April 9 Poetry Prompt – First Stories

We’ve touched on how personal mythology has its foundations in the ways we began to learn making sense of things when we are very young. Today’s prompt is a shorter one, inviting you to recall your earliest daydreams, myths and make-believings, the first stories that helped you piece together a model of your world. 

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To a certain extent, our early world view was determined by the hopes, fears and fallibilities of our parents, and the values and expectations of the cultures we grew up in.

We can all easily list a few stories from childhood that we’ve outgrown: Santa Claus and the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy. Your mother may have told you she had eyes in the back of her head, or that if you swallowed too many watermelon seeds you’d grow one inside you. 

But we also had the power of some choice, as children. Popular culture in the form of literature and television, for example, can provide the framework for powerful mythologies at any age. What myths did you choose to enter, as a child? What small worlds captivated you so much you wanted to enter them, that through games and imaginings and roleplaying you could enter them? When was play done in serious earnest? 

For me it was a dark, mystical Sherwood, the worlds of National Geographic magazines and Lewis Carroll, Greek (then Egyptian) mythologies, the firm belief that animals could talk, and the persistent fantasy that my real mother was somebody other than the one I lived with. For others it’s the Hundred Acre Wood , Narnia, imaginary friends and helpers, monsters in the closet. 

Over time, we shed our childhood myths but they leave deep impressions on our inner landscape. They are significant to our mental and sentimental bodies. Sometimes they echo back to us years later in dreams, in physical sensations, in strong emotional responses that surprise us. Sometimes they inform our “adult” mythologies in ways we aren’t conscious of until we start tracing their threads through the labyrinth. 

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For today’s poem, choose an early story structure that still has resonance for you, or write about some wild childhood thing that’s been “civilized” to a distant memory. 

Extra credit: consider writing a prose poem today. Use the form to build out your childhood myth in great density of language while exploring the narrative line. This form breaks certain rules and is not necessarily limited by the standards of grammar, syntax or tense. Use this to your advantage as you work with powerful early images that may demand a sense or nonsense of their own.

Give yourself permission to be as playful or serious, light or dark as the poem and your remembering require.

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One Response to April 9 Poetry Prompt – First Stories

  1. My first memory on reading this was of making mud pies. After a lot of thinking about different things I was interested in, like My Little Ponies, and TV shows, like Smurfs and Fraggle Rock, I decided to go back to that most vivid memory of my childhood make-believe: making mud pies in the back yard.

    Here’s my tanka: http://kirstencliffwrites.blogspot.com/2011/04/april-pad-challenge-personal-mythology_09.html

    Cheers,
    Kirsten

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