April-days of poetry-study

Hello everyone,

I’m happy to report we’ve had rain showers this week. Here in Seattle we have such a reputation for rain. People say that it rains all the time, but I think my friends in Florida get much more rain than we do. We often have the drizzly, mostly-mist days that don’t give you a lot of rain volume overall!

Here’s something I saw this week when I was walking around downtown. I looked down at the sidewalk and thought, wow, that looks like a bear’s claw.

Photo by Theresa Barker.

After I’ve been doing all this poetry this month for National Poetry Writing Month, I think images might be popping into my brain, unbidden. Finally! Hah!

In the background I’ve been working on planning for a new novel. I’m cautiously optimistic, and I’ll be blogging more about that soon. When NaPoWriMo is over!

Some of the recent prompts for poems have been a bit surreal. That’s something I can say about the following piece, which I wrote last week (spoiler alert – it may be a bit of a downer, sorry!):

Poem and photo by Theresa Barker.

The goal was to use repetition and the inspirational poem was of this pattern – repeating one line to the next, followed by a new line. I liked how it turned out. Even if it is a strange mix of words and images…!

Take care and good writing,

Theresa

Briefly II

Hello everyone,

I’ve been studying poetry for the past two weeks with National Poetry Writing Month., in which each day I write a new poem, from prompts and looking at other poems. Some days are better than others! – Which reminds me, it’s important to be gentle with oneself even when we are striving for excellence and perfection. (Maybe especially so!)

This is one on cherry blossoms, from the point of view of the blossom! – Inspired by a prompt to present a point of view other than the usual.

Poem and photo by Theresa Barker.

And this one inspired by a poet writing in the 1700s, which celebrates his cat:

 

Poem and photo by Theresa Barker.

Did you know? Poetry comes from a Greek word meaning “to create,” poein.

I just learned last week that prose comes from a contraction of proversus, “to turn forward,” thanks to Merriam-Webster’s “Word of the Day” podcast!

Take care and good writing,

Theresa

Briefly

Hello everyone,

Photo by Theresa Barker.

I was walking down the street last week with my son on the way to his student apartment, and suddenly we were surrounded by clouds of white-pink cherry blossoms. The entire block had tree after tree, planted in the parking strip, of these gorgeous flowering trees, the extra-fluffy type of cherry blossoms that feel like puffs of cotton candy. It was stunning. I stopped and breathed in the scene. I took a photo, too, and even if it doesn’t quite convey the feeling of being immersed in the petally flowers, at least it may give you something of the idea of what it was like. 🙂

This week I decided to try something new: National Poetry Writing Month. Each day in the month of April you write a new poem, following an optional prompt. Here are two of my attempts from this week:

Inspired by “The Two Trees,” Larry Lavis, http://www.napowrimo.net/day-three-5/.

and

Inspired by “[a poem about Naomi; unsent]” by Rachel Mennies, http://www.napowrimo.net/day-six-7/
Have you tried something new lately? Have fun writing, painting, photographing, poeming, singing, walking, dancing, enjoying time with friends!

Take care and good writing,

Theresa

On the ebb and flow of creativity

Hello everyone,

Photo by Theresa Barker.

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity. Where does it come from, what makes one feel more creative, less creative, how we seemed much more creative as children than we do as adults, how to capture more moments of creativity … etc.

Just at the moment I feel like I’m getting nowhere on a major story project. Yup, I have writer’s block.

One thing I have learned is that simply demanding more productivity from myself as a writer does not help. If anything helps, it’s usually a side project that doesn’t have high expectations or imagined outcomes. So, as a side project, I picked up the book Creative Workshop by David Sherwin, a visual designer and writer on design. The book holds 80 projects, mostly for a visual designer, to develop their craft.

Aside from the 80 projects, though, in the first 8-9 pages Sherwin talks about ways to come up with more ideas. If you’re like me, you are used to basic brainstorming; you start with a blank piece of paper or a white board/chalkboard and jot down every idea you can. The wilder the better. But here David Sherwin goes beyond basic brainstorming. A couple of my favorites:

  • Word Listing, where you make 3 columns, put a list of ideas in column 1, pick one of those ideas and expand on it in column 2; in column 3 you write down opposite words to columns 1 and 2, then connect relationships among the columns for new ideas.
  • Picture Association, where you grab a bunch of different photographs and illustrations and jot down ideas suggested by the images; I like Flickr for widely accessible photos, but there are lots of image-banks out there.
  • Idea Inversion, where you take a concept that is not quite working and write down everything that is the exact opposite of it, then mix and match with the original idea to come up with an improved idea.
Photo by Theresa Barker

Although I had picked up David Sherwin’s book for no particular reason, when I came across these multiple methods of brainstorming I decided to experiment with some of them on my story. I’m happy to report I have made some little progress. Today I’m probably going to start over from ground zero – again – but at least the notion of where creativity comes from has been widened for me.

Just for fun I did a couple of design challenges from David’s book. This was from an exercise where you have to make an alphabet out of everyday objects. I arranged yellow Ticonderoga No. 2 pencils into letters. It wasn’t as easy as I thought! Since the pencils were all the same length, it was hard to get curves to come out. But it also helped me think about the way objects need to be broken down into smaller segments in order to be able to complete a task or reach a goal.

Here is the complete alphabet made of No. 2 pencils:

Photos by Theresa Barker.

And, for my work this week here’s a short prose piece on a line from the poem “Rhymes for a Watertower” by Christian Wiman.

Rhymes for a Ghost Town

After Christian Wiman

The town is so flat she sees her thoughts pass by her on Main Street before the sun goes down. The dusk is the color of brown-orange candy her mother used to buy for her in the five-and-dime. The row of school desks harbor ghosts of memories read by candlelight. A row of houses nearly demolished by harsh weather and winter storms. A courthouse spreading its wings getting ready to fly. A bank clock’s lingering hands. A gleam of storefronts not quite spare enough for her spare thoughts. A memory of libraries in the dusty street.

Take care and good writing,

Theresa

For the love of cats … and writing friends …

Hello everyone,

Photo by Theresa Barker.

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about connections. When you’re a writer you spend a lot of time alone. At a desk, in front of a computer keyboard or pad-and-pen. Writing. Yes, that’s important. To write you need to time alone, to create scenes or poetry, express yourself, to build a body of work. Just like an artist needs time in the studio to paint, to sculpt, or to create in whatever medium they use. Yes. You need to be able to tolerate solitude.

But.

There is such a creative joy in connecting with other artists or writers! This week I had coffee with a writer friend who told me about her outlining process in her new novel. I had a chat-room conversation with a writer-friend in the UK about using a 5-Act structure for her novel. I exchanged comments on poetry – and on cats – with poet Luanne Castle, and on Chinese food with Asian Australian writer Mabel Kwong, on snowy weather in the Pac. NW with blogger Kim Stirling, and on creativity and the UK’s climate with photographer-extraordinaire Amy Maranto. (And the tea in the photo came from a dear friend from college who lives in Houston, Texas!)

It really helps. When one goes back to one’s own desk to create more art, it really helps to know others are thinking of you and you of them. It’s a whole community that sits at that desk with you. Hah!

Photo by Theresa Barker.

And when all else fails, there’s always the love of cats to see you through. Here is my cat Pickles getting some much-desired attention. Prrr!

A recent “Poem-A-Day” from the Academy of American Poets caught my eye, “Helen Considers Leaving Paris,” by Jeananne Verlee. I wrote my own little riff on it – below.

Lois Lane Considers Leaving Superman

After Jeanann Verlee

After two glasses of presecco
Don’t mistake me, I’ve pondered this before. But today I’m wistful. Two glasses, not one, because he’s out on another rescue mission. Tomorrow: The Talk. Luggage. New apartment (him, not me). More hopes.

While walking the dog
Superman won’t even notice, even if Clark Kent will. I’ll send the dog to doggie day care, take my briefcase to work, file new stories, and slip something to salon.com. What it’s like to live with Superman, no really. A girl’s guide to sleeping with superheroes. That outta get my name on the map. Like the Kardashians – oops! maybe not.

While paying the bills
It was so much easier before. Workplace romances, especially if unrealized, are never at risk. You come into work, you smile over the water cooler or break room coffee, you stay in your own lane and he stays in his. Until. Why’d he have to tip his hand? That first rescue seemed like the scoop of the century. Little did I know.

When Superman comes home at three in the morning – again
Call up White. He’s the publisher, he’ll understand. I need reassignment. I need distance. I need time away. Maybe something overseas. As long as. Clark will take it hard, Superman will hardly notice. Laundry. Clean shirts. A goddamned date night out once in a while. Maybe there’s a book in this. Someday?
.

Take care and good writing,

Theresa