Monday, April 19, 2010

Sleeping on the Wing: students using the writing prompt to write a "Song of Myself"

In the anthology Sleeping on the Wing, each poetry section ends with a writing prompt for that poet. 

For Walt Whitman, the anthology urged the reader to write "a song of  yourself, a celebration of yourself. In ordinary life, we are constantly made aware of the limitations of our powers. In this poem forget the limitations."

In evaluating these students' poems, I focused on rhythm, line length, and the inclusion of both immediate sense detail and also universal concepts. I told them we should be able to read the poem and have an idea of who wrote it because of details, yet we should also gain a sense of the poet's sense of his universal self.

It was my intention to engage the students to write poems that could be examples of consciousness-based writing--writing that inspired and exalted the human spirit. That is not how I phrased it, though. I asked them to write poems that included the full range of their experience--from their outside experience of working and sports to their inner experience of transcendental consciousness experienced through the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. I hope you enjoy the poems.

by Paul D.
“Song on My Self”

I am the only one.
I am the one to make everything right.
I am the one to turn decisions bad.
I am the one to make life real.
I am the one to let it slide.
I am the one to see ideas through.
I am the one to see the environment move.
I am the one to hear nature interact.
I am the one overseer, the one victor, and the one victim.

I take the water from my hands and splash it upon my face.
The water hits my face with a cold chill of surprise,
yet I know it is coming.
This like the cold chill of reality-
I am now ready for the world.

I feel a cool breeze run over my checks.
I see the trees, clouds, and animals –
I close my eyes, now all I see is nothing.
Nothingness, only this can keep me within my mind.

I sit, close my eyes.
I fall deep into unbounded silence.
When in the silence there is no way to reach me.
I feel alone, yet I am all that is around me.

Hearing the electronic buzz –
Seeing the images flash at the speed of light before me.
The noises so mesmerizing, the images hypnotize.
Information, knowledge, learning, learning, speaking, singing, and dancing.
A silent flash and it is all gone.
All gone except for the silence of being.
The silence of consciousness.
The buzz of the mind processing.

A droplet forms starting at the top of the arm,
slowly moving its way down,
reaching and stretching to arrive at its destination.
It follows the veins down to the fingertips.
With one last “push” of movement it takes its final leap –
falls through time and space “and hits the ground”.
This droplet is just another relative object going with the flow of life.

The music loud enough to drown out the sound of life.
The blinking light so intrinsic and fast with each flash illuminating the room with color.
Bodies moving, jumping, yelling, and dancing.
Through the chaos my mind is bolting thought to thought.
Through the chaos there is a sense of wholeness, moving as one.
Through the chaos there is an underlying flow of movement.

I am floating, I feel the light wispy clouds below me.
A quick breeze, an eagle shoots by me like an airplane headed for land—
I let the surroundings seep in.
I relax, my body falls limp.
I lie with faint breath and soft, steady heartbeat,
in a world of thoughts, feelings, emotions, and dreams.

by Thomas W.
"Song of Myself"
I am everywhere.
I am on the cold mountain peaks of the Himalayas, in the dark depths of the Pacific,
on the dry, hot dunes of the Sahara.
I am in the moist core of a Red Delicious, on the acorn of a pin oak.
I am on the atom of the molecule, on the electron of the atom.
There are no restrictions.
All this is that and all that is this.
Emptiness is full and nothingness is whole.

I live therefore I am.
Unity is everywhere and everything is unified.
I am conscious and consciousness is.

I hear the sound of the tennis ball hit the pavement.
Pop, pop, pop.
The ball goes up into the sky.
Ball and sky are one.
It comes down; I hear crack! as the ball meets the racket.
The ball is flung through the air, so fast it’s almost invisible.
The ball hits the net and falls to the hot, hard, unforgiving pavement.
I feel the hot sun on my back,the sweat trickle down my face.
Smell the warm summer breeze.
It forms a drop at the tip of my nose and falls and becomes one with the pavement.

I am everything and everything is me.
I am the tree, the bird perched on its branches, the bark covering it like skin.
I am the ants crawling up its north face, its roots keeping it steady.
I am the dirt giving it a home.
I am the sun giving it life, and I am nature providing a reason to live.

I soar through the clouds on my feathered wings.
I touch the mountain tops and call to the heavens.
The gods hear my call.
They call back; They tell me we are one and the same.
I fly lower through the mist of the waterfall.
The mist beads on my feathers,
Many small drops unifying to form one.
I see the truth in what the gods say.
We are all one.
Me, the sun, the moon, the sky, the earth and the trees.
We are all one.

Comment below if you like the poems, and I will show the comments to the students. Thanks!

Copyright 2010 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved
All copyrights for student writing retained by the writers


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