Poetry Practice

img_0012I have been regarding my writing as a practice, much like yoga. After adopting some of the exercises from The Practice of Poetry, edited by Robin Behn & Chase Twichell, I have decided to work daily to improve my practice. The book is filled with helpful exercises created by writing teachers. One exercise that I particularly liked was “Our Suits, Our Selves” by Christopher Gilbert. He suggested to “Make a metaphor that likens the self to an inanimate thing.” I have always wanted to try this, but always felt a bit awkward with the technique. Still, practice is practice, and poetry should be practiced.

Still, I had trouble thinking of what inanimate object would work for me. To get my creative juices flowing, I took a walk, in the cold, with my camera. The sun streaked across the fields. The snow, melting a bit, encased the weeds with a lovely, glittery effect. The melting ice on the ponds cracked in interesting formations. Perspectives from family and childhood began to surface.

For example, when I thought about family and first impressions, I remembered my grandfather’s old, slightly worn, wing-backed chair. My mother called it his Captains chair.

I am my grandfather’s slip covered, high-backed chair.
I am warmed by fallen pipe ashes rubbed into my arms.
The scent radiates like the fire I sit beside.
The wooden slats that hold my stuffed cushions creak
with the weight of holiday children, fighting for my space.
My patterned back and whites, frayed since his daughter’s
wedding day; he stood, she sat, tiny hands covered in white flowers.
I am not cleaned often; cushions thrown to the floor while a
hard-bristled broom whisk away kernels of popped corn, walnut
husks, shells, and one lost domino.

I often heard music coming from the den, raised two steps,
flanked by pillars and garden picture windows.
I saw two brown-haired little girls, dressed in old ball gowns,
Taffeta and silk slipping from their tiny shoulders as they
twirled skirts and landed like sugared buttercups on cake icing.
Pushed against the dark walnut chair rails, I made way for
card tables, chairs, white linen, bone china and engraved silver.

From my familiar living room position, I can see his framed
US Naval picture, which he moved from his dresser in the room
at the end of the long hallway. the stairs led from the kitchen
from which he brought his wife tea. She rested in her elegant
sleigh bed, warmed by her silk bed jacket and crackling upstairs fire,
until she died.

As my skin becomes thinner, he rarely leaves my side.
He pushes hard against my arms as he reaches for his cane.
I don’t hear the swinging doors from the kitchen as food
is brought to the table, nor do I smell Christmas ham,
gravy, roasted chestnuts, sugar cookies or steamed greens.
I don’t want to go, but I brace myself as cold hands cover
me in white, hoist me out of my comfortable room
over the hard woods floors and onto the bed of a cold, idling truck.

Susan Ward Trestrail, 2016

So, this is my practice for the day. I hope that you try this. I will be revising my poem over the next few days. Let me know how it works for you!

Susan

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