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Poem It Out Classroom

Filtering by Category: Week 1

week 1: creative adventure

liz lamoreux

Over the next few days, keep cultivating curiosity and use your camera to document your observations of the world around you. Specifically, see if you can find a "visual poem." 

What is a visual poem? I leave that up to you. Let your poet self guide you.

And if you're using Instagram (or Twitter) to share any photos while you're taking this class, feel free to use the hashtag #poemitout. I'll find you over there. 

week 1: an interview with jenna mcguiggan

liz lamoreux

Today, take a deep breath and soak up every word of this delightfully fun interview with the incredible writer, warm-hearted friend, and roller derby maven Jenna McGuiggan.

*****

Question 1: How is poetry a lifeline for you? 

Oh, Poetry. They say I'll find you in phrases with line breaks, maybe some rhymes, and in the orderly progression of words down the page. And yes, there you are. But it's not so simple as all that, is it? I find you everywhere, running out of bounds, breaking out of the bonds we try to put on you. I find you in words that sound good together, like apple dumpling, raw stars, and fresh water. I find you in the words that taste so good in my mouth, words like: Oblong. Patina. Jar. Delphinium.

I looked you up in the dictionary, dear Poetry, and this is what he told me about you: Poetry, he said, “is writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create an emotional response through meaning, sound, and rhythm.” Not a thing about line breaks. Not a thing about rhyme. Language chosen, imaginative awareness, experience, emotional response. Well, now. That explains a lot. That explains why I find you in the covers of books marked “prose” and in the lilt of anyone who loves language and beauty. This explains why I find you when I read Virginia Woolf's novels and Annie Dillard's essays. This gives me hope that you could be mine, too, Poetry, when I write full sentences in full paragraphs with no line breaks. But still the rhythm. Still the sound. Still the meaning.

But there's something even the dictionary can't tell me, and that's how on earth I find you, Poetry, in the strangest places. You were in that southerly wind blowing secrets at me the day I sat on the garage door stoop. You were there in the twilight skimming wet sand on beaches in Oregon and Massachusetts. And more than once, I swear, I've tasted you in decadent slices of perfectly ripe avocado glistening with lime juice. You show up everywhere, don't you, Poetry? You wily, wonderful, winsome one. When I am tired from swimming and can't even tread water, you throw me life preserver and say, “Just float.” When I'm wrung out and worried, you stroke my hair and say, “Just be.” When I'm narrow-minded and bored, you throw open the window and say, “Just look!”

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

Anything by Mary Ruefle makes me feel alive, weird, confused, understood, and known – all at once. I  especially love the poems in Tristimania and the poemesque pieces in her prose book, The Most of It. You can see examples of her erasure poetry on her website. You can read a few of her poems here and here. But to really experience her poetry, I think the best way is to hear her reading it.

In college I read a lot of T. S. Eliot's  poetry, which I love, even though a lot of it is rather “dense.” He was a well-educated one, that Eliot was, but in amongst all of the allusions to classical myths and literature is so much heart, so much sadness, and so much hope. Check out “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” “The Waste Land,” and “Four Quartets”

I love the concrete images and deceptively deep simplicity of these two William Carlos Williams poem: “The Red Wheelbarrow” and “This Is Just to Say.” 

Matthew Dickman's All American Poem is a great collection, so much fun and sadness packed together. His poetry is simultaneously accessible and profound, profane and sacred. (He once told me that he liked the necklace I was wearing, and I may have a wee bit of a crush on him.) I love his poem “Slow Dance,” which you can read here

The poet Wallace Stevens worked for an insurance company for a lot of his life, which just seems so wonderful and bizarre to me. I like to think about  all the “ordinary” people in my daily life (the store cashier, the dentist, the FedEX woman) and how they might have secret lives of creative greatness. My favorites by Stevens are “Sunday Morning,” “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” and “Man on the Dump.” 

and then there's ee cummings. he makes me happy, with his quirky punctuation and lower case letters all smashed together to make meaning. 

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

Hmm... Hard to choose, but here are a few contenders:

“The salt is on the briar rose / The fog is in the fir trees.” ~T. S. Eliot, “The Dry Salvages,” one of the “Four Quartets”

“Quick now, here, now, always—” ~ T. S. Eliot, “Four Quartets”

“love is more thicker than forgot” ~ ee cummings

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

I wrote this poem from a word list that we created at one of Liz's retreats.

The Reckoning

Gumboots and blue bottles,

The containers of feet, flowers, lives,

Botanical prints cling to the wall in walnut frames

In the laundry or mud room

Where everything comes to be stoppered up or spilled out.

Rummage through the junk drawer,

Pull out orphaned matchsticks, pinking shears, corks swollen with wet.

What is vintage and

What is timeless?

Rosehips and silken ferns,

Bloodshot bones and a tailored palette,

The subtle blossom of the clock as it cradles

Time in your eyes.

Peek through that keyhole. Peel

Fresh ginger.

Be transformed, a vivid infusion of citrus-scented light.

Open the window, and welcome.

*****

Jenna McGuiggan is a writer, editor, and coach who works with creative souls and organizations with heart.

Visit her in The Word Cellar, which she envisions as a cozy, stone-walled chamber filled with twinkle lights, shelves of stories, nooks of books, and plush armchairs perfect for sharing your tale.

week 1: let's poem

liz lamoreux

It's time to get to the "Poeming It Out" part of this week's adventure, and below you will find a video that contains your first poetry prompt. 

First, I want to share a bit about why I love prompts and address a question someone asked in a session of Poem It Out when she wondered if her "notes" could be considered a poem. 

I have "a thing" for prompts. I like how they give us a place to begin when we face the blank page or canvas. Somehow it takes the mystery out of creating for me in a way that supports me to "do" instead of getting caught up in thinking that "I don't know what I am doing." Often a prompt takes me to unexpected places and pushes me to see the topic I am writing about from angles that I hadn't noticed before.

When in a painting workshop, prompts loosen me up because painting isn't my most comfortable creative medium. When a painting workshop teacher uses prompts to get us started on a piece, I'm amazed at how even though I might fall in love with the background, I often end up covering up most of my initial "moves" (especially true in mixed-media painting classes) while finding something better along the way. 

I find that the same is true with my students and writing/poetry prompts. They start with a similar phrasing or word that gives them a place to begin and the first few lines might be all about that prompt, but they each take it in different directions and sometimes end up editing out much of what was connected to the prompt. Or they hear the prompt and that causes them to come up with an even better idea and they do their own thing.

I always want you to remember: When it comes to "poeming it out" (or writing it out as the case may be), there really aren't any rules.

At least there aren't any rules here...so you should always feel free to run with the prompts I give you in any way that you want to. If you end up writing a short story instead of a poem, AWESOME! If you have dabbled in haiku and want to just write haiku throughout this entire course, that will be perfect!

If you end up just writing lists and lists in response to the exercises, you are still poeming it out

And here is the part where I tell you that I think anyone can write poetry.

And that if you say what you are writing is a poem, then it is. Because we are letting go of rules in this class, this means we are letting go of defining what a poem is. At the same time, this doesn't mean that I think anyone can become a Poet Laureate or that every person who writes a poem should expect to publish it. However, for our purposes, we are going create space around this fear of "is it a poem?" (and try to put it to the side for this class) and give ourselves room to write because we want to...because we need to. 

My hope is that by letting go of worrying if what you are writing is a poem, you will just get words onto the page. When you do this, you let those words and stories out of your head and gut, and you begin to let in more light. And light is where the joy and the healing and the beauty are found. (Yes.)

So today, let's poem it out!

Prompt: Look over your observations and questions from yesterday's prompt, choose something that interests you, and find your way to a poem

 

video URL: https://vimeo.com/46643564
video password: poeming

In the video, I encourage you to take your observations and start writing about them with the belief that you will find your way to a poem or the beginnings of one. I also explain the idea of "poem notes" in case that phrasing appeals to you.

And here are a few possible opening phrases in case you would like another prompt to help you begin today:

 

  • Today, I
  • I want to remember
  • Observations on [insert date, time] 
  • Write one of your questions as the opening line
  • Observations of my eight-year-old self (or 5 or 10 or 25 and so on) 

 

Additionally, I would like to share four poems with you to inspire your writing today.

The first is a poem by Kay Ryan called "Expectations." This poem feels like she might have been taking notes while out on a walk and later found a poem in these notes. 

The second is "Forgetfulness" by Billy Collins. Follow the link and you can also hear him read this poem and share a bit about it. In fact, don't do anything else until you follow the link and hear him read it because this poem is so so funny and hearing the audience laugh will encourage you to find humor in your observations and tell the story from this place of noticing the literal absurdities in life. I love this poem.

The third is the poem "Driving toward the Lac Qui Parle River" by Robert Bly. Reading this poem for the first time earlier this year, I couldn't help but wonder if he actually did a variation of the exercise I gave you and stopped three times along his drive and wrote down his observations of that moment.  

The fourth is the following poem note written by me:

Solitude Lost 

I wonder about the moment 
when the fern 
dug in, 
insisting it had found 
its true home 
fifty feet from the earth, 
rooted in the oak.
did the moss feel surprise? 
or did it just sigh, 
knowing the quiet 
was too good to be true?

I wrote this on a day in April a few years ago about two weeks after my grandfather died. The day was warm and I headed out to discover a new state park and found a bench on a cliff overlooking Puget Sound and just wrote about all that I was seeing. About five poems came out of those notes. My intention had been to write about how I was feeling (and I was feeling so darn sad and lonely) but instead all these odd observations about nature came out. And this "question poem" came out of those observations. 

An invitation to share: Because this video was originally created for a group moving through the course together, it includes an invitation to share what you write with the group. Alas, you are moving through the course at your pace, but I want to invite you to feel free to email me your words if you'd like someone to catch your poem today.

Now get to poeming!

week 1: cultivating curiosity

liz lamoreux

a late winter observation: the crocus is always the first to sing

Today, I'm thinking about how writers see the world. How we look for clues and take mental notes and think things like, "I'm going to use this later," when in the midst of family drama or even grief. I'm thinking about how we say that we feel "called" to write and we talk about how we "need to write" even when we aren't writing.

For me, this call to write feels like a need to tell the stories of what I'm observing in my inner and outer worlds. It feels like something I must do, and when I don't do it, I know something is missing. (Even if this "missing" part sounds like a cliche, it really does describe a lot of my mid-20s when I wasn't writing very often but reading books about writing and wishing I was "a writer.") And when I am most honest about this calling, it really is about a need to feel less alone...to know I am not the only one...

Thoughts and observations that I have jotted down lately include everything from "How is it that I am becoming my mother?" to "Why are the crocuses always the first to bloom?" to "Standing at the edge of the sea feels like home but I am terrified of deep water and I really want to unpack that into a poem" to "What was the last word I said to her?" Sometimes the questions and observations force me to the blank page to try find my way to an answer or an understanding. Sometimes they push me until I realize I simply have to create space around the truth that I might never understand. Other times I write so that I won't forget or so I will somehow remember a piece of the past. 

One piece about my own writing is that I can be wordy and sometimes have a major case of explanationitis. Writing in lists or in shorter lines that feel like they might become a poem helps me to drill down to what I really want to uncover or understand or say. Which moves me to say that all of what I have written and will write in this post (and say in the video) could be drilled down to this phrase: Pay attention and tell the story.

Today, let's begin to connect (and reconnect) with this observer inside us who is curious about what she sees as she moves in the world. Let's make lists and ask questions and pay attention...

Today's Writing Prompt: Explore the World with Your Poet Self

video password = poeming

video URL if you need it (sometimes vimeo is funny when videos are private) = https://vimeo.com/39631690

In today's video, I share ideas about ways to let your curiosity guide you. I want you to imagine that you are a reporter with a little notebook and you're taking notes about what you see and feel and smell and taste and hear as you move through the world. Note the questions you have. Write them down. You can also use your camera to document your observations. However, I want to encourage you to be sure take notes with pen and paper.

The PDF linked below is a more specific explanation of this prompt in "assignment" form that you can print out and carry with you if you like. It gives you a place to begin if you want one.

Explore

week 1: let's begin

liz lamoreux

video password = poeming
video URL if you need it = https://vimeo.com/99801343 

In the video today, I share about how reading one poem pushed me to feel less alone and begin my own adventure into poetry, how this course will be a bit like my yoga classes, and today's writing prompt.

I also mention the following poems and resources:

Today's Writing Prompt: Just put pen to paper (and let go of any brain lint)

Grab your journal (or computer if you prefer to type) and turn to a blank page. Set a timer for at least 5 minutes (and no more than 15 or 20). Put your pen to the page and write until the timer goes off. Think of this as just making space in your mind by letting all the clutter and thoughts and “brain lint” that gathers escape to the page. I often call this freewriting or stream-of-consciousness writing.

welcome

liz lamoreux

 

(excerpt from the poem "breath" by david williams)

hello there beautiful you

I'm so glad you're here.

In this Poem It Out adventure, you are going to play with words, find your way to a poem, meet poets, connect with one another, give space for the words and stories waiting to be released from inside of you, laugh (out loud) and maybe even dance, go on adventures, and begin to live inside the idea of "poeming it out." My hope is that you will find a safe place to open yourself to poetry and spend time with the poet within you as you spend the next four weeks surrounded by poetry.

a few logistical notes

This space: This class is divided up into four weeks of content because my intention is that you spend one solid month with poetry. However, you can move through it at your pace. This might mean you spend more time working through the posts and prompts. Some days you might read several posts in one sitting. Go at your pace. And have fun!

Videos: This class was originally created for a group of people moving through it at the same time. This is why a couple of the videos indicate you should "leave your thoughts in the comments" or include invitations to share your poetry with the group. Because this class is now self-paced, the comments are closed and there is no shared space to share your poems. However, if you feel deeply called to share your poems, I'm always happy to read them!

Connecting with me and feedback: I used video with this course because I want you to feel as though you are really at one of my poetry workshops in person. I think you'll find my love of poetry a bit contagious. As I mentioned above, I welcome you to share your poems with me. Please note though that it will probably take a few days for me to reply. If you have any logistical issues with the course, for example videos aren't playing or you can't get into the course for some reason, please email my assistant Stef at lizlamoreux.info(at)gmail.com. She will get back to you within 1-2 business days.

As you probably read in the FAQ of this course, Poem It Out is more about the joy of poetry, reading it and writing it, and isn't about me or anyone else critiquing your poetry. If you do send over your poems, please note that I will reply with a few words of encouragement, but I won't be sharing criticism or suggestions. I do offer one-on-one mentoring, but I don't focus on helping people improve their writing. If you find during this course that you feel called to write and want to work with a writing coach, I'm happy to recommend a few great ones!

I'm so glad you're here and I can't wait for you to begin the journey of poeming it out!

Blessings and light,

Liz