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.
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.