ pets, the planets, every type of olive you can remember. Generate words. Words are like gnats: they travel in swarms. If you jot one down, more are sure to follow. 

Poets are meaning-makers. They make connections between seemingly disparate things. That’s how metaphor works, connecting two unrelated things with a comparison. Allow unplanned juxtapositions to happen in your Day Poems. The practice of Day Poems breaks patterns and habits. If something seems to not fit, leave it for a bit. Give it a chance. You can always take it out later. (By the way, silly is okay, too.)

Distill your Day Poems. Even before you get to any formal revision (if you even choose to), distill. Bring observations to their essences. Fearlessly hone your insights. Let them occur. You may find that you think you are writing about garbage trucks and you are really writing about unburdening someone. Accept that insight. That’s all you have to do.

Let the Day Poems slow you down. “Art,” Theodore Roethke said, “is the means we have of undoing the damage of haste.” If you are a person who is busy, closely connected to the internet, energetic, outgoing, or otherwise on-the-go, slowing down may feel unsettling. Try breathing evenly and deeply. It helps. Experiment with speaking your words aloud as you compose them. That activates the breath and attunes you to the sounds of words and the feel of rhythm. If you have access to them, lay in a hammock to muse, or ebb-and-flow in a rocking chair or swing. 

Need more help slowing down? Yoga Stanza has poems to be read aloud. You don't need to "do yoga" to enjoy them. Just read and breathe and enjoy.

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