Excavating the Mind Round 2: The poem, the sequential mass

Amazing headlines and a burlap sack

 
I read across the yellowing paper under the burlap sack “Attraction Dear Reader Israel-Syria River Fastest Gun JFK To Head”

across from these headlines the fuzzy blue face admires,
casually aware of thumb tacks
ironic placement comes to light,
reminding me of cyclical efforts to tirelessly beckon sleep
and the weight that killing germs has taken on, so quickly changing focus
of mortal fears and intentions

Is the sky half full or empty when the clouds part only on my right?
wet makes the world reflective
I missed the camellia’s dance on the wind that must have caressed it
with strong gusts to deposit it so far from its bush.
Here, alone in loveliness, swirls of gaudy pink and white,
showing off its golden sex, it punctuates the pavement
But I can imagine the rhythm which lingers
in the metronomic drips of the accumulated leftover rain
microscopic twirlers within the droplets, like the camellia
her shocking cotton-candy petals betray her; she wants to fit in.
The relationship falters when she blooms; her strength and beauty overwhelm.
In a world of gigantic rhododendrons, this flower became a tree.

squatting down to see his world
new perspective’s surprises unveil
a small bit of crumpled foil on the walk so out of place like drugged teens
the follower staggers, attempting to communicate released control
he leads to places I can’t follow
and only pops his head out when I’m too slow
A canyon created, mysterious geological event.
Moss and detritus of trees collect on and in his new surfaces.
from here I see rot and damage near the base
but sometimes rot fuels new life, hope to feed a future
new points of view open whole new worlds, untouchable mysteries
he rears up, pounces on the unseen, again and again

Accumulating colors into the big box of crayons with the sharpener,
crayons juxtaposed with Miracle Gro Shake and Feed tell the story
of my nephew’s attention,
the hand drawn labels, his symbols of language
renaming my vegetables to be
adding the stove to the picture induces my own childhood
melting crayons between waxed paper to grow layers of color
to scratch away rainbow scenes of Halloween witches and jack-o-lanterns
trick-or-treating through the black layer of night

Joyful memories collect in a glass jar of buttons,
my precious gift from my mother who knows me so well,
a history of someone else’s sewing life, leftover closures,
one or more than needed for a loved one’s shirt, dress or coat,
or that one article of clothing wanted but too dear to afford,
replicated by a skilled hand over weeks or months,
this jar of time and intimate design found its way to a sink
next to a vacuum for cleaning a computer that,
at this angle, looks like a robot’s foot also by a sink,
a sink that dripped so it is turned off,
a useless sink, except for its shadow, swan-like, gliding to the jar,
to inspect the colorful contents, to peck and pry the lid,
to crave one button so entirely that it must pluck it in its beak
and taste its story only to enjoy the taste
of that story’s longing so thoroughly that it glides
down its throat and sticks there, choking and gurgling

Music, the skeleton key to memory, to emotion, to the subconscious,
enhancing the flavors of attention and mood
This decorative, vintage key I wear around my neck, the one
that opened our practice room in the old hotel that burned
or the small, recognizable key I called “the key to my heart” with a sly smirk
Music tempers all these keys, opens their doors with new light
flooding each room, perching on different objects each time
a blue note, turned orange by the days, alights a prism of shadows
the crooner’s microphone croons alone, a symbol of passions
warm vibrations again to come
I bob and sway to children’s songs of other lands
in the same way I move to your jazz variations
with joy of place and sound, with wonder and understanding,
I have no choice but to dance in my seat,
putting weight in my pelvis and shoulders, knowing my gut and my breast

I want to play, I search for toys and find
tiny soldiers hiding among the stones of the hearth
I want adventure and wander among the cinders inside the fireplace
goslings arrive as if to accentuate my childishness, so fluffy
this time the geese, now parents, don’t linger for photographic evidence
from the best side

Music holds history like a jar of buttons. A sound, the design of an age,
revealing tools, technologies, politics and fads
all revealed in only the first few notes of a needle on vinyl,
reminding me of a very different world view.
My innocent, naive openness, my rosy oneness
fueled by false advertising and deceptive equivalencies.
Her voice influences the lighting. His piano changes how I see.
The saxophone transports me through time,
then when the needle stops, I stop. I can’t go on with this manipulation.
I need silence, to rest and reflect. To clean up my mess.
Two lifetimes later, I remember everything
was in gelatin and the water tasted like iron,
but I can’t forget the man begging me for my ticket to the buffet

fresh goslings

Happy Reading and Writing!

Excavating the Mind Round 2 Day 5: Observing with American Sentences

trees in the zoo

Trees in the Zoo

  • Neighborhood trees are in cages; I throw meat at them, but they don’t move.

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

Today’s Enrichment and Time Engulfer

This morning, I was excited to see that one of my library digital holds came in, so today I get to explore Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within by Kim Addonizio.

Here she is talking about the book:

Her first prompt in the book is “american sentences,” Allen Ginsberg’s take on the haiku, a sentence of seventeen syllables. He introduced them in his book Cosmopolitan Greetings. If you would like more information, Paul E. Nelson provides a PDF called American Sentences Workshop. I thought it was fun that he talked about juxtaposition creating tension.

Chapter 17 is “three observations.” I skipped to that chapter to see how Ms. Addonizio approaches her observations and translates them into poetry. She says that when she’s trying to use up some time when waiting, she tells herself to look for three things that are “striking or unusual” and make a note of them.  I like the idea of combining these two exercises. I will attempt to find three striking and unusual things to observe and create american sentences to describe my observations.

Day 5 notes and observations

Poets are people who notice what they notice – Allen Ginsberg

With that in mind, Levi and I set out to notice three striking or unusual things. We stumbled upon the first unusual things right away. Levi pointed out a flower that had fallen, but I focused on a small piece of crumpled foil in a place it had no business. The mystery foil led me to some worrying thoughts and my first american sentences.

  • This foil whispers secrets of teens doing drugs in the night, left behind
  • A small bit of crumpled foil on the walk so out of place like drugged teens

For the next unusual thing, we looked slightly beyond our usual trek around the house and ventured past the end of the driveway. We found this oddly broken and separated rock.

  • This rock, solid and strong through aeons, not cracked, nor broken, but apart.
  • A canyon created, mysterious geological event.
  • Moss and detritus of trees collect on and in your new surfaces.

Our final striking thing was a shocking pink giant rhododendron mingling with the trees.

  • Her shocking cotton candy petals betray her; she wants to fit in.
  • The relationship falters when she blooms; her strength and beauty overwhelm.
  • In a world of gigantic rhododendrons, this flower became tree.

There you have it, the last day of the second round of pictures and observations. I’m glad I repeated the exercise for a second week, so many different and unique observations. Tomorrow the drafts and on Sunday a new poem.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Excavating the Mind Round 2 Day 4: Music’s Influence

music to influence observations

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

Today’s Enrichment and Time Evaporator

Nature Photography

This morning I found some great nature photography posts to enjoy:

CAS Big Picture Natural World Photography Competition

Underwater Photographer of the year 2020

and for laughs

12 Funny Wild Animal Pictures: A Comedy Wildlife Photography Award Preview

Poetry

I headed back to the Rattle Poetry Youtube Channel because I enjoyed it so much yesterday and found this wonderful poem by William Trowbridge “Oldguy Superhero, Counterterrorist.” It made me laugh.

Day 4 notes and observations

Last night I watched Jericho Brown, this year’s Pulitzer-Prize winner, interviewed by Alphonso David, president of HRC Human Rights Campaign. It included so much great information. I especially enjoyed this great quote:

Poetry is the genre of investigation and discovery – Jericho Brown

So let’s get to investigating and discovering.

I thought I would use Visuwords again to create today’s frame. I let it provide the original word which turned out to be tonal. One of the word associations was music. When I double clicked on music, I broke the program! The screen filled with words incredibly quickly then the mass of words and lines danced back and forth across the screen and never stopped. This, in itself, brought to mind how music is a universe, a broad framework that flavors every observation.

Since it’s another rainy morning and I’ll be observing inside, I decided to select a variety of records from my eclectic collection (four albums I have not listened to yet on the new record player) to spice up my observations. I also played with some different lighting: a full spectrum bulb on a stand with a shadow box and Prolite Electronix RTL 30 as a spotlight.

First influence: Anna Moffo – Heroines From Great French Operas (1975)

Anna Moffo

Her voice put me in the mood for more romantic lighting, so I grabbed those thumbtacks I observed in juxtaposition and put one in a previous hole I found in the wall then stung some blue lights and turned off all the others. I enjoyed how the blue reflected on the album cover and matched the glow of the display of the record player.

The spotlight on the plain wall made me want to make shadow puppets. Because the light I used was made of many small lights, It created an interesting effect.

 

Since I was playing, I decided to put on KLAPP och KLANG (1969), a Swedish language record of children’s songs, as the next influence.

Klapp och Klang

I instantly found myself bobbing side to side in my seat and snapping my fingers to the music. I took down the blue lights and turned on all the others. I was drawn to some tiny figures that have been on the hearth since before I moved in. Then I felt like exploring for more toys.

I just looked out the window and two geese swam by with their brand new fluffy babies, so I quickly changed my lens and ran out to capture a couple picks of goslings.

They swam away quickly this time, so back to it. Next up we have Ahmad Jamal- All Of You (1961). This light piano-led jazz has me moving in the same way as the children’s songs: bobbing and snapping.

Ahmad Jamal

Notes:

  • music makes me contradictory: I want to sit contemplatively, but I have to move
  • the mood of the music changes my lighting preferences
  • an object, like a certain microphone, can symbolize the person who uses it
  • the roll of the sleeve on my jean jacket has been preserved through all space and time like an ancient artifact in a museum

Today’s final selection is Alla Pugacheva in Stockholm (1985). This is amazing. A Russian pop star, singing in English, recorded in Sweden and yet, so distinctly ’80s. Oh that saxophone! I remembered that I still have the jean jacket with the pins on it that I got in Sweden and Leningrad.

 

That was fun. I really enjoyed how the music influenced what I observed and how I observed it. Still one more day to go, but I can see how this week’s poem will be very different from last week’s.

It’s Open Link Night over at dVerse Poet’s Pub. Head over and share your favorite poem you wrote this week and read and comment on all the other great works.

Now to play with Kari McElroy’s Musical Alphabet Coloring Pages and explore the music of all the artists she has drawn.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Excavating the Mind Round 2 Day 3: Framing my observations with word association

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

Rattle scheduleToday’s Enrichment and Time Eraser

This morning I got an email from Rattle magazine telling me about the videos they are creating on youtube. I enjoyed listening to Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer who posts a poem every day on her website A Hundred Falling Veils. Not only is she a poet with twelve published books and a new book coming out in the next few weeks, she is also a linguist who gave a TED talk called The Art of Changing Metaphors.

“Don’t think of an elephant!” Now you’re thinking about an elephant. Her ideas on framing inspired me to explore a frame for today’s observations.

Yesterday, Trish Hopkinson wrote a post that caught my eye about word association tools. I decided to try out Visuwords with my frame for today’s observations, inspired by my first look out the window “Wet.” Once I figured out that double clicking on a word expanded the associations, and I could move the clusters around, I had a lot of fun. Here’s what I came up with for the word “wet”:

Wet word association visuwords

 

Armed with inspiration, a frame, and some great words, I headed out to observe my world.

Day 3 notes and observations

To my right, blue sky peeks through. To my left, dark clouds roil.

I enjoy how one lovely camellia, far from its bush, punctuates the pavement.

The drips create a metronome.

Notes:

  • a sky half full or empty?
  • surfaces shine with a wet gloss
  • the gloss enhances textures
  • the air is full of rhythmic drips
  • tapping time with invisible dancers
  • or microscopic dancers within the droplets
  • wet makes the world reflective

There you have it, the third day of the second round of pictures and observations

Happy Reading and Writing!

Excavating the Mind Round 2 Day 2: Odd Juxtapositions Come to Light

an odd collection

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

Day 2 notes and observations

The last time I took pictures in the house, I made a quick note about juxtaposition. I wrote, “I find how objects end up together in space intriguing.” I have never been a stickler for putting things in some designated rightful place. And during quarantine, I have enjoyed pulling things out of the closets. Thus, my home is full of interesting object placement, creating juxtapositions of objects that could create wonder. I thought I might play with artificial lighting while exploring the house, observing my odd juxtapositions.

*Note: None of the objects in these photographs have been moved, arranged or organized in any way. I am observing. This is how I found them.

I started out in the closet to get my clip lights. Levi joined me, but stepped through the looking glass. I didn’t realize until later, that he was sucked into the bass drum. I continued my exploration and observations alone.

I immediately began noticing strange juxtapositions right there in the closet. On one shelf, a small burlap sack rests atop an old newspaper with fascinating headlines. On the shelf on the other side of the closet, a blue fuzzy head buddies up with a container of thumb tacks.

After these initial observations of naturally occurring unusual juxtapositions, I dove into exploring subtle changes with lighting of one odd juxtaposition at a time. I started with some orange lenses I bought a couple years ago for using with my computer before bed. They are supposed to help me sleep. I find it ironic that they ended up hanging out with my books. The lighting changes: room light, no room light one clip light, no room light two clip lights.

Next, a bottle of hand sanitizer and some two pound weights on top of my bookshelf

I left my room and found some interesting juxtapositions on the counter of the kitchenette.

Notes:

  • observing the same things with different lighting from different angles turned my mess into a series of still lifes
  • clutter disappears when not paid attention too, but comes alive under observation
  • groupings of objects tell a story
  • observing how and where I leave things is the true excavation of my mind
  • blur and shadow add suspense to a still life
  • the mini-vac from that angle looks like a dismembered robot foot

I really enjoyed the shadow of the faucet in that last picture of the button jar.

There you have it, the second day of the second round of pictures and observations

Happy Reading and Writing!

Excavating the Mind Round 2 Day 1: Cat’s Eye View

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

Day 1 notes and observations

Today, I thought it would be fun to let Levi be the leader in our morning game of follow the leader. I attempted to let him lead me and see the world from his point of view which entailed many squats, sitting, kneeling and lying on the ground, so I also got a nice workout. First, we observed Max then the bases of trees.

From there, Levi led me into my garden plot that I need to tend to. I was excited to see squash starts in my compost.

squash starts

Levi squeezed through the steps and under the porch. I could not follow, but took some pictures.

Notes:

  • Levi does not understand that he’s the leader, he keeps stopping and waiting for me to go somewhere
  • He also keeps walking up to me when I’m trying to take his picture from a distance
  • there are plant starts in my compost. Yay squash!
  • there’s a whole world under the porch
  • kitty is pouncing on something I can’t see in the grass

Trying to observe the world from Levi’s point of view helped me pay attention to things I might not have seen otherwise, like the plant starts in my compost, the individual rocks that make up the old fireplace, the little piles of dried leaves on the steps, and the lowest branch over the water. I think it’s supposed to rain for the next few days. I look forward to whatever creative ways of observing will come tomorrow.

the bottom branch

There you have it, the first day of the second round of pictures and observations.

Happy Reading and Writing!

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!