Years ago, in a creative writing class, the assignment was to write a “copycat poem”. In a nutshell, you borrow another poet’s perceived intention, the basic form and any other prominent features and write your own poem with a theme of your choosing. In the previous blog, I invited you to deeply notice Al Zolynas poem, The Zen of Housework. If you are able to, you might want to print out a copy of Al’s poem as you begin this next step.
Following is my copycat poem based on Al Zolynas’ poem, The Zen of Housework. Note that I’ve given Al Zolynas full credit for being the poet who inspired my poem.
That Which Rises
© by Christine O’Brien
–based on an original poem, The Zen of Housework by Al Zolynas
I look down my arms
to where my hands disappear into sticky dough
looking like swamp things
emerging from entangling algae.
My hands tentatively grip a cup of flour,
distribute it evenly over the gooey mess
and work it in.
The earthy alchemy
of flour, water, oil, salt, eggs.
The dough pulling away from my fingers
like shed skin, transmutation.
The dough, now cohesive, resilient,
as my fingers plunge, knead and release,
grappling with life’s challenges.
I set the dough aside to rise,
covering it with a white linen towel,
modest veil to the pregnant belly.
This force of yeast
pushing from within
asserting its musky promise
that all is one. That one is all.
The fragrant loaf opens the window
to an eternity of wheat fields.
Golden tassels dusting the sky–
the earth calling down the rains
as I join with this ritual of
crusty, golden loaves
now cooling on wooden racks
on the bare kitchen table.
Ah, aromatic offering–
Set one slice aside
for the goddess.
I want to emphasize that when reading or sharing your copycat poem publicly, it is respectful to give credit to the original author and his or her poem (as I have done in my copycat poem above). And it could be a good idea to get firsthand permission if you choose to publish your copycat poem.
Regardless, this is a fine way of practicing and playing with another poet’s style while writing a poem that is distinctly your own.
I invoked the author’s general mood–the sacred within the mundane. I have the same number of stanzas although my line length and number of lines in each stanza, vary. I use metaphor and simile as Al Zolynas does throughout his poem. I drift between the hands-on experience of baking bread to the metaphorical meaning for me, sanctifying what is considered commonplace.
I am going to share a simple technique that can be used as a basis for writing a poem, an essay, song lyrics, prose and more. List-making.
Choose a mundane task that you perform. The task–is it vacuuming, laundry, sweeping, mowing the lawn…you decide. Write the task at the top of a blank page. Now list any of the steps it takes for you to accomplish this task (break it down into its components)…note the tools you use, where you are, the time of day, the process you follow, whatever it takes for you to accomplish this task, anything at all, however remote that you associate with this task. List them.
Reviewing your list, notice if there are opportunities to make comparisons–similes or metaphors. Write these comparisons beside your listed items.
Using the mood of Al’s poem, the sacred quality within the mundane task, write your own reflective poem, integrating your comparisons as appropriate.
Put your poem aside for a day. The next day, reread your poem. Is there anything else that wants to be expressed? Added or subtracted? This is the beginning of crafting a poem.