A Pang

Pang:  “A sudden sharp pain or emotion”

I was looking for a low rim dish to marinate the al dente asparagus.  I looked through a storage bin in the garage and then remembered a shallow plate my mother had given me a long time ago.  I knew where it was but had forgotten why I never used it.

I retrieved it from the top shelf in one of the kitchen cabinets.  I rinsed it off and read the name of the porcelain producer on the back.  Christineholm, it read.  Then, there it was the pang!  Urgh.  A sort of a bittersweet feeling accompanied by a wave of thoughts.  Did my mother buy this dish with me in mind?  Did she save it for me all those years?  Was she waiting for me to notice the name on the back of the quiche plate?  To bake her a quiche in it perhaps?

I won’t ever know her thoughts.  When she gave me the dish, we were barely connecting as Mother and Daughter.  We weren’t exactly estranged…we just didn’t seem to be on the same wavelength.  And, my father was the huge wedge in her relationship with any of her nine children.

As I lay the asparagus in the plate, poured the homemade marinade over the top, covered the dish with Glad wrap and put it in the refrigerator for later, the pang persisted.  And a sort of lump in my throat.neo1.jpg

Writing Prompt:
How do you hold these sudden emotions?  How do you respond to the questions that arise?  How do you navigate this rocky terrain?  How do you communicate with those who are gone?  Does writing help?

 

a potpourri of prompts

Over the past year plus, I’ve offered you a variety of writing and creative prompts. I would love to hear from you who have been following this blog.

  • Have you used any of the prompts?
  • Are there one or two that have been especially interesting, fruitful or fun for you?
  • How has this blog served your creative process?

Thank you for taking the time to reply.

Enjoy your creative life!

flowers1.2014

What Do You See?

As a writer, how do you PRACTICE describing what you see?

Following is one of my favorite poems that illustrates deeply seeing and then portraying what the poet observes.

Nude Descending a Staircase
© 1961 by X. J. Kennedy

Toe upon toe, a snowing flesh,
a gold of lemon, root and rind,
she sifts in sunlight down the stairs
with nothing on. Nor on her mind.
We spy beneath the banister
a constant thresh of thigh on thigh;
her lips imprint the swinging air
that parts to let her parts go by.
One-woman waterfall, she wears
her slow descent like a long cape
and pausing on the final stair,
collects her motions into shape.
I appreciate this poem because it not only succinctly describes a nude woman walking down the stairs, it creates an imagery whereby I, as the reader, also see her.  And, in her descent of the staircase, I note the action of her walking, the movement.  This is a great feat in poetry.
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We’ve seen artists with their pencils and art journals sketching what they see.  As a writer, do you practice writing word sketches?  These word sketches can be used later on in other writing that you do or to simply facilitate your ability to observe.  Either way, it’s not time wasted.
Writing Prompt:
Here’s  fun exercise.  Take yourself outdoors to a park bench and sit with your pen, a  journal and notice people, your surroundings, the array of dogs?  Find the precise words to describe the flowers, trees, any movement.  What adjectives or metaphors come to mind as you allow yourself to really see someone or something?  Jot them down.  Practice doing a word sketch…or several.
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Thank you to X.J. Kennedy for permission to print his poem.
“From In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus: New and Selected Poems (Johns Hopkins University Press), copyright 2007 by X. J. Kennedy.  By permission of the author.”

What Would You Fight For?

Have you become “comfortably complacent?”  It’s neither healthy nor desirable to operate from the survival, amygdala part of one’s brain most of the time–the fight/flight and survival instinct.  If your basic needs for food, clothing and shelter are met, then, what would you fight for?

Several years ago I watched a BBC film on the Marine Iguanas of the Galapagos Islands.  I wrote about it in my journal at the time…

“The Iguana is a vegetarian.  It was forced to overcome it’s fear and discomfort of the forceful ocean, to dive underwater, down and down, to find its food–a type of algae or plankton growing beneath the sea.  It feeds for no longer than ten minutes and then it has to surface as the freezing water temperatures are dangerous to this heat-loving animal.  As the iguana swims against the waves to reach the rocky shore, it is harassed by the sea lions who chase, pretense of attack and dodge and dart (cat and dog-style).  No easy journey to supply a life-sustaining need.  That’s what life in the wild is–meeting a basic need–what’s for lunch?”

 

 

Writing Prompt:
All of that said, I return to my initial question…and I ask myself this one too…in these tumultuous times, What would you fight for?  Take some time today to consider and write about it.

Enjoy your day.

Renascence

When I first read, Renascence by Edna St. Vincent Millay, I was dumbstruck.  Millay was about twenty years old when she wrote this epic poem.  It seemed to touch on so many things that I had experienced over the course of my life.  The first two stanzas follow:

Renascence by Edna St. Vincent Millay

“All I could see from where I stood

Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked another way,
And saw three islands in a bay.
So with my eyes I traced the line
Of the horizon, thin and fine,
Straight around till I was come
Back to where I’d started from;
And all I saw from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood.
Over these things I could not see;
These were the things that bounded me;
And I could touch them with my hand,
Almost, I thought, from where I stand.
And all at once things seemed so small
My breath came short, and scarce at all.”
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When I reread Renascence over ten years ago, I responded to the question “What binds you” in five pages of journal-type writing.  I titled it “Hemmed In.”  Reading this piece of my own writing ten years later, many things have changed and many things have remained the same.  It reminded me of one of those time capsule writings that you reopen all those years later and rediscover yourself in another time and perhaps another place.  And, I could respond to the same question again today and see where my writing goes.
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Writing Prompt:
Using the line “These were the things that bounded me,” write your own Renascence style poem (or prose).  Start with your physical surroundings.  What is in your immediate environment?  Expand your writing outwards and follow where you are lead.

“My name is love…”

“My name is love
supreme my sway
The greatest god
and greatest pain,
Air, earth, and seas, my
Power obey,
And gods themselves
must drag my chain.

In every heart my throne I keep,
Fear ne’er could daunt my
daring soul;
I fire the bosom of the deep
and the profoundest hell
control…”

from Don Quixote Part II
by Miguel de Cervantes

L O V E

Love.  It amazes me that we fall in love.  As if it were a puddle, pool or lake.  Do we trip and fall? Are we walking, unawares, and suddenly we’ve fallen in loveInto love?

Everyone writes about love at some point, right?  Do they?  Do you?  How do you define what seems ineffable?  Intangible.  And, has attached to it one’s particular perspective on the definition of what love is.

When you say “I love you,” what are you really saying?

In the quote above, Cervantes has personified love–made it into a person with great power.

This poem, written and read by Edna St. Vincent Millay, surprised me on many levels.

First, the quality and tone of her voice.  Secondly, I had not read this poem before…listening to it for the first time, I felt a certain trepidation–where was she going to land?  And, finally, hearing the conclusion, I felt deeply moved.

Contemplation:
A poem touches us because we fit the meaning to our experience.  Does this feel true to you?  When writing, how do you personify love?

 

“…your clumsy dance”

a poemdance
© by Christine O’Brien

The violence of birth
an entry point
we are all players here
what capsule did I take
that made me forget
my origin?
Are these words a tunnel
I follow towards that illusive speck of light?
When I reach the end, might I…
dissolve in a fizzle or a sudden nova.

Some say a star is flung into the night
“Find your place in the order of things”
says one of the true gods
or, is chaos our real plight
and are we doomed to try to carve
sense out of nonsense?
or not?
Can I then “dance my clumsy dance”
stop seeking truth long enough to see it
dazzling everywhere?

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I’ve posted this quote from Pablo Neruda in an earlier blog…but when I found my poem above, I had forgotten where “dance my clumsy dance” came from.  Ah, Neruda, of course.

“There is no insurmountable solitude. All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song – but in this dance or in this song there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our conscience in the awareness of being human and of believing in a common destiny.”  Pablo Neruda

Writing Prompt:
What’s your clumsy dance looking like these days?  Do a free write using this prompt.  Write until your pen runs out of ink…just kidding.  Write for as long as you have something to say about this.