Autumn Harvest

appleCycles and seasons come and go.  We are deeply connected to nature’s rhythms whether or not we give them conscious attention.  No matter where you live or what your age, you have an experience of Autumn.  In the northern hemisphere, we have entered the Autumn of the year while the southern hemisphere is in the flush of Spring.  As writers, we are aware of the metaphorical aspect of any season.

For yourself, consider what the harvest time means to you personally.  Living in the mountains, I’ve come to know the harvest intimately.  The land I live on has old fruit trees.  The first trees to fruit in early summer are the cherry trees.  These are followed by the pear trees.  Finally, in September and October, the apple trees are ready to be gleaned. If the apple crop is hefty, you will find me in the yard picking apples or in the kitchen processing them.  Frequently, there is an abundance of fruit to be shared with friends.

I often hear this comment from young and old alike, “How fast time is going!” Has it always been this way?

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Thomas Cleary translated a book of verses written by Wen-siang, a lone refugee, Buddhist poet, pacifist and feminist who lived in the 13th century during the time of the Genghis Khan Mongol raids.  The book is titled Sleepless Nights…Verses for the Wakeful.  I’ve excerpted the following poem:

My Sixtieth Year
by Wen-Siang (translated by Thomas Cleary)

Already sixty,
so much I’ve been through.
Wealth and rank
are like floating clouds;
changing and disappearing,
unworthy of regard.

My body’s like a pine

on a winter ridge,
standing alone
through the cold.

My mind is like the water

in an ancient well,
thoroughly unruffled
all the way to the depths.

My path
is the ancient way,
especially hard
in the present day.
Not easily discerned
are right and wrong;
I sigh and sigh,
sigh and sigh.

WRITING PROMPT:
Wen Siang uses simile in the first three verses (the bolded lines) to illustrate his state of being in his sixtieth year; it seems that he is taking stock.  In the fourth verse, he makes the direct comparison (metaphor) in the line “My path is the ancient way.” I invite you to use Wen-siang’s poem as a copycat poem.  That is borrow the form and supply your own content.  You can begin your poem with your current age.  For each verse, alternate the leading lines…”My body’s like…My mind is like…and My path is…”

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Whatever the season, whichever hemisphere, savor your time on planet earth.

Playing in the Field of the Daily Mundane (part two)

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.
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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.

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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.

Writing Prompt:
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.

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