She reaches through wire squares,
fenced from the flower,
bruised blossoms which wrinkle around
the wide-hipped flounce of the rose.
Beyond the weathered bloom of her body,
beyond grey strands of wiry hair,
beyond silent salmon blossoms
leaping scarred stones of a woman’s hands
grows a sapling of a woman,
rose vining fence, cleaving to wire,
sunlight shining through rusting squares.
Take a picture...any old snapshot will do. No, that's not true. Not all pictures are worth a thousand words, nor will a thousand words always create a thousand pictures. Writers must use words to convey the picture of the world in the writer's head, and in order to do that, the writer must use words that stimulate sense memories in the reader's awareness. The writer of consciousness-based literature must use sense detail in a way that is evolutionary to both the writer and the reader.
The above poem "Mother Rose" is from a book I am in the process of publishing, called Bare Ruined Choirs, after a line from one of William Shakespeare's sonnets. It was written from a photo from National Geographic magazine of an elderly woman reaching through 4" x 4" rusting wire fencing with a wrinkled hand, the fence posts blackened with age. On the other side of the fence was a yellow rose in full bloom, vibrant in the light.
This image of age reaching through to life was what prompted me to write the poem. I wanted to convey the idea that the barrier between life and what lies beyond is not that great. I began by answering the questions below. Having raw data, I than crafted the poem with whatever degree of craft the reader is willing to grant me.
What follows below is an activity that uses sense words to create a poem. The writer gathers information and uses it as a basis of composition. Information is gathered from a visual image, a memory, from an experience, or from imagination. First, choose the picture, snapshot, memory, or imaginative invention. Then answer the questions below.
- What is the subject you chose? What is unique about it? What jumps out at you and what is hiding in the background? What are your feelings about the picture?
- Can you connect the subject matter of your topic to your life? Remember to consider more than one state of consciousness. Think of any possible experience you've had. Do you sleepwalk, dream in color? Have you traveled to a place like your image?
- From your experience, what powerful sense words capture what you see? Extend your personal experience; for instance, extend your experience of hitting your thumb with a hammer to find words describing being in a rockslide.
- Continue with sound (or silence), and the other senses of taste, smell, and touch. Some may not clearly apply, and that is okay.
- Choose words to describe the mood or tone of your topic: describing a car as a junker or beater is not the same as worn out.
- Animate the "snapshot." Find some specific action words. Does the car cruise around the corner, or does it screech around the corner? Make your words sing or dance, chant or fly.
- What you have now is information, ideas, a starting place. Go from there and write something. Think of your poem as a snapshot, one frame of a movie, a painting, a window. Create!
Copyright 2009 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved