Throwback Thursday: How to Listen to a Rock

Last summer I attended a writing conference for the first time in many years, and for the first time since I completed a graduate degree in Creative Writing degree (2015).  I needed to choose what workshops to take.  At first I was drawn to fiction classes – that is my main area of writing.  But the night before the conference I decided to do just the opposite – I took workshops in things I did not know well – poetry, personal essay.

That turned out to be an inspiring choice.

I took three poetry classes, and each one was an amazing experience.  I don’t consider myself a poet – I write poetry only for myself – but learning more about poetry makes my writing more lyrical.  It turned out to be a terrific choice.

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Today for Throwback Thursday, I would like to share a poem from one of the conference workshops with you.  In this workshop, we all came into the room and sat down together, expecting to write from poetry prompts, example poems, etc.  Instead, the instructor told us we were to go outside and find a rock, any rock, whatever size, shape, color, weight it might be.  Then we were to spend a few minutes studying the rock.  Holding it, feeling it, smelling it, even touch it with our tongue, if desired.  And then … to listen to the rock.

“Hold it up to your ear,” she said.  “See if you can hear what it says.”

Hmmm.  O…K… This was pretty unstructured, especially for an engineering mind like mine.  But part of me was very excited.

I went outside, down the steps of the building (in the background of the photo below), and out to the parking lot.  A lovely rock, that’s what I was after.  I could picture it in my mind.  A beautifully colored rock with depth in its colors, maybe an agate or milky quartz.  Or even one of those perfectly smooth perfectly round slate-gray stones that populate our Puget Sound beaches.

Then I saw this rock.  It was lying at the edge of the parking lot.  I wanted to pass by – it was too ugly and misshapen – it was broken! – to be a good subject for my poem.  Too ordinary.

I tried to walk by – I did walk by – but only a few steps further on I turned back.  This rock was not beautiful to look at.

But perhaps it had a story to tell.

After examining the rock, holding it up to my ear to see what it said – yes, I did that – I wrote a poem.  Actually, I wrote several short poems.  This one (below) is one of my favorites.

I hope you enjoy it!  And writing about it today reminds me that sometimes the most ordinary things in our lives are the things with a story to tell.

Photo by Theresa Barker.
This Broken Rock 
Was Found on the Side 
of the Parking Lot

No ruffles this one
Not agate
Not smooth
except on one face.
Not a skipping rock.

A broken heart
   lost edges
a tiger's tooth

Its inner walls insane
not quiet, 
Not Innocent.

Please feel free to share your thoughts, about ordinary things or ordinary moments, about how you find inspiration for your own poetry and writing, or unexpected discoveries in everyday life!

10 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: How to Listen to a Rock

  1. Aw, it is beautiful, Theresa! I love it. My rock! And it truly represents many things about us, or many of us or just about anything you can think of in our lives. Most importantly, you are absolutely right – the most ordinary at first glance has the best story. It’s not about the things that arrive with drum rolls, red carpet, ruffles and hype. AND, the introduction is just as touching and awesome. We must really try to chart new lands. 🙂
    Work has been hectic with everyone back in full force so I’m a little behind creativity but doing my best. Must catch up. 🙂 Much love and hugs. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw, thanks, Anne! You’ve inspired my Throwback Thursdays. This poor little rock did seem like a metaphor for parts of our lives, parts that are bashed and battered, but which have done nothing but serve in the cause of common good. 🙂 Have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

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