The poet is the priest of the invisible. – Wallace Stevens
Every day, we enter the world through our senses. When we are receptive and engaged we let the world enter us, and it often gives us something significant in return.
In previous exercises we have touched on big stories, events that loom large and singularly in our lives. Today’s prompt is a reminder that the ongoing process of personal mythology can also flow through the very small details of our day. Also, that the making of meaning can go both ways – sometimes our myths find us.
Today, take a stroll outside, through a bit of nature if you can, and choose an object that stands out for you. Let intuition guide your hand rather than a process of conscious decision-making.
Alternately, walk through the interior of your house as if it were a new or a wild place, considering the objects you find in the same way. See them as if they were newly found, or simply recall that they once spoke to you.
(Walking through my own rooms I’m struck by the following items: a redwood walking stick, a paper wasp nest, a piece of West Virginia quartz, a favorite ring, a raven’s feather, a jade plant cutting in a drinking glass, a rough star ruby and Ellie, the pink stuffed elephant that was given to me before I was born. A slow meander through my back yard turns up a small stone with vivid green moss, a twist of rusted barbed wire and an owl pellet with tiny pale bones.)
Things have their within. – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Take your found object and sit with it a while; soften your looking and let it occupy as many of your senses as possible. Really notice its colors, its textures, its scent, the sound it makes, if any, when you run a finger over it. Its taste, if you dare.
Acknowledge this object as the door into your poetic beholding. It is, for now, the world’s way into you.
Man has no Body distinct from his Soul; for that called Body is a portion of Soul discerned by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age. – William Blake
Begin to write it all down and be as detailed as possible – the idea is to absorb yourself in the object and in your writing for as long as you can sustain this kind of attention, and then for a little longer. When you think you’ve got it all down, go back to the object and see what more it has to say – there’s always more. Stay open and stay grounded in your senses, in sensory description. I find that this exercise often yields startling results when I continue to scribble for about six minutes longer after I think I’m “done” with an object.
Read back through your writing and choose the words, phrases and impressions that resonate for you right now, and make a poem out of your object. Consider giving it a voice of its own; let it tell us a story or a secret.
Today, right now, its story is also yours.
I think this is true for all artists. My senses are very important to me. – Sharon Olds
Some other questions that might inform your poem:
* did you choose this object, or did it choose you?
* does your object make a good metaphor for something going on in your life right now?
* if you had a preconceived idea about your object when you initially chose it, how did your thinking change as you observed it closely?
* did any revelations, insights or answers about something unrelated come to you?
* over the course of this exercise, how has the object expanded? how have you expanded?
* why does this object want to be in your hand, and in your beholding, today of all days?
* why does this poem need to be written, today of all days?
Extra credit: consider writing in form, today. Since we are observing a physical object, give it some physical space to fill on the page. Try writing your poem in twenty lines of blank verse.