When he said we must cut off
our hair, we said nothing.
We’d already stripped the house
of its timbers – the rooms’
painted skins sagging inwards,
membranes that swelled with the wind,
the emptied lungs of some
drowning in our heavy air.
This is another one that I’ll add to the “interesting, but wtf?!” files.
It began as a clearing exercise that I first came across in Behn and Twitchell’s The Practice of Poetry (fantastic book!). The original is from Cleopatra Mathis, and is called “An Emotional Landscape”. Essentially it comes down to this:
- Listen attentively to a poem that you don’t know, preferably twice.
- Without referring back to it, write down any words or phrases that you remember, or anything triggered by the poem.
- Imagine a journey you might take, in a real landscape. Use what you have written down to write a poem about that journey.
I tend to skip part three and just use whatever I have written down to generate the poem on its own. I’ve done it quite successfully on my own with poems that I don’t like (a way of salvaging something from the wreckage?), but it’s especially good in a group setting. Even if two people select the same words, they never make the same journey.
In this case I used the resources on the Academy of American Poets website – they have a good range of audio files, which is ideal. I picked one at random with an interesting sounding title: “Physical Plant” by Claudia Emerson, played it twice, and wrote down the following:
physical, machinery, daughters,
red pillows for kneeling on,
ark, halls, stalls, rushes,
lost hair, nests, and birds.
Not sure where this one will end up going – I have in my head a definite use for the hair, a reason why they were told to cut it off. But maybe the poem doesn’t need any more than this? (Probably not a sensible question to ask yourself during NaPoWriMo!)