As Though I Knew What I Was Doing

© 2010 David Parker

The short prose poem of yesterday totally ruined me. I wrote like six of them and they were all pitifully dramatic and try-hard. It made me wonder why I’m doing this whole write-something-everyday-for-a-year thing. I thought by now, it might come easier to me, but it seems to be getting harder and harder. And I think it’s getting harder and harder because I’m kind of still expecting to be struck with the magical Something-to-Say. And today, when I subjected my students to the prose poem assignment, I realized that maybe this task has been so arduous for me because I haven’t been following my own advice.

Two things I always tell my students: writers keep notebooks, and writing is thinking. I haven’t kept a notebook since I started this project and I’ve spent a great deal of time staring at my screen. If I were in my own class, I’d be failing. So when I started today’s Writing Workshop with my students, I followed along with them and probably got more out of it than they did. For instance, the very idea of a prose poem forced us to analyze what makes a poem a poem when there are no line breaks (we came up with concrete imagery that shows an emotion, idea, or experience). Then we started building our poems together. First, choose a major life event that you can remember very clearly. Next, freewrite about a specific moment from that event that captures how you felt and why that moment was important, focusing on the five senses. Then take all that crap you wrote down and find three or four sentences to scrap together.

At the beginning, the kids were reluctant. The thought of writing for five minutes without stopping was unthinkable. But no one was ready to stop when I called time–not one out of nearly 70 kids. And most classes wrote for another ten. Then, because the space was so limited, it forced them to think about all kinds of lovely things like sentence structure and using strong verbs and how to choose an image so that it does something in a poem. They can’t wait to share their stuff with each other tomorrow, and I’m kind of proud of the work that we generated together as well. Win!

So my challenge to each of you readers is to post a three– or four–sentence prose poem here. So we can all see it. I dare you. Here’s mine from today (about my first teaching job):

The room smelled of chalkboards, dust, old papers–like the inside of a drawer that had been shut for years. Empty desks were pushed against the walls as though they’d been in a wreck. Behind the teacher’s desk was an old wooden student chair that looked like it’d been chewed up and spit out whole. I collapsed into the chair and began scratching out lessons as though I knew what I was doing.

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Dark Though It Is

© 2010 David Parker

When I have trouble writing, or when I’m having trouble with life in general, poetry seems to always save me. Poetry comforts me the way religion used to. Because it teaches us about who we are and the world we live in. Because it celebrates the beautiful, inglorious condition of being human. Because I don’t read poetry, I swim through it until I break the surface.

So I began this morning with poetry, and I feel better already. I picked up Steve Kowit’s In the Palm of Your Hand, and I’ll be working through it here. Today, I tried my hand at the three– or four–sentence prose poem (p. 26).

I write a poem about eating fruit on Saturday morning, hear it in someone else’s mouth, throw it away. I begin a piece about how nothing is sacred, find myself reading Perez Hilton instead. Every false start feels like a failure–I write anyways.

*I took the title of this post from W.S. Merwin’s poem “Thanks,” which, like so many of the poems I’ve read, I encountered through Emma Bolden (at The Yawp). The poem now resides on my bathroom mirror.