Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday Poetry Stretch - It's Back!

I took a bit of an unexpected break this month, but I'm happy to be back with you. For whatever reason, Mondays this semester have been hard to manage. I've been teaching 2 classes back-to-back, beginning at 4:00 pm and ending around 9:45. That means I haven't been getting home until a bit after 10. By then, if I haven't posted a stretch, it doesn't get done that day. so, my apologies for being lax this month.

I've been writing lately to some of the exercises in The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises From Poets Who Teach, edited by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell. This one is entitled "The Night Aunt Dottie Caught Elvis's Handkerchief When He Tossed It From the Stage of the Sands in Vegas" and was written by David Wojahn. In essence, the challenge is to write a poem about a family member meeting a famous person. Here are the guidelines for this.

  • The encounter can be real or imaginary, but should at least be plausible.
  • The family member, not the famous person, should be the protagonist of the poem.
  • The narrator must know the "inner workings of the family member's mind," and must write about the family member as a "character" in the third person.
  • The famous person can be anyone in politics, entertainment, or the arts.
  • Generally, a longer poem is needed (at least 30 lines) to develop a portrait of the family member.

Here's a model poem for this exercise.

by Lynda Hull

Whole countries hover, oblivious on the edge
of history and in Cleveland the lake
already is dying. None of this matters
to my mother at seven, awakened from sleep

to follow her father through darkened rooms
downstairs to the restaurant emptied
of customers, chairs stacked and steam glazing
the window, through the kitchen bright with pans,

ropes of kielbasa, the tubs of creamy lard
that resemble, she thinks, ice cream.
At the tavern table her father's friends
talk rapidly to a man in a long gray coat,

in staccato French, Polish, harsh German.
Her mother stops her, holds her shoulders, and whispers
This is a famous man. Remember his face.
Trotsky, a name like one of her mother's

Read the poem in its entirety.

Other example poems include History of My Heart by Robert Pinsky and Cuba by Paul Muldoon.

I hope you'll join me this week in writing a poem for this stretch. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Universe

    He is even more beautiful
    in person, though not tall,
    except to an eight year old.
    The yellow dye still clings
    to the tips of his hair.
    I do not notice
    the lack of muscles.
    He is much more solid
    than my small father
    who has brought him here
    to discuss movie promotion.
    My father's job.

    "Vince!" My father starts,
    moving down the hall
    to greet him, hand out.
    I notice nothing
    but the glow of my pole star
    edging in through the door.
    I race like a rocket
    towardsthe uncertain man.
    My father catches the wind
    of my passing.

    I leap into his arms
    long before television
    becomes his gateway.
    "Mr. Universe!" I scream,
    mistaking his role
    for his real life,
    as later he will be asked
    to comment on someone's
    back pain, lump under the arm,
    hernia, sore throat;
    Ben Casey in form
    and uninformed.

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