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.”

Letter Writing–When was the last time…

letterforbackdrop

you wrote someone a letter?

When my ex-husband was in the Coast Guard, I wrote him letters.  These letters (I have some of them) were comparable to keeping a diary except that they had a recipient. Rereading them, I notice how I chronicled my daily experience. Was that where this first began, the need to put my life on paper? I wonder. When I moved far from my childhood home, I wrote my parents & siblings letters.  (I have some of these.)

Then there are the letters I’ve received over the years–sometimes notes scribbled in greeting cards–like opening a gift from someone dear to me.  Often, long and laboring letters whereby the author wants to be known to me in some way. Perhaps he or she shares a bit of philosophy, a challenge, a dream, a story, a goal or a memory.

One of my brothers lives off the grid some of the time.  He hasn’t set up a voice mailbox on his phone.  I can’t leave him telephone messages!  He doesn’t have email or do texting. What is my recourse?  Sitting down and writing him a letter (sometimes a postcard). Letter-writing maintains this connection that I value.

It’s so easy to slip someone a text or an email.  There is something quite different about intentionally sitting down at a table or desk and writing a letter. Paper, pen, ink and you. There is a drift your thoughts take as you contemplate the one who is going to receive this letter.  What do you want to say to them? What is, perhaps, going to be preserved on paper?

By the way, we’ve seen whole biographical books created from someone’s found letters. Or we’ve read excerpts from handwritten letters that are descriptive or used to substantiate a claim made by the author. Do you personally see any value in letter writing?  Is it a lost art?

WRITING PROMPT:
Is there someone in this wide world that you’d like to write a letter to?–do it today.

WRITING TIP:
Letter writing, at least now and then, keeps your writing flow going.  Writing letters can only enhance any other writing you do.