Saturday, September 5, 2015

Poetry Prompt #31: A study in Localities

An old grocery store in my area.

I oftentimes speak to younger poets who feel that because they have not traveled the world twice over, nor had any grand, exotic adventures to nether worlds, that they have nothing tangible to write about.

It seems, somehow, that aspiring poets & writers have misinterpreted works of the classics (one such I can think of would be Kerouac) to mean that if they are not traversing the globe or attending every single annual festival (of whatever variety), or constantly mingling with crowds in cafes and museums...that nothing in their lives are worth writing about.

Many of them, sadly, seem to be missing the mark:  poetry and writing is about observation, oftentimes in it's most simple, basic form.  I can't begin to count how many inspiring poetic pieces I have read that were written from everyday observations:  interesting people, overheard conversations, something as simple as awaiting a flight or momentarily losing one's self in thought at a stopped traffic light.

Folks, these everyday appearances are what make poetry.  When you string together a timeline of dinner conversations, traffic stops, the people you meet, and the things you're putting together a general map of your everyday life.  And in between these little pieces of life are the very things that represent good writing.

The local downtown 'swinging bridge.'  This bridge traverses part of a river.  And with lose boards and all, people still use it as a shortcut into the historical downtown area!

That's why, for this weeks' exercise, I am going to urge you to look for inspiration locally.

I want you to be a tourist in your own backyard.  I think each town owns an atmosphere unique to it's locals, customs, and history...yes, even the one you currently reside in!  So go out into the town.  Look at the esoteric value of historic buildings and landmarks, the history of your own town, restaurants and your usual hangouts.  Walk among these things and places and people of your very own town and allow them to inspire you.

Carry a small notebook along with you, take notes, jot down pieces of overheard conversations.  Write down interesting parts of maps and signs and slogans and business descriptions.  Observe certain people who draw our eye...write down how they look, what you found interesting about them.  Spend a whole day touring your town...or merely park somewhere and observe for a couple of minutes.  Allow yourself to see everything as a stranger, see things for the first time and write what you find most notable.  Then, take your notes back home and write!

'Mud Lick Falls' a natural waterfall nestled in the hills of my home.

Some Tips for Writing Local:

1.  Look for historical sites and landmarks.  Things that have remained much the same as customs, people, older ways of life have come and gone.

2.  Consider what your town is most known for.  What famous people did it produce?  What trade is it most known for?

3.  Consider the natural beauty of streams, lakes, waterfalls.  Monuments, statues, parks and rivers.  All of these are atmospheric and should spark a homely feeling all their own as they are original only to that area.

4.  Look at the people.  Seek diversity among them.  Compare and contrast ways of life.

5.  Be open minded.  Don't drive through town seeking only to find an interesting landmark or a busy restaurant where you can observe without being noticed.  Look around slowly, mindfully aware, before taking notes.

And if you wish to share what you write, you can always leave a comment or link below!