This month, our topic at Tweetspeak is farming. I grew up less than a mile from Chicago’s city limits; the “el” was my nighttime lullaby. I hear or read word the word farm, and I immediately think nature, and well, I am just not that girl. I respect nature. I understand we need it, but I’m not trying to be out in it learning lessons and cultivating stuff. Honey, I don’t care are how cute those Wellington boots are at Target — they don’t fit me.
Needless to say, when I sat down to plan the writing prompts this month, I didn’t think I had much to say about farming, especially not farming and poetry. If creative nonfiction is the Chicago Skyline, then poetry is, well, I’m sorry, but it’s farming.
Or here’s another analogy. I love clothes — the more the merrier. Creative nonfiction is a colorful, huge closet of dresses and skirts, pants and tops I can mix and match. Poetry is the minimalist trend that’s all the rage right now. Don’t get me wrong, you minimalists are stunning in your greys and roses and whites and simple golden rings on you index fingers. You are poetry in motion, as they say, but I just cannot. Give me my orange heels that are a half-size too big. Give me some black dress pants, and let me wear it with my T-shirt that has a goat jumping over a fence saying, “I’m so over it.”
What I’m trying to express is this: poetry is hard. Farming is hard. You have to make very careful choices because decisions count. Ain’t nobody got time for a talking goat jumping over a fence.
So, I hit the books. Specifically, Tania Runyan’s How To Write A Poem, and randomly opened it up to p. 16 where I read, “Now it’s time to find the poems inside.” This was an invitation.
Runyan suggests freewriting to find a poem and gives several topics to explore. I changed the exercise slightly and freewrote everything that came to mind when I thought of farming. Runyan suggests setting a timer and writing without stopping until that time is up. (I love her tip to actually write “I don’t know what to write,” if we get stuck.)
Here’s what I came up with (I typed exactly what I wrote on paper to practice what Runyan instructs. Don’t worry about editing/revising at this point — just write):
My dad and I grew raspberries and once a sunflower in a patch of dirt in our backyard. The raspberries were delicious, warm and plump from the sun, but they didn’t stay with us. Something about them was wild and they kept moving down the street. The sunflower grew so tall my dad got a ladder for me to stand on and he took a picture of us — the flower and me. I’m wearing a green polo shirt and holding my Cabbage Patch doll, and the flower is learning toward me like a friend. Shortly after that, a squirrel bit its stem to eat its seeds.
After freewriting, Runyan says to take a break (another tip I love), then read what we wrote “without making changes.” She asks, “What surprises you? Entertains you? Makes you catch your breath?” We are to highlight those parts, then rewrite those lines, creating what will most likely be “a skeleton of ideas.”
Here’s my skeleton:
My dad and I grew raspberries, and once, a sunflower
in a patch of dirt in out backyard.
The raspberries were
warm and plump
from the sun.
They didn’t stay with us.
Something about them
My dad got a ladder for me to stand on —
he took a picture of us,
the sunflower and me.
I’m wearing a green polo shirt,
holding my Cabbage Patch Doll.
The flower is leaning towards me,
like a friend.
I think I can scale this down more, and as Runyan suggests, I’d like to fill in some gaps. However, I’m pleased with the seeds I’ve planted. Over the next few weeks, I’ll tend to this, perhaps, like a farmer tends to his soil. Maybe I can even find room for a talking goat.
Thanks to everyone who participated in our recent poetry prompt. Here’s one from Shannon Mayhew we enjoyed:
My girl is a sea sprite.
I’m standing in the surf–
frothy waves shimmer like liquid quartz and jade,
churning circles around my shins.
And she is joy itself, in the form of a child.
She laughs into the breaking waves,
falling into them and allowing them to receive her,
and they push back, holding her up
and offering their own sudsy celebration.
She looks back at me after each leap,
eager to share her bliss as it pours
from its secret infinite source.
Now she splashes towards me
and gifts me with a kiss,
squishy and cold on my salty lips,
before she plunges back into her element.
My feet sink into the silky sea floor
and I am held in the most vibrant of places,
called now, called Home.
“I’ve never read a book like this before, and I’ve never read writing like this before. Callie digs into her own memories of being a teenager to write about teaching eighth grade. The lens she uses is Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, itself a story about teens, and the three stories — hers, R&J’s, and her students’ swirl around each other, interacting and informing each other, and giving us insight into all three. I highly recommend this book to anyone who’s ever been a teenager themselves, or loved teens, or Shakespeare, or found themselves standing on the edge of something new, searching for wisdom at how to take the next steps forward.” – Jessica Kantrowitz, Amazon Reviewer