Saturday, October 11, 2014

Poetry Prompt #1: Imitation is Authentic

I think all writers and poets probably have a favorite author/poet of their own.  Or, at least a favorite 'piece' of poetry/writing.

I also believe that there's much to be learned by using the work of another writer as a 'model' of sorts; to break apart the different elements and sections of writing, to 'imitate' it in your own style, thus creating your 'authentic' piece of writing upon an in-depth analysis of a completely separate piece of work.  (Try to make it a piece of work you really admire, a favorite)

So, for this week, I have chosen to 'imitate' a favorite piece of poetic prose I read recently.  I will simply break each line into a separate step that must be followed.  And, when followed, the result of completing each step will have created a whole, separate piece of my own writing. 

The idea is not to copy from another.  Rather, break apart how their poem/writing was written.  Once you do that, you  can create your own piece merely by using the structure of their piece as an example.  Think of it as breaking up the lines and descriptions of the selected piece and using it as a guide for writing your own.

If you're confused or not quite following, go ahead and read this piece of prose poetry I have selected:

"First Light"
by Candace Pearson

She wakes to a flash of red neon, jangle of electric green
and white.  So it' can't be morning yet, morning when she'll pray
her old pins work, legs tumble from bed to floor.
May the tamale man stand at the corner of Echo Park Avenue with a cheap desayuno,
and may she remember how to find the door out, the only stairway down.
In daybreak's shimmer, may the ceiling not be chipped and peeling like egg shell,
but bright, impossibly bright blue while the bowler
on Jensen's Recreation sign overlooking Sunset Boulevard
roll his endless, winning strikes.

Now, I will break this piece of writing up into a series of steps, that once followed, will result in a completely new poem, unique to your voice and style, yet emulated by the above piece.  Follow these steps to create your own poetry/prose:

1.  What do you normally wake up to?  Tell a few specifics...colors, smells, what do you hear?  The writer above speaks of colors, a jangle.

2.  Give some details about the beginning of your morning.  Do you hope for morning, resent it?  Is it still dark out when you awake, or does the morning sun hurt your eyes?  In the prose example, the writer denies it is morning, perhaps she is hopeful she won't have to get out of bed just yet.

3.  Write a few sentences about your morning routine.   Do you roll out of bed, tumble, fall, crawl, jump?  Is there something in your morning routine that you hope still works?  Something you use every single morning?  The person above talks of hair pins, hopeful they still work, her legs tumbling from bed.

4.  What is a mainstay in your community. A person, an old building?  What are their/it's characteristics that you can always look forward to, perhaps on your morning commute?  The person above speaks of a tamale stand/man and where he's at, she includes a characteristic as well, the desayuno.

5.  Talk about finding your way outdoors.  Do you live in an upstairs apartment with stairs, an elevator?  Do you walk down a long hallway, or merely off a front door stoop.  Take the reader (briefly) on your everyday journey to get 'outside.'  The writer above speaks of the stairway and the peeling ceiling.

6.  Talk about something (in your immediate surroundings, preferably something you see as you make your journey outside) old, married by time, that you wished you could make new, or more presentable 'while'_____ (insert a cheery element from your town, someone you know, something positive that's always happening, perhaps the old man at the corner pool room who always wins at 8 Ball).  In the prose example, you see the writer wishes the peeling ceiling was bright, then uses the word 'while' to  add an element of atmosphere in reference to the bowler at the recreation, what the bowler looks like, where the recreation center is located.

7.  Compare the newness of the object in the above sentence to the person you spoke of and what they
do well, something inspiring or uplifting or a pleasant mainstay (this will be your last line).  Above, the writer speaks that the bowler she compared the new ceiling to always rolls his endless, winning strikes.

Using the seven steps above, I have written my own poem.  Notice that while it is modeled by the piece above, and the seven steps derived from that piece, it is still authentic.  Nothing was copied or plagiarized, rather my new piece was inspired and born merely from deeply analyzing and modeling a personal favorite piece of writing from another author.

Here is my modeled poem:

"The Morning Rush"

I wake to the shrill flash of an alarm,
Electric spotlight of an ipod clock
Calling from across the room where I’ve
Forgotten it after a late-night gas-station trip
for frozen cappuccino and scratch-off lottery.
Outside my window, the winter moon winks
Behind the tops of bare, black oak trees
And I wonder if it’s already morning.
Morning, when I stumble like a jumbled heap
Of old laundry to the ancient bathroom
Of my town apartment and pray
The faucet still spits out warm water.
May the hamburger joint still sit center
Of Main Street with its vintage barstools
And homely old men who have coffee
And trade stories about better days.
And may I make it down the long
Wooden hill of creaking stairs,’
My palm gripping the old hand-rail
As I warily watch for the spindly legs
Of misplaced spiders trying to evade the cold.
In the fluorescent glow of my downstairs
hallway, my world away from the world,
where I sometimes escape to devour
the sweet, other-worldly sin of romance novels,
may my secret sitting spot shine itself anew
between the second-hand wicker chairs,
an unpredictable rearranging of  
old straw and ripped cushion
before my eyes as miraculous
as a disheveled Lazarus crawling from the crypt
as the mail-lady dodges cat-calls from angry
neighborhood dogs along Depot Road
and stops by the chipped brick of my doorstop
like a smiling welcome wagon.

Now it's your turn!  Using the seven steps outlined, and my modeled poem as a guide, it's time to write your own!