Prompt #31 Getting Up in the Morning and Looking Out

You may have noticed that I was offline for a couple weeks. I visited my mother in Maine. I had a nice break and enjoyed time with my family. Everyone needs to do that as much as possible.

While I was there, I continued to write a poem every day, or to try to, which amounts to the same thing, I hope. Several mornings I got up and sat outside my bedroom door, or on my mom’s porch, drinking my tea and just looking at her view. Typically I start my mornings with a book, or with my phone and email, but to start the day without language — just with observing and day dreaming — was a strange and powerful experience. A gift I didn’t know I needed.

I mentioned in a previous post that I’d taken a workshop with Sharon Bray. One of the things she talked about is the difference between writing in a journal as a way to brain dump or emotionally vomit and writing in a journal as a record of observation. She described a process like this: get up, go on a walk, make tea, open the curtains and look out, write about something you see. The process of looking out before you start writing will do what she called “hijack the dump” — that tendency in us to complain in our journals, to whine, to criticize, to navel gaze, to think about ourselves first and foremost every time we pick up our pencils or open our computers. I know I’m guilty of it. How many of my poems have the “I” in them? How many of yours do?

While I was in Maine with my mom I tried this. It’s much harder to do than you might think. I was only able to do it a little bit. I had tried it at home in California a few mornings when I’d woken up with nightmares, and sitting in the yard and looking around me was a way to try and focus on something besides those bad dreams. It’s hard. The “I” keeps creeping back in. Something in your ego wants to be the center of your poems, the center of your art, no matter how much you don’t want to sound like you are so full of yourself you might just have to scream.

For prompt #31 I urge you to try it. Get up and before you read, look at email or Facebook, before you let language in, look out. Describe the old chair in the yard, the bird making all that racket, a single leaf on a tree. I described a broken flag pole in Maine. Eventually I wrote a draft of a poem about my father and the waxing moon. I don’t know how much I managed to stay out of the poem, but I like to think I took my muse out and gave her a new kind of exercise.

Here’s a photo of the view from mom’s house, and if you look closely you can see the flag pole. The photo at the top of the post is of me, trying to get in to and stay out of the view.


Prompt # 29 : Postcard Poems

I attended a workshop on Saturday. I took a break from being the Cupertino Poet Laureate, from being a poet/teacher with California Poets in the Schools, I went back to school and was just a poet who needed to remember her muse. It was heaven.

The workshop was hosted by the Stanford School of Medicine Program in Arts, Humanities and Medicine. The workshop leader was Sharon Bray. We did six writing exercises in eight hours. It was exhausting. But revelatory. And I made new friends. And the lunch was yummy.

One of the exercises, which I can safely snatch and share here (I don’t think Sharon would feel it is her patented idea) was to write a poem on a postcard. She had us sit outside, walk around, and then write on the postcards she brought. Of course, she infused the exercise with her signature calm, love, humor and wisdom. But there are other (many!) postcard poetry spaces in the world; here are a few:

Anyhow — it’s an easy challenge. Look outside your window and write a tiny poem that fits on a postcard. Then send it to someone you love. Be sure to take a photo of it first. Share it here with us! I’ll post mine in a few days.

Poem postcard image by David Lehman on the site.

June 8, 2014 Note: Here’s a link to my collection of postcard poems. Enjoy!

Postcard from David Lehman. Postmarked July 27, 2011, New York. – See more at:
Postcard from David Lehman. Postmarked July 27, 2011, New York. – See more at:
Postcard from David Lehman. Postmarked July 27, 2011, New York. – See more at: