This afternoon, I had the privilege of spending time in one of my favorite places with my favorite people: a community creativity workshop. This October and November, I’m leading my last Lunch Hour Language Artists Workshop Series as Cupertino Poet Laureate.
Perhaps it’s because the end of my term is drawing near, or perhaps it’s because the group of attendees at these workshops never fail to inspire and humble me, but I find myself looking more and more forward to each session.
The theme for LHLA 3 is “Poetry of Place.” In the first session, we wrote about our childhood homes. Today the focus was on finding and defining home, and I introduced the concept of List-Definition Poetry — a form I made up that combines the list poem and the definition poem.
I structured the workshop so participants would consider the juxtaposition of “Home Then,” and “Home Now.” I like to join in during writing time whenever possible, and I was amazed by how my brainstorming around “Home Now” centered on the people I’ve met and worked with during my time as CPL and how much I’ll miss hosting these community events.
I feel truly blessed to have had my life touched by so many amazing people and their moving poetry. I can’t wait to see where the poem I started today leads as I continue to work on it over the next few months.
At the start of our writing period, the group and I brainstormed words and phrases related to the concept of “Home, Then and Now” to generate ideas for our own List-Definition poems. If you weren’t able to join us, you can use the same concept as a poetry prompt!
I thought it would be interesting to turn our brainstorming lists into a poem using every word and phrase generated.
Let me know what you think in the comments!
Then and Now
Then we were fearless running in clean air with the outside cats through mustard yellow fields playing with the neighbors on rope swings in fruit trees.
Then we were joyful and safe in our backyard adventures our trust in friends expansive jumping from diving boards into swimming pools.
Then we were playful trudging through white snow splashing into cedar hot tubs, seldom lonely and only sometimes confused.
Now we are isolated
amidst the tall green spires
in a sea of dusty earthquakes,
suffocating in politics
and exhausting chaos.
Now our expensive empty nests feel claustrophobic and tiny, leaving us alone but safe in our book-filled havens.
Now, as then, we find love and gratitude hidden in Sunday dinners and boba tea, waiting between cracks on the sidewalks and countless cars parked on freeways.
If you live or work in the South Bay or Peninsula area, consider submitting your creative writing for inclusion in this community anthology! This is a chance for the many varied and beautiful voices of our community to come together. I would love to include pieces in other languages with English translation.
If the work you submit was inspired by a CPL event or program, let me know!
EVERYONE is welcome to submit — kids, teens, adults, new writers, and established!!
Check out the flyer below and email with questions!
Deadline is 9/30.
No more than 10 poems or pages of short prose pieces. Previously published is fine (include the relevant information).
So how can I write a post that utilizes Facebook and the linchpin? Moreover, Facebook and poetry don’t seem like two entities that go together – at least not from the perspective of using Facebook to write poetry. What gives?
Simple. I’m writing this post because I am a fan of taking advantage of whatever works to generate creativity and get poems (or fiction or any writing ideas) out of the ether and onto the page. And I promise you – if you fully execute this technique, you will end up with a poem. Or character. Or beginning of a story… you get the picture.
So what is this Facebook writing technique?
It’s fun, it’s easy, and you can do it even if you don’t have a Facebook account. Trust me.
First, scroll through your list of FB friends until you come across names from your childhood of people you haven’t really kept up with over the years. If you don’t have any FB friends that reach back that far, settle for FB friends that you are merely acquaintances with in real life – the point is to find people you know, but people you don’t know well. You want to be surprised.
Second, visit the pages of these FB friends and look at their most recent post. Ideally, the first page you visit is the one you’ll use, but if it really doesn’t work move down the list.
Third, using whatever this person posted as your inspiration, brainstorm words and phrases that immediately come to mind. Try to incorporate sensory language if possible, but stay true to whatever pops into your head.
Fourth, write a poem (or story) inspired by the FB friend’s post and your brainstormed list. It can be a poem in any form or style. It can be a flash fiction. A short story. It can even be the start of your own memoir. The point is to WRITE.
If you’re not on Facebook, you can search old emails, greeting cards and letters, or use another social media source (like Twitter or Google+) to accomplish the same result.
I first thought of this technique when I randomly clicked on the Facebook page of a childhood friend with whom I had not had any contact other than to accept her Friend request years ago. I was shocked and saddened to learn that she had just lost her father. Her most recent post happened to be picture from her childhood of her at about preschool age sitting on her dad’s lap. They were reading a book together, and the caption read, “Missing my dad today.” The photo was grainy and the clothes were standard late seventies/early eighties plaid. Her dad was sporting some seriously impressive sideburns, and my friend’s cheeks were bright red, the way kids’ cheeks get after playing outside in the snow.
I was overcome with emotion and wonder, so I started writing down ideas and words that popped into my head as I gazed at the picture. And those words evolved into a poem.
If you give it a try, let me know! I’d love to hear if it works for you. And if you have other Facebook-inspired writing ideas, please share!
Yesterday, at Sonic Boom, the first session in my Sound and Sense workshop series, our warm-up exercise was to collectively write a poem. Each participant contributed one line, but to ensure some cohesiveness and pattern we voted on three things each line must have: each line had to begin with “You,” contain a type of weather, and showcase a feeling. Each writer then read his or her line aloud, one after the other, and it was often serendipitous in word choice, emotion, and weather.
Here is our collective poem (unedited):
All that You Are
You set me on fire in this stormy sea. You, my dear storm-torn sea, abcdeplease show me the joyful white tops of your waves. You look so blue; could it be the last thirty days of rain?
You open summer rains to water my joy.
You make me feel the sunshine when it rains.
You tearfully rain down on my fretful life.
You and your melancholy are the humid summer air, abcdechoking my love into lifelessness. You love blustery winds.
You bluster along in a most annoying way.
You look out over the crowd,
abcdefeeling the queasiness that comes before a storm. You are a drizzle of calm in my fear.
You shiver when gentle raindrops stroke your nose.
You create a hurricane of anxiety in my soul.
You are lost in fog, abcdefeeling forgotten.