Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Poem Sketching

I discovered a book a couple of days ago. It is a book,  that dares you to take a peek, but you know you are going to get sucked in. "Writing Poetry From The Inside Out: Finding Your Voice Through the Craft of Poetry" by Sandford Lyne. Sandford has written poems for thirty-eight years. He has taught poetry writing for over twenty-five.  In 1981, during a seminar about personal growth, he had a dreamlike vision of an Inner Master.  His vision:  "His head was shaved and he wore an embroidered robe. He stopped in front of me. Sandford says, "I instinctively cupped and lifted my hands. From his cupped hand, be began to pour a stream of diamonds into mind, thousands and thousands of diamond quickly spilling over onto the floor, forming an expanding lake of diamonds at my feet.  I understood these diamonds represented poems.  I kept thinking, I can't write all these poems.  He smiled and bowed and kept pouring, when finished he bowed and left.  When I had this vision, I had already decided to leave teaching. I had been a lecturer in poetry writing, but did not like fixing student's  poems."  

In 1983, he was invited as a visiting poet to a public school.  "I was working with "remedial English students" the first three days were Seniors. The first poem I received after guiding them not to rhyme, just play with words...moved me  so much I put it in my first poetry collection by young people, "Ten-Second Rainshowers".  I remembered my vision years later, when I found a  journal I wrote it down in."  He has since then, taught poetry writing to over 50,000 young people and several thousand adults.
Sandford shares how when you write a poem your circle of awareness changes. "It can grow by a mite or a mile." He suggests a journal to write in, to gather your words or thoughts. He calls his journal his writer's studio. Today we are going to try out his concept called, "Poem Sketching".

When artists want to paint, they usually sketch first. Sandford uses his journal to sketch words. He uses phrases he loves, words, fragments, anything that catches his eye. He believes that everyone who writes a poem reinvents poetry. He states writing poetry sharpens our inner and outer vision. 

Poem sketching is taking a group of words, usually four, but can be any number and develop them into combinations of sentences that "feel" like poems. This helps awaken your ability to produce images in words. 

His idea is to get the (word group) words into sentences or fragments that fit together, that make sense to create a poem. YOU can change the form of the words, instead of silent, use silence. You can use the words in any order and repeat them. You can also add sentences that don't use any of the words or substitute a word, instead of bird, perhaps crow. You can create your own word group and make it larger a dozen+.  The author suggests you think of this process as an uncarved block.  YOUR challenge is to pick a word group and see where it leads you. If you see a second word group you would like to use, add it on.  You might want to pick one that doesn't fit with your poem. "One of the purposes of writing poems is to surprise ourselves." if you prefer to write your own poem-sketch words.  Here is how:  Word groups used for poem sketching have three things in common: variety, concreteness(the reader sees a picture in their mind), and surprise(an unexpected word that pushes the writer's imagination).  He divides the words into categories: emotions-angry, sad; human conditions-
 blind, homeless; pick  indoor or outdoor places-porch, kitchen or mountain, beach. He doesn't recommend proper nouns. Pick a season and select some weather words-rain, wind; select a specific creature-a butterfly, a crow, fox; general or specific plants-dogwood, trees, flowers, roses; minerals objects-stones, silver, diamond; man made items-fence, chair, overpass;  spiritual things-God, angels, a cross; celestial things-moon, sun, stars, comet; things from literature, history, or the imaginary world-warrior, dragon and add an earth, air and fire elements-ice, flame and dust.  Ideally he suggests you want three words from different categories, but they could fit.  Now add a fourth surprise element word and an energy one.  He suggests Emily Dickinson poems are rich with word-group ideas, as well as Basho and Issa, and Pablo Neruda.

Here is a poem sketched by one of his students, Jalyn Ayo

Word group:  wheelbarrow, soil, compost, seeds


My mother
was hauling soil
into a wheelbarrow.
To me
she was
hauling a heavy
My mother
mixed the soil
with the compost.
To me
she was 
mixing her happiness
with her
My mother
was planting seeds
in the ground.
To me
she was
hiding her fears
under lies.
My mother
was watering
the seeds.
To me
she was 
My mother
gave the flowers
time to grow.
But to me
she was 
trying to find
out who
 she really was.   

Here is one of the author's poems:


Soon, soon,
you will be free,
ancient boat,
your hour come
without the dread,
without the weight,
your ropes as soft
as rain-soaked bread-
and then the light.

He recommends keeping your poem sketches in a journal and come back to them.  "Some poems need time to ripen, to bring in associations not available to the first draft. The wait can be worth the rewards." 

His tip:  "...the most important work you will do as a poet is the work of watching and listening-watching your inner and outer worlds, listening for the voice of the Knower within." 
When you write your poem, be sure to share your word group with us.  It can be from the list or create your own.  The author mention one  inner and outer poem he loves is from Mary Oliver, "Why I Wake Early".  He suggest after reading five of her poems you are longer the same person.   I look forward to your sketches! 


Kerry O'Connor said...

This is exactly how I work a lot of the time! When I have an idea, I start jotting down words and phrases over a period of several days sometimes. When I feel ready, I sit at the computer and start to rearrange them, kind of feeling out the poem. I take long breaks, even in the middle of writing to let my subconscious work its way around problems. As a matter of fact, I'm busy in one right now:)

Karen said...

What a coincidence Ella! I just reserved this book at the library!

hedgewitch said...

Wonderful prompt,Ella, and I echo Kerry, it's a lot like the way I usually work--starting with little rough notes scribbled all over the place when they come, then refining them into something over time. I'll have to see what happens with this idea of creating a specific group of words--sounds like an excellent approach.

Anonymous said...

"The Flower" is a surprisingly powerful poem, particularly this line: "To me she was mixing her happiness with her sadness." Giving ourselves time to grow. This is a thought-provoking piece.

This is a great quote: "...the most important work you will do as a poet is the work of watching and listening-watching your inner and outer worlds, listening for the voice of the Knower within."

I was moved by the story about diamonds being poured into his hands, his disbelief that he'd ever write that many poems.


Anonymous said...

I also love the idea of having a "writing studio" within the pages of a journal. I desperately need new notebooks and pens.


Ella said...

Shawna-This book is remarkable! I loved this idea, too. He suggests writing quotes, favorite poems, cut out anything that inspires and glue it in. I don't have a studio, so I see this as a new door into my imagination! I'm on chapter 5, but skipped ahead to write how to create your own word groups. There is a chapter on positive and negative aspects, too.

hedgewitch-I too write on napkins and random bits of paper and toss them sometimes in my purse or in a file. Think of those who collect asking you, "What do you collect?" words, ideas, inspired photos and magazine clippings. :D
I had to share this... I can't wait to read more!

Karen-I am thinking it wasn't a coincidence Karen! It was fate :D

Shawna-I loved the diamond story and knew it had to be part of this post! I thought it was beautiful and so reflects the facets of what we all can create. We might have to redirect our attention, our focus~

There is another process he uses. He compares Chinese poets to using their selves in they words...I think I will put this formula on my post today. It is long and I didn't want to make my post here, any longer, from what I have read so far. I could write a book on his book! :D

THE FLOWER was written by a fourth grader! I love it~

Kerry-I love this! I bet we all are gathering in unique ways. I sometimes think of the words like seeds. Sometimes they find me like a dandelion seed in the wind.
I am really excited about this book and this prompt! Can't wait to read everyone's poems~ I like hearing everyone's process :D

Mary Ann Potter said...

I am a long-time word collector and already had this little set of words and images ready to go. This post prompted me to write what has been seeking a form!

Ella said...

Mary Ann-I love that you shared this!
I'll be by to visit~

Herotomost said...

Sounds like I need to read this book...not quite the way I write...I don't think there is a "way". I have so many things dashed out on backs of envelopes and such. I probably would be a better writier if I took some time to let things sink in. But being a lazy writer, that is hard sometimes. Alot my poetry comes form sounds and interaction with people....I love people. Gonna try this though and hope for the best...Thanks Ella.

Kerry O'Connor said...

I was working with the words:


I have wanted to write more poetry based on African themes, which I have long neglected, and this idea came to me yesterday. I have been researching and gathering my words, then phrases. As soon as the first or last line comes along fully formed (in this case it was the last line), I'm ready to begin.

Marian said...

interesting... i will try not to obsess over my word choice. hee.

Ella said...

Herotomost I don't believe there is one way. He suggests many exercises in the book and I will share another one on my blog, probably on Friday.
I think what you are doing is working! :D Do what speaks to you~

Kerry-I'm intrigued but remember we can use up to a dozen+ words...not just four. His technique starts with four to get one to play. Then build on... I can't wait to read your poem :D

Anonymous said...

A fourth grader?! Oh my, that kid must have an amazing mind. Such depth in the thoughts expressed.


Kateri said...

Thanks for a great prompt...I was able to pull together a a poem that has been floating around in my head for a couple of days.

This sounds like a book I should the quotes you pulled from the book.

Laurie Kolp said...

This is a wonderful prompt, Ella. I can't believe a 4th grader wrote The Flower... I love it. I will see what I can come up with.

Mary B. Mansfield said...

What an interesting prompt! This very similar to the way I approach the wordle words from over at the Sunday Whirl. A bit different for me going into an explanation of my creative process on the blog, not sure if I did that great a job explaining what I did, but if not at least I included pictures lol.

Thanks so much, Ella!

Ella said...

Mary-I loved that you shared so much! I think I will do another exercise in the book, Friday on my blog and share my "writer's studio" ;D You did a great job! Thank you

Laurie-I know I couldn't believe the insight of a child that young! It was profound and honest~ I loved it... Play with it, even if for fun~

Kateri-You would love this book! There are more lessons throughout this gem. I love that, the author shares what he think is amazing.
He shares insight, too
I am happy your poem came through... Kerry also had one swimming in her, too.

Shawna-I know right! I couldn't believe it... The author doesn't say it, but I get the vibe that public school had a lot of talent!

Fireblossom said...

I pasted together my four words, some feathers, and other junk. I hope it satisfies! :-)

Margaret said...

I cant' tell you HOW MUCH I enjoyed this exercise! Thank you.

Ella said...

Margaret-I am glad you liked it!
I am loving this book :D

Fireblossom-I will be by! :D Looking forward to it~

Daydreamertoo said...

I had a go at this. I usually write down a few random words or, sometimes ask Chloe to give me 10. And write from them. Never thought of it as poem sketching before. Nice way to express it. :)
Great prompt Ella.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I'm getting around late; we have a guest staying with us, camping out in the living room. So not much computer time for me. :) I suppose that's a good thing, right? Doesn't feel that way, though.


Laurie Kolp said...

Yeah- I finally got mine posted!

Anonymous said...

great prompt - I used one of the word blocks in the image you posted:


only I replaced silence with god...

hedgewitch said...

Had a busy day running all over the place, but I'm back now to finish the rounds--thanks everyone who's been by my place--much appreciated.

Mystic_Mom said...

How strangely wonderful that two prompts happened to be in the same poem. When I was doing the 'in the moment' I did (for the first time) make a list of words. Wanted to share here as well! Great stuff poetic friends!

Lolamouse said...

It's after midnight and I'm FINALLY finished with my sketch poem! This was really tough for me. Not the way I usually work at all. I'm more of a cogitate and vomit type! Trying something new is good for the brain, though. And it gives me something for my bag of tricks for when I get stuck. Thanks!

EJ said...

This was a great prompt, thanks! I'm a newbie to writing poetry, and this was a fun way to approach writing a poem. Thanks again.

Hannah said...

This was great!! Really got my brain working this AM thank you!!

Susie Clevenger said...

I write from scribbled notes, from observations, from photographs, from listening. So many things leave their notes with me, some I write down and some are written in my thoughts. I love this challenge Ella. Thanks for sharing it.

Ella said...

I am so happy you enjoyed it~ It will share another one from the book. I, too liked trying something new and seeing where it would take us~ Thanks everyone :D