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Poem It Out Classroom

week 4: our closing

liz lamoreux

video URL: https://vimeo.com/41537163
video password: poeming

Thank you so much for coming along on this Poem It Out adventure. 

In today's video, I read Mary Oliver's poem "The Summer Day."

In this moment, I send you light and peace and so many more days of poeming...

If you'd like to connect with kindred spirits and talk about how practices like Poeming It Out support us as we walk through our beautiful, messy lives, consider joining my free online group over at Hand to Heart.

And I'd love to know about your experiences with Poem It Out and read your poems. Please feel free to get in touch.

Blessings,

Liz 

week 4: continuing to connect with poetry

liz lamoreux

When I taught this course for the first time, one my students asked:

I love that you have introduced us to so many great poets and poems but I am wondering what to do once I am on my own and no longer have your gentle guidance and reassurance. Do you have any suggestions for how to discover poets and poems that you like and/or how to continue with a practice of poetry and generating new ideas?

I love this question and have shared a few ideas in the following video. 

 

URL: https://vimeo.com/48407109
password: poeming 

A few websites that are great for exploring new poets and poems:

Poetry Foundation
Poets.org
Writer's Almanac 
Poetry Out Loud 
Poetry 180

A few books and ebooks about writing and/or writing prompts that I recommend:

Sabrina Ward Harrison's books that include journaling prompts
Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones
Jenna McGuiggan's Alchemy Daily prompts

week 4: three poems + a prompt

liz lamoreux

shadow self. (hello sun)

my shadow self

As we wind down our time together, I want to encourage you to continue reading and writing poetry. Because I know I've given you a lot to explore, today, I want to share three poems + give you a writing prompt.

Three poems that I simply love:

"Sonnet, Without Salmon" by Sherman Alexie 

"Song of Myself I and II" by Walt Whitman 

"Otherwise" by Jane Kenyon 

A Weekend Prompt (because I just want to give you one more prompt): Write a poem to or about your shadow self.

Possible places to begin: You could write a letter to your shadow. You might want to name your shadow (that could be the title of your poem). Consider describing your shadow or a day in the life of your shadow. You could pair a poem note with a shadow photo if you've taken one this week.

week 4: interview with martha mccartney

liz lamoreux

I am so excited to share this next interview with you. My friend Martha McCartney is a warrior with the pen. Her sense of humor and laughter are just two things that draw you to her when you meet her. And then, if you are lucky, she will read you one of her poems. 

*****

1) How has poetry saved you?

A nonchoronological autobiography of the ways poetry has saved my life:

  • After my Mother’s death I discovered a cassette tape of her reading favorite poetry in her southern- accented voice – The Raggedy Man by James Whitcomb Riley was included.
  • In 7th grade my high school English teacher handed me a copy of Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan (under the table and in silent rebellious partnership) - here is poem that I will write ….
  • Qhen I was four my Mother read Through the Looking Glass (Lewis Carroll) to me.
  • When I was twelve I discovered Alone by Edgar Allen Poe (I had a manifesto!)
  • In high school I read eecummings and abandoned rhyming.
  • Richard Brautigan stole my words in college and I only wrote like him.
  • My father recited poetry to me from the day I was born.
  • My high school newspaper printed my poetry (usually about racial inequality).
  • I represented my college at an event in our state capitol and read poetry and short fiction.
  • My first submission was accepted for publication in a journal at a particularly low point.
  • I finally left circumstances that stifled me for 18 years, the town that had silenced me for 50 years, in order to pursue my dream of writing.
  • My Mother read poetry and sang to me every night since infancy.
  • My first love was a poet and a writer and has inspired and supported my growth.
  • Every English teacher I ever had held me up as star and encouraged me. They were really good ones, one was a future poet laureate of our state.
  • I read The Idylls of the King and In Memoriam by Tennyson (yes, entirely) when I was in the seventh grade.
  • I recorded my father reading poetry when he was 92, the year before his death.
  • On my 17th birthday my boyfriend gave me The Pill versus the Springhill Mill Disaster by Richard Brautigan inscribed with the most beautiful words in French (so my mother could not read them) and I have loved him forever (my boyfriend and Richard Brautigan).
  • I write words every day.
  • I memorized the The Lady of Shallot by Tennyson. for fun.
  • A couple of weeks after my father died, my dear friend's mother, from her bed as she neared death herself, recited Little Orphan Annie by James Whitcomb Riley – this was a favorite of hers and of my parents. It was a blessing.
  • I wrote my first poem in second grade, with pencil, before I had learned cursive, and it had meter and rhyme.
  • If I could only read one poem for the rest of my life it would be William Wordsworth’s, Intimations of Immortality.

I feast upon poetry – it is my blood – my heart – my soul –my prayer- my salvation – my refuge.

2) Who are the poets and poems you turn to again and again?

Rainer Maria Rilke is perhaps my most often read and returned to, he speaks to me in such a profound way. There are two poems by him that have remodeled my life….The Archaic Torso of Apollo and Going Blind… I feel his words go right into my heart. In addition to him, almost all the Victorian poets, Wordsworth, Rossetti, Matthew Arnold, and then I have to skip forward to Yeats and Dylan Thomas. I read it all. 

3) A line of poetry you would tattoo on yourself...

I am so not a tattoo person that I cannot even imagine. And it would be too hard to decide. I am sure I have words already etched into my heart. 

4) Will you share some words about your haiku practice?

I have developed a practice that, when I think back on it, has been evolving for years. In just the past couple years I began taking a small notebook with me on my daily walks and would find a place to sit and gather words or short phrases. I would start by writing the date on the top right corner of the page and then would write things that entered into my senses from that date and time. Words like yellow violets, spring green grass, robins calling, and sycamore bark would end up in my notebook and later I would use those words in poetry.

This practice, this meditation, has now become a haiku practice. Every morning I either take a walk or just sit outside for a while. Then I gather images in a notebook that I use just for haiku. I begin once more with the date and I try to write about ten. There is seldom what I would call a “good” haiku but it is a philosophy more than a poetic form and people practice it for years before becoming comfortable and skilled. There is a philosophy called the “haiku mind” and the way that I like to think of it is- if you would imagine that your mind is a still body of water and everything else is the sky. You write what is reflected on the water, with no judgments, no opinions, assigning no emotions to the images, just reflect. There are volumes and volumes written about the haiku form, how it originated as a group activity and its practices and uses. Currently, the haiku as most people refer to it is a three line poem; the strictest rules say that it is seventeen syllables, with the lines made up of five, seven, five syllables. At first I followed this formula, then I didn’t – sometimes the punctuation counts as a syllable as it is essentially a pause, depending on what punctuation you use. I often go back to the five seven five rule because it is becomes more of a physical meditation for me by counting out the syllables on my fingers. Even though a haiku does not have to be seventeen syllables, it does traditionally have to be three lines and reflective of nature and the seasons to be considered truly haiku. In my morning haiku practice I often pick a first line and then just use the same line for all the ones I write or for about half of them and then switch to another first line. Here are a couple of mine for examples…

(using the five seven five –)

April night full moon

bright as day, casting shadows

from such vast distance.

 

Early morning light

grass tips starred with dewy gems

a diamond carpet

 

(and one that I like that does not use the formula but it is still considered haiku-)

Creamy swirls

in my coffee –

February clouds.

(in this one I used the line that would typically be the first line as the last)

You can read more on my blog www.lilliesavage.com. If you want to explore more about the philosophy of haiku I would recommend the book Seeds from the Birch Tree by Clark Strand.

I am hopeful that after about twenty more years of practice I will write a couple good ones but for now I find it a helpful exercise that brings me back to the place where I am, helps me start my day, bless my day and all that is around me, honors my surroundings and centers me to begin other writing. 

5) Would you like to share a poem of your own?

Now you ask if I would like to share a poem of my own and I think I have used up a lot of time and space and been a bit wordy – but hey – that is what I do – I am wordy …so I would say “ just one ??? hmmmm…..let me pick ….okay… 

First October Without My Father

The Autumn smells of

dark damp earth

like potatoes kept in cellars beneath houses

or apples stored for Christmas pies,

chrysanthemums that seem to open the pores,

expand the air,

the fragrance of late season roses,

and during a walk in the woods,

embraced by the smell of cedars,

I turn my head and recognize the scent of my father,

caught in the denim jacket

that I borrowed to shield myself

from this  Fall rain.

6) Any other words you would like to share?

In closing, I would just add that poetry is a lifetime of doing, being open, listening to what is outside and what is inside and putting it down into the best words we know and it is wonderful to know that there are other people on this planet who love it and value its gift.

*****

A little about Martha: I am a woman on a mission. I am living in the Pacific Northwest after leaving everyone and everything I had known in an attempt to change the course of my life and so I am the true example of poetry being a life line. Most recently I have had the privilege of having classes with David Wagoner, Tess Gallagher, Storme Webber, Nancy Rawles, Kim Stafford, Bill Mawhinney, Christine Hemp and Susan Woolridge and my quest for writing continues with intense learning and daily practice. Kim Stafford said that there are lots of good ideas but we have to be intensely awake and aware and poised to receive them or they will just go on to some one else. I am here, poised with my hand above the page. ready . open. receiving. Visit her blog Lillie Savage.

week 4: today, i'm giving you permission to...

liz lamoreux

video URL: https://vimeo.com/40975734
video password: poeming

Prompt: Eavesdrop (and then write a poem)

Today's prompt is also a poetry creative adventure because I'm asking you to go out into the world and listen and take notes about what you hear, and then take those notes and write a poem. I hope you have a lot of fun with this one!

Here are two poems to inspire your poeming today.

The first is by David Lehman and is from his book The Evening Sun: A Journal in Poetry, which is a collection of his daily poems from 1999-2000. The poem is "November 4" and you can read it here. I love how this poem is about a sound he overheard someone make and the observations he made as a result. (This poem kind of makes me giggle and nod my head.) Find out more about David Lehman at Poetry Foundation (he is the editor of The Best American Poetry series and a poet you should add to your poetry bookshelf).

The second is the following poem by me:

Sunday Morning at the Pacific Way Bakery

That was before Uncle Henry came back from the war.
It was?
Yes. Remember, we took the trip across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. All of us…six of us in Dad's Buick.

The first one.
A few years ago? Ocean's Eleven? We saw that one.
No. The one with Frank Sinatra. Frank. He knew how to do it. Those young kids just…

Sit here.
Noooo. I want Mommy to sit here.
But I want to sit next to 
you.
You do?
(furious nodding)
Oh.

A pause. Quiet envelopes the room. Everyone taking a bite, a sip, a breath.
A couple reads the paper at the circular table in the midst of everything. He in his gray windbreaker; she in her bright yellow slicker. He turns the page with a snap, and it begins again.

Have you been across the new bridge?
Why do they remake the good ones?
Can you believe they are getting along this morning?

Sitting in the corner with my chocolate croissant and vanilla soy latte, I soak it in. The little four year old in me, with the big brown eyes, pulling it all toward me.

When the rain stops, we grab my coffee, his tea and walk outside as the steam lifts the sea and the crocuses and the daffodils and the pavement toward me. I suddenly hear myself, It smells like Spring in South Carolina.

And it does.
And you are here.
I breathe deeply knowing it has happened again.
The eve of Spring whispers her song,
returning you to me.

***

Both of these examples show how the poet brings himself/herself into the poem. The observations are interesting in both, but when I read a poem, I want to know why the poet is interested in telling me about these things she sees and hears.

When I was sitting in this intimate cafe with my husband in Gearhart, Oregon, I was so struck by the conversations around us that I started writing notes on the Sunday paper he was reading. Looking back on this moment years later, I think one of the reasons I was so attune to the senses of the moment that happened when we walked outside (when I suddenly missed my grandmother so much I couldn't breathe but yet felt so grateful to Spring for bringing her back to me each year) was because I had been taking those notes with an awareness of everything around me and within me. 

Leaning into our poet selves heals us. (I believe this.)

Go out into the world and listen. And then write a poem. 

week 4: the _____ says

liz lamoreux

flotsam along lake superior

Before I jump into today's lesson and poetry prompt, I want to invite you to take a few deep breaths and just be right here for a few moments. Right now. I'll wait.

*

*

*

*

*

This poeming it out stuff can be intense. We have spent our time sifting through some big stuff. In a way, we are sifting through the flotsam that all that came before this moment leaves behind. Maybe you have unearthed some stories you had almost forgotten. Maybe you have finally begun to tell a story that has been literally festering inside you. Maybe you're still not putting pen to paper because you just want to take it all in...and you are feeling some trepidation. Wherever you are is where you are supposed to be right now. And please remember to practice self-care as you need to. Get outside. Go for a walk. Rest. Let go of poeming for one day. Or write more if that is what you need. Listen to yourself.

Now, let's poem it out today!

 

video URL: https://vimeo.com/40912684
video password: poeming 

Prompt: A new voice (or perspective)

Today's prompt is to give a voice to something that doesn't usually speak or to let something else speak for you. In this case, I'm talking about a thing that might be alive or might not be (a bird or a shoe and so on). I want to challenge you to let go of a person speaking in your poem and instead to let something else do the talking. 

You could look at this prompt as getting the perspective of the things around you in your corner of the world. What does your desk say? If your driveway could tell stories of all that it has seen, what would it say? How about your front porch? Or the front porch of your grandparents' home? What does the stoplight say? The maple tree? The humpback whale you saw in Maui or in a dream? If you are stuck, consider looking at one of your word lists and finding a few words to inspire you.

In the video, I share three different poems to inspire you with this prompt. Two are by Mary Oliver:
"When the Roses Speak, I Pay Attention" (which you can read here) and "When I am Among the Trees" (which you can read here). Both of her poems are from Thirst: Poems. And then I dare to read one of my own poems right there with hers. My poem is called "The seed says" and you can find it in Five Days in April. These poems illustrate a couple of jumping off points for you with this prompt. You could begin with "The _____ says" as your first line or title. Or you could weave in the voice throughout your poem. 

Remember to try to put yourself in the poem somewhere. (Only if you want to of course.)

Above all, have fun! This poem could be silly or grandeous (what does the redwood say?). It could be about an actual experience where you encountered a moose and stared it down and you thought it said something. It could be an imagined experience. It could be quiet and just a few lines. 

Happy poeming!

week 4: reflections and shadows

liz lamoreux

 

This week, here's your creative adventure photography assignment that I explain in the video below. Like last week's photo prompt, my intention behind it is to give you an opportunity to ground and "see yourself" in a more visual way that then becomes a companion to your writing. The prompt is to seek out your own reflection and shadow this week. 

video URL: https://vimeo.com/40842758
video password: poeming 

week 4: getting out of the digsite (and noticing)

liz lamoreux

Today, I want to begin with a poem by my friend Jennifer Horsman. Please consider reading it aloud as an invocation of sorts to our Week 4 as it beautifully and honestly sets the tone for what we will be exploring this week. 

Reflection
by Jennifer Horsman

For so long you believed you were lost,

little did you know 

the chimneyed possibilities

beneath your battered torments.

Sometimes it takes the stillness 

of bare feet in the fogbound grass,

the sensation of the small of your back

pressed against the trunk of a coastal pine,

or the purpling rhododendron

to fully acknowledge

what is true:

you were only dismantling

the fraudulent symmetry 

of the ordinary and expected

to hear the jangled arias

of your own composure.

 

video URL: https://vimeo.com/40831259
video password: poeming 

In the video, I share the following poems: "Messenger" by Mary Oliver from the collection in Thirst: Poems, the poem "Abloom" by me, and an excerpt from "For a Girl Becoming" by Joy Harjo that is found in the collection Poetry Speaks Who I Am.

Prompt: What do you need to tell yourself after stepping out of your dig site?

As I mention in the video, you might write a blessing, you might write a poem about who you are in this moment, you might write about the younger you whose story you excavated last week and then write about the you today who holds that little girl within her.

Consider the different voices you might write from with this poem: first person (using “I”), second person (using “you”), and third person (using “she).

Let your poem be a bridge to healing today as you hop out of last week’s dig site and dangle your feet as you sit on the edge and breathe deeply, soaking in all that you know.

week 3: light the whole sky

liz lamoreux

july 4 heart

I want to share a favorite poem in the hopes that it will invite you to put pen to paper and write today.

The Sun Never Says

Even
After
All this time
The sun never says to the earth,

"You owe
Me." 

Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the
Whole
Sky. 

by Hafiz, translation by Daniel Ladinsky (from the collection The Gift)

Think about writing a poem today. Maybe even one about a love that lights the whole sky.

Sending blessings and light to you in your corner,

Liz

week 3: digging deeper

liz lamoreux

We're digging even deeper today with a conversation about the things we have lost. I believe that when we sift through the grief and “stuff” that life hands us (and recognize that it might be taking up too much space inside us), we create space to more deeply live with awareness in our lives. We create space for light and joy. Writing poetry helps me sift through the grief and create more space for living deeply. Reading poetry pushes me to think about my own stories.

Today’s video goes into more about this idea of sifting to create space and using poetry as our guide. I share a few of my own stories and am trusting that they are the ones to share today…

 

video URL: https://vimeo.com/40558925
video password: poeming 

 

Notes from the video:

I mentioned this blog post by Kate Inglis.

I read the following poems: "Food. Music. Memory." by Susan Marie Scavo and a poem that is untitled by Donna Lee. They can both be found in the poetry collection What Have You Lost? edited by Naomi Shihab Nye. I also read my own poem called "I cannot apologize."

You can hear Sharon Olds’ read her poem "Mairsy Dosey" here.

 

Prompt: What do you need to sift through today?

Here are two ideas for working with today’s prompt:

1) Put pen to paper for 5-10 minutes and just write. Write everything and anything that you need today. Consider sifting through your thoughts and feelings surrounding this theme of “excavating the past” that we're looking at this week. Write a list of stories you need to/want to tell that have surfaced for you. Pick one of the prompts we've looked at in the course and write a letter to that prompt. Write a letter to someone you have lost. Just write.

2) If you are feeling more like you want to “poem,” you could begin with the question “What have you lost?” and go from there. Or give yourself some space to breathe deeply and think about what you really feel pulled to write about and put pen to paper and poem it out!

week 3: interview with amanda oaks

liz lamoreux

Settle in with a cup of tea and sink into this lovely interview with the delight.full Amanda Oaks. She is a superhero of mine as she gives others (and herself) a beautiful platform to share their stories at Kind Over Matter and Words Dance. Be sure to take time to watch her spoken word videos that I link to at the end of the interview.

***** 

To get the truth, you want to get your own heart to pound while you write.
- Robert McKee

1) How has poetry saved you?

I started writing poetry in middle school, in the 7th grade. There was a girl that moved into our school district who I became friends with, her name was Nikki.

She was terrifically prolific & when she became comfortable, she shared her words with all of us.

They were mostly poems about love & heartbreak in ABCB format, hundreds of them, love & heartbreak at a 7th grade level but nonetheless I was hooked, on both the reading & the writing of.

A few of us would pass our poems around within our group of friends, typing them & then printing them out on dot matrix printers, they were who we were.

They were our stories.

Throughout high school, I lost interest in writing for a bit, but just after graduating I dove back into it, full force, never looking back.

Among some of my favorite memories include living alone, coming home from work or school, sitting in the middle of my bedroom in my attic apartment on the hardwood floor in a tank top & skivvies & tip-tapping poetry out on a old typewriter.  Fully enthralled in Beat Lit.  Wine glass at arm's reach, of course.

Since then, I've been published online & in print, I've have met so many incredible poets. Small press poets. The underground greats.  Who I deeply admire. Who are my dear, dear friends. Blessed.

But what stands out among all of that, all of it… is how poetry was so much a lifeline through the darkest times of my life. It was my light. It was the way I expressed myself. It was the words I couldn't say, no longer stuck in my throat. It was emotions laid bare in front of me, quivering. It was how I dove deep into the hurt & swam up from the bottom with insight. It was the there for me through unrequited love, through abuse, through the death of my grandparents, through the transition into mamahood, navigating the waters of wild & new love. It's been the most sweetest release for me. I always leave poetry, either after writing or reading, feeling on fire & free.

2) Who are the poets and poems you turn to again and again?

There are the well-known poets that I adore, that have been there for me over the years: Sharon Olds, Dorothy Parker, Diane Di'Prima, Pablo Neruda, the Beats, Mary Oliver, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Charles Bukowski, David Whyte, Sarah Key… oh there's so many.

But the poets in my small press community, especially the women, they blow me away, I'd love to share a few of them & a piece by each of them.

Tammy Foster Brewer : There Are No Instructions for This
Jessica Dawson : Just Add Oxygen
Rebecca Schumejda : A Row for Sinners
John Dorsey : even outlaws get the blues : John is a dear friend, he wrote this poem for me.
David Smith : This Heart 

3) A line of poetry you would tattoo on yourself...

That's a really tough question. There are so many lines that have shook me to my core…

I've stated several times that I was going to get this entire poem tattooed - right-inner-thigh : all hooves and diligence by Miriam Matzeder

If I only had to choose one line from the poem, I'd probably modify it a little so it read:

no matter my stillness, i am always awake with loving you

4) Would you like to share a poem of your own?

Nan's Farm : Amanda : Circa 1985

we’re on our own out here | Amanda Oaks

late summer, pickin’ peas, 
cornfield just feet away i would 
tiptoe with the words of warning 
looped ‘round every strand of 
my hair, when wearing pigtails, 
all those locks acting together 
could be thunderous but i would 
plug my ears & run in any one 
direction until my lungs felt like 
the tires of that far-off tractor who
i overheard many’a times was
plotting my death

out there though, i witnessed the 
wind unearth harmony, the way 
the stalks would touch, sliding 
against one another hissing 
like plastic bags clothespinned 
to a wire & dangling from the 
mouth of a paper-winged crow, 
i found safety in the squeeze stuck 
between clear-cut emotion, there’s 
something in there that you can’t 
close your ears to, like barn rats 
or the secrets i found in the laughter 
of ghost children jumping from 
rock to stone in the creek bed 
behind my house

standing still, before walking in
silence all the way back to the 
alarm in my grandmother’s 
voice, looking up to the clouds 
for a way out, twenty years later 
& i still have yet to find it 
outside of these 
words

 -

© amanda oaks

5) Any other words about poetry?

This poem is by the now late Todd Moore, his poetry has a very unique style, all his own & often noir, I adore it -- he sums up writing poetry better than I ever could, the way it makes you feel when you & poetry dance together:

----

first

let the words
fall in love w/you
they will circle
you like a pack of
wolves around a 
still warm steer
then let them
close in the heat
makes a long curl
of smoke rise off
the letters & seep
into the skin next
let the smoke invade
yr blood once inside
it will turn into
voices that roar
down the veins
suddenly the poem
will be dancing you
& the wind will stop
blowing & the clouds
will hold still &
the waves will stop
forming and nothing
will burn you while
the lines are all
flying & suddenly
in that flash of
light not even death
will be able to
say yr name

6) Something extra: Explore Amanda's spoken word videos here:

where are you my wild women -- http://vimeo.com/17986419
sunday worship : bending like photographs  -- http://vimeo.com/20875758

*****

 

Hi, I'm Amanda Oaks, curator of connection & provisioner of benevolent beauty at Words Dance. Mama. Lover. Poet. Multi-Passionate Solopreneur. Kindness Advocate. I love laughing more than most anything.

If you are interested in checking out my poetry-type creative offerings, I have a book of spicy love poems called, Cohabitation.

week 3: the story of home begins

liz lamoreux

URL: https://vimeo.com/40488274
password: poeming 

"The story of home begins" is a phrase that came to me as I was brainstorming prompts I wanted to include in this course. I started to imagine writing on every page of a small notebook with this as my prompt. If I did this today, some of these pages would say:

The story of home begins with a pink blanket fraying at the edges, her scared face searching mine, his big hands, the house up on the hill and "what did we get ourselves into?" and six weeks of crying.

The story of home begins with lily of the valley and Pond's cold cream and a jewelry box I could peek inside when she wasn't looking and jumping on the bed and waiting up for him and "I would have to remind you how to behave when you got home."

The story of home begins with "we will do the best we can" and sometimes we will fail but we will love love love.

This story of home could be specific and describe every detail of a childhood room or it could be general and describe what home means to you. The story could be about a home of many years ago (or even centuries) but it could also mean the home of today. It could be something vast like a country or something much smaller, like a kitchen table, as I share in the first two poems I read today. It could be real or imagined. Follow the threads of thoughts that come up and see where they take you.

In the video today, I share five poems:

"Mediation" by Kim Stafford, which is in the collection Poetry Speaks Who I Am. His book Early Morning: Remembering My Father, William Stafford is one of my favorites. Find out more about him and his writing and teaching at his website

"Perhaps the World Ends Here" by Joy Harjo (also in Poetry Speaks), which you can read at Poetry Foundation

"Growth" by Philip Levine from the collection in What Work Is. (I could not find a copyright free link to this poem.)

Excerpts from "Prairie" by Carl Sandburg as found in Harvest Poems: 1910-1960 (this collection only includes excerpts from this long poem). The whole poem can be found here. And I read his short poem "Fog." (How I love that poem!)

 

Prompt: The story of home begins

In the video I encourage you to let Carl Sandburg guide you today with his openings and lists and his "ode" of sorts to the prairie as he speaks right to her:

I was born
Here
The [....] sings to me...
I am...
They are mine... 

If you do write a poem directly inspired by Sandburg, be sure to credit him under the title of your poem (after Carl Sandburg) or (Inspired by Carl Sandburg's poem "Prairie") especially if you share your poem publicly.

Again, remember to take you poetry/word toolbox with you as you write today. Make lists as you need to; gather more words. Give your poem a sense of place. Breathe deeply. Have fun.

week 3: where i stand

liz lamoreux

I also want to share a photography "creative adventure" prompt that I believe can be a powerful companion to the excavating you are doing this week. And of course, I had to tell you all about it in another video. It is a simple one: Taking a self-portrait of "where you stand" every day this week. 

 

video URL: https://vimeo.com/40412363
video password: poeming 

As you take your photos, share them on Instagram using the hashtag #poemitout so I can find you.

week 3: getting into your digsite

liz lamoreux

video URL: https://vimeo.com/100268997
video password: poeming 

This week, we travel into the past and unearth a few stories and memories. This post is full and the video is long (about 20 minutes), so you should really settle in with a cup of tea and your notebook. Feel free to pause the video and come back. Move through it at your pace.

In the video, I invite you to add the senses to your "poetry toolbox" this week and to see them (including the sixth sense of "knowing") as a tool for grounding yourself in this moment as you dig into the past. They can also be a powerful ally in accessing memories and setting the scene. (So when in doubt, rely on your senses this week.)

Additionally, I invite you to think about looking for the poems that give voice to similar stories or experiences you want to investigate or write about. You can think of this as your poetry creative adventure this week!

I share the following poems and poets in the video:

John O'Donohue's book To Bless the Space Between Us, and I read the blessing, "For the Traveler." You can find out more about John O'Dononue here.

Sharon Olds' poem "I Go Back to May 1937," and you can read it here. I really honor the way Sharon Olds gets right to the realness of things in her poetry. It is gritty and honest and helps me to be more honest in my own writing.

Marge Piercy's poem "The Day My Mother Died," which you can read here and find in Colors Passing Through Us.  

Prompt: A day that changed everything

Today's prompt is to write about a day that changed everything. The story of this day could be big, something that shifted everything in your world. And it could be much more subtle and be about how one quiet choice realigned you in a way that changed you. Remember to gather your words, your questions and observations (and you could use that tool to first write notes/observations about this day), and your senses to help you as you write.

Another way to work with the prompt today would be to let go of focusing on one day, and instead create a timeline of sorts (starting with today and moving backward in the way that makes sense to you). You might make a literal list that begins: Today... Last week... In April of 2009... In the Spring of 1978... Or you might be even more specific. Have fun with it and look for clues that could lead you to a poem. Perhaps your list will become a poem. 

week 2: an interview with michelle ensminger

liz lamoreux

Sit back and marinate in the goodness that is this interview with Michelle Ensminger. When I started blogging almost seven years ago, Michelle was one of the first bloggers I really connected with because she shared so much of herself on the page and invited me to know I was not alone in my desire to write the truth out of me. So delighted to share her words about poetry today. 

*****

Question 1: How is poetry a lifeline for you? 

One of my favorite quotes is from Frederick Buechner: “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”

Poetry is a lifeline for me because it is what helps me hold the beautiful and the terrible things. It’s through writing poetry that I touch the joy and the pain. Poetry grounds me. It gives me back to myself over and over again. Poetry is the way I hold the questions I’m called to live and the truth buried within me. It’s through poetry that I find my voice and my courage. Poetry helps me become more fear-less.  

I started writing poetry in my mid-twenties. Before that I had a love-hate relationship with the art. I loved the idea of poetry, the beauty of the language, how it could be both elegant and raw, how it embodied tenderness and power. But I never felt that poetry was for me. It was something I ached for but couldn’t understand. It was foreign and illusive and a temptress of sorts. The idea that poetry didn’t belong to me was fostered in part by the way poetry was taught in school. The focus was always on interpreting the poem. I was never taught to “feel” a poem. I was never taught to breathe it in, to let the words touch my skin, to let the poem be a part of me.

I started writing poetry during a very turbulent time in my life. I’d recently divorced and shortly afterwards I began a very personal spiritual journey that would shake the foundation of everything I was raised to believe. To navigate through this emotional time of my life, I started writing and reading poetry. During this time poetry became my prayer, my meditation, my practice of mindfulness, a way to save myself when nothing else could.

Poetry remains an integral way in which I find my bearings in the world. It’s through poetry that I become more alive and aware of myself and my place in the world. When I write poetry I am in essence saying I am here. I am alive. I am full. I have so much to give, and I begin with this word…and then this one…and now this one. It is the way I connect to and better understand myself as an individual and as a wave in the great sea of humanity. It is how I give meaning to life’s experiences and the ordinary moments of my day. I use poetry to gently nudge the whispers of my heart into a tangible form of expression. I use it as a reminder of the interconnectedness of all humanity and my oneness with others. I use it to search for and look into the face of the divine in all its sacred and unexpected forms.  

Question 2: Who are the poets and poems you turn to again and again? 

Mary Oliver will always top my list of favorite poets. Her poem The Journey was the first poem that made me feel that poetry was accessible—it wasn’t something others read and understood but not me. Poetry was me. It contained my life and my stories. Finding the right poem and the right poet is all it takes to fall head-over-heels for poetry. I admire Ms. Oliver’s deep connection to nature and the life lessons she gleans while walking among the world, paying attention to nature’s details, and allowing herself to become one with life. There is a deeply spiritual element evident in her poetry that I relate to. Perhaps it’s my own longing to find god in all of life, including a simple poem. You can find several of her poems at the Poetry Foundation website.

Other favorites include:

Sharon Olds—She writes with a courage and honesty that is breathtaking (and a little intimidating). Nothing is off limits to her. Sex, abuse, betrayal, motherhood, divorce. She has taught me that every life experience has a poem hidden in it. And it doesn’t have to be pretty. In fact, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s bruised and broken and shows up at your door with a bloody nose. It’s the honesty of the moment, and who we are in that moment, that demands to be written. And that is something sacred and holy; messy and raw; powerful and liberating. You can find several of her poems at poetry.org.

Li Young-Lee—Liz introduced me to this poet several years ago when she posted his poem Persimmons on her blog. The way he plays with words is intoxicating. Because he makes writing poetry seem like play, it’s easy to be taken off guard by the power of his writing. It sneaks up on you when you’re not paying attention. Before you know it you’re left breathless.

Pablo Neruda—Neruda puts the sexy into poetry. He has a way with words that leaves me a little weak in the knees. I turn to Neruda when I need good strong poetry, the “shot of espresso” kind of poetry that demands you wake up to life. I recently read The Dreamer with my 8-year-old son. It’s the story of how a shy, introverted young man by the name of Neftali Reyes became the poet we know as Neruda. Neruda is a great example of how our life experiences inform our art, our words, our poetry. The poetry is always right there. It’s in us and our experiences.

David Whyte—He is another poet whose spiritual undertones really appeal to me. Reading David Whyte is like going to church on Sunday morning. It’s like reading a sacred text or sitting with the Buddha under the Bodhi tree. He finds the holy pieces of life, which is what I feel I’m always searching for. You can find a selection of his poems at his website.

Naomi Shihab Nye—She is a Palestinian-American poet who lives in San Antonio, TX. Being a native Texan, I can strongly relate to the images and storylines of many of her poems. I know the roads she speaks of. I’ve driven them. I too have let the sweet juice of Fredericksburg peaches drip down my arms. I’ve walked along the river in San Antonio. I know the tress, the never-ending sky, and fierce heat of the Texas sun. She even has a poem titled Portales, NM (the town where I was born). There is something to say for poets who bring you home (literally). When you know the images they use because you live in those images, there is a connection that is very different from a figurative or symbolic knowing. The words become very real to you because you have sensed them. You know the taste, the smell, the way the air hangs in the evening light. The Poetry Foundation website includes a selection of her poems.  

Billy Collins—His poetry is anchored in the everydayness of life. Because he approaches poetry from this standpoint, he’s a great poet for anyone new to poetry. He writes about topics that seem ordinary and mundane, infusing them with wit and keen insight. The result can be quite human and quite profound. You can find more about Billy Collins at billycollins.com and through the Poetry 180 website. He is also on TED and is the only poet I know of who has an app

Sarah Key—She epitomizes the power of spoken-word poetry. The way she has mastered the rhythm and flow of spoken poetry is mesmerizing and moving. You can find two examples on TED: If I should have a daughter and How many lives can you live?

For the past couple of years I have been experimenting with new-to-me poets. When a poet I’ve never heard of before crosses my radar, I purchase one of his/her books and explore their work. It’s been a hit-and-miss experience. There are times the new-to-me poet’s words speak deeply to me and I feel as if I’ve discovered a new friend (Vera Pavlova, Kay Ryan, Jack Gilbert, Kim Addonizio). Other times it just isn’t a good fit. That’s the great thing about poetry: there’s something for everyone.  I never regret exploring a new voice and a new style of poetry. I’m currently losing myself in the works of Tracy K. Smith and M.A. Vizsolyi

Question 3: Is there a line of poetry you would tattoo on yourself?

On my left foot I have tattooed the words “Live your poetry” (in French). I settled for this because I have far too many favorite lines of poetry to choose just one.

Question 4: Would you like to share a poem of your own?

What I’d like to share is not a polished poem but a glimpse into how I approach my daily writing practice.

After I sit down with my pen and notebook, I always take several deep breaths to ground myself. I will sit in the silence until I feel like I have become a greater part of the moment. Once I begin to sense that shift into presence, I’ll set the timer on my cell phone for 5-7 minutes. I tend to limit my writing to these short increments because it seems more doable and less overwhelming. I know once the timer sounds I can always write longer if I choose to.

I usually always start with some kind of prompt. Two of my favorites are: Today… and Sometimes… Today and sometimes are two small words that once they are on the page, encourage other words to follow.

Then, I just start writing. I trust the words. I trust my body. I breathe. I try not to force anything. I try to feel, to settle into the flow. I try to sit with the moment and listen with my whole self for what needs and longs to be said. If I get stuck on a word, I try to make myself let go and move on. Sometimes that’s not easy, especially when I know I’m not finding the exact word I want. I tell myself that I can always come back and explore the word further. I do this because I don’t want to get hung up early in the process. That kind of perfectionism can easily shut me down. I want to use my writing time as fully as possible which means I have to let go and trust the process of getting words onto the page.

The result of my writing time might be something similar to what follows:

Sometimes the frayed edges of morning
Come unraveled in her hand. One gentle pull
And the clouds ribbon to a puddle of silver at her feet.
The blue sky parts, framing the dark between the stars.
Sometimes the day scrawls her name in the margins
Of its longing. She wraps the sky around bare shoulders.
Wears it like a cheap scarf purchased
At a Five & Dime. One bird roosts on her collarbone,
Another circles her waist searching for its mate.
Sometimes at the end of all beginnings
She finds herself dressed in the crisp evening air,
A voice of birdsong echoing across the fragile day.

Question 5: Any other words about poetry?

Just a gentle reminder to the Poem It Out participants: you are a poem.

*****

Michelle Ensminger loves poetry, photography, and dates with her 8-year-old son. A West Texas native, you can often find her curled up in a makeshift fort writing her way through the messiness of life. Michelle always strives to nurture her creative spirit and pursue an authentic spiritual path in the midst of motherhood and working an 8-5 job. She believes writing can heal and awaken us to life, that stillness holds great power, and in the sacred act of honoring the present moment. You can find more of her on Flickr and Facebook.

week 2: dance it out, poem it out

liz lamoreux

So far in Poem It Out, we have indeed been poeming, but today I'm inviting you to poem out whatever you need to get out of you. And I mean the big stuff. That stuff that causes our minds to turn and turn or our hearts to feel heavy or our shoulders to hunch a bit too close to our ears. Today, let's use poetry to get whatever we need to onto paper to create more space inside us. In today's video and words below, I give you some ideas and prompts to help you begin to create this space.

Prompt: Dance it out. Poem it out.

 

 

video URL: https://vimeo.com/40122965
video password: poeming 

In the video, I explain a bit about why I called this workshop Poem It Out and how it relates to dancing it out and singing it out for me. 

When you get ready to poem out whatever you need to today, one idea would be to first put on some music and dance just a bit to get into your body and out of your head. Another idea would be to simply close your eyes and take a few deep breaths and notice your toes then your legs then your hips and all the way up through your body until you reach the top of your head. Then before you start writing, find your feet again and make sure you can feel all your toes on the floor to really ground your body.

In the video, I give you a few prompt ideas to help you begin. These could be possible first lines, titles, phrases that appear in your poem, or perhaps they will just give you a jumping off point:

The story I am not telling is…
I meant to say
I’m thirsty for... (inspired by the excerpt from “Breath” by David Williams in the photo of the welcome post)
My heart hungers for...
My body needs...
What you don’t see
Or go back to the senses

A gentle reminder: Please continue to move at your pace in this class. You can choose which prompts speak to you and let go of those that don't. You can ignore the prompts and just do your thing (whatever that is). This is a pressure-free zone. But still be sure to put pen to paper for a few minutes today.

week 2: inspired by one word

liz lamoreux

Let's keep putting pen to paper this week and poem it out.

 

video URL: https://vimeo.com/40046236
video password: poeming

Prompt: Use one of your gathered words as a title and get to poeming

Today, let's just get right to it and write a poem. In the video, I explain the idea of starting with a title (using just one word as that title) and writing the poem from there. Use the word list you've created, the one I gave you, or maybe even just open the dictionary and see what you find.

I also read Mary Oliver's poem "Ocean" from Red Bird and Billy Collins' poem "Morning" from his collection Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems. You can hear Billy Collins read his poem (and read it yourself) over at Poetry Foundation. You can read Mary Oliver's poem here.

 

week 2: let's poem

liz lamoreux

Let's jump right into a poetry prompt today!

video URL: https://vimeo.com/39993162
video password: poeming 

Prompt: This girl, she... (or alternatively: This boy, he... or This person...)

Sometimes it is easier to write about ourselves when we use the third person. You can even create an alter ego or talk about someone else entirely when using third person.

Most importantly, I hope you really just enjoy playing with words today. Remember there really aren't any rules, so just let your heart lead you today.

A word list to get you started: At the end of the video, I invite you to share a few words from the word list you're creating this week. Instead of doing that, I've created one for you! Just download it below. 

Word List

week 2: playing with words

liz lamoreux


 video URL: https://vimeo.com/39984393
video password: poeming

Today is all about playing with words and adding to our word/poetry toolbox. In the video, I mention Susan Wooldridge's book Poemcrazy, which I think is a must have for anyone who wants to play with words and poetry. I also mention Diane Ackerman's book A Natural History of the Senses, which is a very sensual, informative, gorgeous book that I often turn to when I just need to ground myself in the senses and beautiful language.

In the video, I also share a photography prompt inspired by gathering words: As you wander in your world this week, be on the lookout for juicy words in unexpected places - like menus and on sidewalks and in grocery stores and even around your home. Snap a photo! If you Instagram, use the hashtag #poemitout.