Excavating the Mind: The poem, the sequential mass

Don't look down

The Dark-Eyed Junko’s Alert

He greets me for the morning game of follow the leader
don’t leave the door open, space will fill
light paints the world with shadow
our observations manipulate what we observe
captured in every reflective surface,
our shadows join the trees’
across the grass, the water, each other

Flowers steal focus, the little I have left
with shocking leopard-print spots dripping dew
and inviting fragrance on the slightest breeze
tickling my nose with soft petals and stamen
yellow dots of pollen cover
procreation fills the air

I chase the birds that chase each other
loudly displaying their worth
The geese pay me, my camera, and my feline companion no mind
The Dark-Eyed Junko’s alert: loud, short and sharp
is a song compared to Bewick’s Wren’s screams
like a fire alarm in a hotel
the huge call from its tiny, fluffy body amuses

Life punctuates the world with sound
the clear calls on one side of the house
like a volley, a game of table tennis, from the other

With everything blooming and growing new life,
the dead ivy on the side of the cedar
clings like a bad omen

upon closer look, mysteries abound in the mundane
That buoy is a clown nose on the lake
a fox head pounces in the movement of the water
What is that roll of hair in the fire-pit?
dissection only reveals more questions
rusted bolts and nails joined in concrete, resting on a rusting pail
(Why would anyone keep that?)
strangely phallic, yet looks like a human heart

Suds on the water surprise
gathering on only one side of the dock
pulsing against rocks, sharp edges and crevices
the bubbles do not pop
evidence of the folly of man’s
attempt to control nature
I don’t know why she swallowed the fly
murky and choppy, the light swerves and curls
like tracing an oil slick,
golden snakes on the slate surface whisper
another omen
the lake does not invite today

My companion becomes impatient, he wants to wander on
He has accrued his own follower
We now play follow the follower of the leader
or follow the leader who follows the leader

my reflection shows up in unexpected places
patterns in nature-repetitions with slight variance
insights lead me back to previous observations
because sometimes it’s fun not to be in focus
and certain illusions can’t be photographed

taking pictures through doorways only re-shapes the frame
a truly different perspective is needed for change
objects joined in space invoke history
a juxtaposition of the absurd: my meaning

We three wander again
each unique but not unique
exploring an order of chaos
creating our pattern of observing
thus changing natural patterns
seeing through to the dramatic
light behind the subject
which has become a subject through our looking
then looking through
illuminating its veins, stems, roots
we pause, observe it from above, below and every side,
capture its light
never the same

 

I shared this poem with dVerse Poet’s Pub’s Open Link Night.

Next Week

I really enjoyed Excavating the Mind and think the challenge of repeating the exercise will force the observations deeper. So starting tomorrow, I’ll begin a new set of observations, for five days this time with drafting on Saturday and another poem next Sunday.

I hope you will join me.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Excavating the Mind Day 7: Pattern and Perspective

Why is this jerk so pretty

I am working on a week long photography and poetry challenge inspired by a prompt from Poets & Writers called Excavating the Mind.

Day 7 notes and observations

When Levi and I got up for our excursion, Max was waiting at the door. Seems this week of observations has already created a new pattern of behavior, something to look forward to in the morning for more than just me. A small spider’s web lit by the sun inspired today’s focus on patterns.

Still inspired by yesterday’s exploration of light and shadow, I let the light show me where to observe. I followed the light around and took pictures of what it touched.

Levi and Max followed me past the shed to an overgrown area I don’t normally tromp around in and I captured this beautiful image of Levi.

pretty kitty

I decided to change direction and try seeing things in a new way, so I climbed up the stairs and took some pictures looking down at things.

Notes:

  • patterns in nature –repetitions with slight variance
  • each unique but not unique
  • the bird sounds from the porch sound like volleys, like a game of table tennis
  • that bird just changed its song, its saying something different
  • To really experience a new perspective, I might need to climb up on the roof
  • seeing through to the new, creating new perspectives

There you have it, Day 7’s pictures and observations.

Next Steps

I have my collection: Now what? I took hundreds of pictures this last week. Before I dive into attempting the first draft of my poem, I’m going to go back to the very first image and spend time with each one in sequence, jotting down anything and everything that comes to mind. Tomorrow, I will attempt a few drafts of poems that put the whole experience together. On Sunday, I will attempt a singular, somewhat finalized poem of my excavated mind.

 

Happy Reading and Writing!

Dramatic Interplay: Poem for dVerse Poets Pub

When I finished my observations post for today, I went to my wordpress reader to see what other writers were up to and saw Frank Hubeny’s prompt for the dVerse Poets Pub. The prompt is to write a poem of fourteen lines.

Since my week of observation is almost up and I’ll need to turn it all into a poem soon, I thought I would test out some observation-to-poem by putting together a few of today’s observations into fourteen lines.

Dramatic Interplay

A morning, exploring light and shadow
backlit life turned to space
to dive into
shadow painted leaves and lilacs
on walls, over mountain murals
and in my mind
I look behind
the subject to focus
on the light
the blur and glow
excite the drama
each click dramatic
scene in contrast
light painting of the in between

 

Excavating the Mind Day 6: The Dramatic Interplay of Light and Shadow

dramatic interplay

I am working on a week long photography and poetry challenge inspired by a prompt from Poets & Writers called Excavating the Mind.

Day 6 notes and observations

Levi was not excited about our adventure this morning, so I left the door open and set out. Today, the light was beautiful. The glittering dew on the grass instantly caught my eye and inspired me to turn off the automatic focus on my camera.

I was drawn to the long shadows across the lawn and started thinking about the dramatic interplay of light and shadow. My hunt began. Levi joined me on a search for exciting contrasts.

Searching out shadows, my morning quickly became intense. It’s fascinating how some long shadows can turn a simple curve in the road into a dramatic scene.

While capturing the break in color on a long stem, I noticed the light coming through the thick bushes behind it and thought about focusing on the light instead of the subject. This led my adventure in a fun direction (and to my favorite image of the day).

When I arrived at this discovery in my adventure, I realized I needed my notebook, so I ran back into the house and found Max staring at me. A reminder not to leave the door open: You never know what might wander in. Max is another of my neighbor’s cats. He joined Levi and me on the rest of our journey of observation.

Immersed in observing light and shadow, I noticed how light paints leaf-shadows on the house, lilacs on Mom’s mural, and abstracts on the grass.

I especially like this simple line:

light painting four

Notes:

  • the light is great today!
  • sometimes it’s fun to not be in focus
  • focusing on the light behind an object can make a fun picture
  • What? There’s a Max in my house
  • It appears that Levi has started posing for me, knowing my theme

 

There you have it, Day 6’s pictures and observations. For fun, I recommend looking through your photos for dramatic shadows and jotting down notes about feeling and mood. If you don’t have any dramatic photos, try getting up early on a clear day to get that slanted, bright light.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Excavating the Mind Day 5: The Observer Effect

I am working on a week long photography and poetry challenge inspired by a prompt from Poets & Writers called Excavating the Mind.

Day 5 notes and observations

Today, I thought I’d switch things up and make observations inside. I didn’t want to just take pictures of stuff; I wanted to really observe something. At first, since Levi wanted me to open doors so he could wander around, I thought I would take pictures through doorways.

I quickly realized I was only putting lines and edges on spaces. Then I saw myself reflected in a light fixture and started thinking about how the observer alters what they are observing. So, today’s observations are a philosophical study of how I put myself into the images and the observations.

Now I’m brushing up on quantum physics. Though my observations were originally more philosophical, I’m playing with light, so physics it is. The observer effect is the theory that observing an object or phenomenon, changes that object or phenomenon.

 

In today’s images, I put myself, in reflection, into the images as I took them, thus changing the image through my observation. I know that this happens naturally, often not recognized or observed. It was different doing it with purpose.

Notes:

  • taking pictures through doorways only works as a frame
  • my reflection shows up in unexpected places
  • certain illusions can’t be photographed
  • I wonder if my reflection and shadow are in my photographs and I never noticed
  • I find how objects end up together in space intriguing
  • example hulk hands and taxidermied hornbill–hard to make that up

 

my feet and their shadows

There you have it, Day 5’s pictures and observations. For fun, I recommend going back through some of your photographs and finding yourself in reflective surfaces or shadows.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Excavating the Mind Day 4: Ooo Hummingbirds

I am working on a week long photography and poetry challenge inspired by a prompt from Poets & Writers called Excavating the Mind.

Day 4 notes and observations

As if the birds knew I was focusing on them today, two geese greeted me at the dock as soon as I went out and didn’t seem to care about me, the camera, or the cat. They swam back and forth in front of me until I had all the pictures I wanted.

The mountain has a new puffy coat

Sadly, the light wasn’t nice like it was yesterday. It only wanted to light the snow on the mountain and nothing else. However, the birds did cooperate and after spending a long time chasing a little screamy bird flitting about the bushes, hummingbirds filled my morning.

Notes:

  • bird alert: loud, sharp, and short
  • the light is not cooperating
  • I find it funny when little birds have loud, screamy calls
  • this little guy sounds like a fire alarm in a hotel
  • getting a good shot of little screamy birds takes a lot of patience
  • ooo hummingbird
  • two hummingbirds chasing each other
  • hummingbirds have a tight chirpy song
  • I know what they sound like now

 

There you have it, Day 4’s pictures and observations.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Excavating the Mind Day 3: Evolving Mysteries

I am working on a week long photography and poetry challenge inspired by a prompt from Poets & Writers called Excavating the Mind.

Day 3 notes and observations

Levi, the neighbor’s cat, was very excited to get me out observing this morning. At seven am the air was brisk. The sun was at a great angle for creating dramatic light and shadow especially under the trees.

I took a metal poker and poked at the hairy-looking thing in my fire-pit. It had a concrete plug with three tiny nails (?) sticking out of it. The hairy section separated easily with a little prodding into eighth-inch-wide, soft, white fabric strips. I still have no idea what this is. I’m enjoying the evolving mystery.

Notes:

  • the suds are gone
  • the water is much clearer
  • the neighbor has a golf cart on his lawn
  • I don’t see any ants
  • why would anyone keep that? (strange blob of rusted bolts and nails in concrete sitting on top of an old metal pail)
  • it’s strangely phallic
  • it looks kind of like a human heart

why would anyone keep that

 

Yesterday, I heard some very upset birds by one particularly large rhododendron, so I thought I would look for a nest. This morning, no birds there at all. However, it was a beautiful morning for bird watching. I thought I would change lenses and attempt some bird observations, but my camera battery died, so tomorrow’s observations will most likely be about birds.

There you have it, Day 3’s pictures and observations.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Excavating the Mind Day 2: Sudsy water

If you didn’t come by Experience Writing yesterday, I started a week long photography and poetry challenge inspired by a prompt from Poets & Writers called Excavating the Mind.

Day 2 notes and observations

It has been raining for two days. It stopped for a moment, so I thought I would focus today’s observations on the water. Levi, the neighbor’s cat, greeted me at the door and joined me on my walk to the dock. But when we got there, the water was covered in suds.

The suds only gathered on one side of the dock
Levi stood guard while I took pictures
I love that he takes walks with me

The water was choppy and murky.
I wonder if Cascade Water Alliance put in that awful chemical to kill the milfoil.
It has been pouring and yet there are spiderwebs on the ladder, strong stuff spider silk
The neighbor’s buoy is the clown nose of the lake


The sky is so blue, the sun makes a lovely lens glare onto this fluffy cloud, hard to believe it’s been raining all morning
I see a fox head in the shadows on the water’s surface
Levi is getting impatient with me; he wants to continue our walk
I don’t know what this is in my fire pit, but it looks like rolled up hair, a lot of rolled up hair

There you have it, Day 2’s pictures and observations. I may have to get a stick and poke at that thing in the fire pit, but I’ll save those observations for tomorrow.

Happy Reading and Writing!

A Poetry and Photography Project for May: Day 1 the flowers stole focus

I started my day by taking another look at Molly Spencer’s revision post. I followed her link to Poets & Writers The Time Is Now series and found an inspiring prompt:

Excavating the Mind

The prompt, inspired by Bernadette Mayer’s book Memory, challenges to jot down notes about several images and observations each day for a week then write a poem that combines them into a single sequential mass.

The project for this week

Bernadette Mayer’s shot a roll of film each day for a month for her project. This week I intend to take (at least) twenty-four pictures each day and take notes about the images. I’ll share some of the images and observations and create a final poem at the end of next week.

Day 1 comments and observations

I talked to my mother this morning and she was very excited about all the flowers in bloom, especially the rhododendrons. During my photographic observation, the flowers stole focus.

My notes and observations:

My herbs are flowering
I don’t smell by herbs enough
rosemary has a strong delicious smell
flowering thyme doesn’t smell much

rhododendrons look like tropical pine cones
perhaps Tahitian?
just before they bloom

the dead ivy on the side of this tree feels like a bad omen

Is that white flower gentrifying that blue flower?

Join Me

For those of you who just finished NaPoWriMo and were looking for more prompts and inspiration, I hope you will join me for this week-long poetry prompt. I’m already having fun with it. Please share your observations and links to your images in the comments and we can enjoy this adventure together.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Revising and Editing Poems

collage poetry

Now that National Poetry Writing Month is over and many of us have thirty fresh poem drafts, it’s time to start thinking about revision. This morning I scoured the internet for revision techniques and found a lot of useful information and some worksheets. We want to approach each poem with fresh eyes, so I recommend starting with the draft you wrote on April first, or practicing up on some older poems to let your new drafts rest a bit. Here are the resources I enjoyed the most:

Blog Posts

The Art of Targeted Revision by Sandra Beasley from Poets & Writers

On revision from Molly Spencer (there are four posts in her revision series)

How to Revise Your Poetry from Poetry Teatime

5 Ways to Revise Poems from Writer’s Digest

13 Ways to Revise a Poem from Freesia McKee

Magma poetry’s 25 Rules for Editing Poems

 

Worksheets

Poetry revision activity

Poetry Self-Evaluation worksheet from Scholastic

Creative Exercises: Revising and Building by John Chapman

 

I like a lot of these ideas. Today, I’m going to start reading through the poetry collages I created last year and play with some of Molly Spencer’s “radical revision” techniques. I hope you find some useful ideas in all these resources that inspire your revision process.

And don’t forget to read a ton of poetry while you’re at it.

Happy Reading and Writing!