Lines, Stanzas, and Sound, Focusing on the Craft of (re)Writing Poetry

In this draft of the working poem “A Slip of Pink Paper” (working title too) there are 13 stanzas.

3 Lines

Stanza 1, 10 and stanza 12.

6 Lines

Stanza 3, 5, and 7.

7 Lines

Stanza 4, 8, and 9.

Random Lines

Stanza 2 has four lines. Stanza 6 has nine lines. Stanza 10 has one line, stanza 13 has two lines.

Now that I have broken down the stanzas and the lines the big question is why? Not why did I count all the stanzas and lines, but why did I choose these line breaks? Right now the honest answer would be “a feeling“. I felt like that was where the breaks were for no rhyme or reason. No pun intended. And, if I’m being really honest with the work, there is no rhyme or reason to the stanzas or the line breaks, and that’s a problem. That is just one problem with the poem.

My Conundrum

Ideas come easy for me. I can pour out the words on a page like pouring a drink into a glass. I know for some people this is a real struggle. In fact, there are tons of sources out there with prompts set up to help writers, poets, or screenwriters to generate an idea. People need prompts to get them going, but fortunately I don’t need that. I don’t need an idea generator however, I do need help when it comes to everything else. I can splash paint onto a canvas, but what am I actually saying? I can also be as delusional as I want and tell myself it is amazing, a Work of Art ,and I can bust out as many writings as I can, post them up on instagram, publish my own book, dust the chalk off my hands, and call it a day. In one way it is kind of nice to be able to tell yourself you are naturally good at something, and ignore all “the haters” and the critics, or the silence. Yet, I don’t think it is about the outside voices. I think it is about your inner voice. My inner voice knows I am lazy when I just post some writing and call it a poem. I know I did not put in the work. I should be grateful for the idea because poets and writers work their asses off to craft a poem out of an idea they struggled to find. I am grateful, but it is disrespectful to the craft to not do the work. It’s like when you hike a mountain and reach the peak and see all the people who took the gondola lift. They smile and breath easy in their fancy clothes and non hiking shoes, taking pictures of the view that you worked so hard to see. This is okay of course sometimes you just want to take the gondola, but you shouldn’t pretend that you did the work, and you should understand that you missed some amazing beautiful things on the way up, and you may have learned something on the hike to make the next hike better and more beautiful. It’s cliché, I know, but the real reward is in the discoveries you make through the work. The reward is when you solved the problem, and the next time, you know more of what you are doing.

Yet, what if you don’t know what you’re doing? To keep with my current metaphor, what if you don’t know how to hike, or you’re out of shape? What if you don’t know what to pack, which way you’re going, how long it will take, which direction are you going, which path, to take? The conundrum comes after the words are on the page. Now what? How do I make it better?

I’m Not Going to Tell You What to Do

I’m not telling you what to do, but I can tell you what I am doing. I’m reading poems. I’ve heard from poetry classes in the past, and current things I’ve read that if you want to be a good poet, or improve your poetry, you need to read poetry. In the past I read a lot of poetry especially during my time as a literature student, oh so many years ago, but then I stopped. I needed to find a job. Writing wasn’t giving me money, and I didn’t think it would give me money; and money makes the world go round; and keeps food on the table; and the wolves from the door; and all the other idioms. Writing wasn’t going to do any of that for me. So, I stopped trying. I stopped trying to get better, but I didn’t stop writing completely. I did stop reading poetry though, and Netflix and Youtube became a greater part of my life. I think escapism is okay if you need a break, but if you’re unhappy because you aren’t doing what you dream, all escapism does is stop you from ever reaching your dreams. Netflix and other movie and show platforms can be a wonderful distraction from life and living, and so can Youtube, but Youtube can also be a great educational platform if used wisely. There is a lot you can find about writing poetry on Youtube, some good some bad, but you can find something. I happen to like Poetry Show and one one of the posts was a video called the Golden Rule. What is the golden rule of poetry? Read poetry. My own intuition verified via Youtube.

Reading Poems

I don’t have a lot of poetry books with me at the moment, but I do have a few. As I work on ” A Slip of Pink Paper” I’m reading Mary Oliver’s, Dog Songs. I bought the book for my husband because he loves dogs, and I happen to love Mary Oliver. She is a master of poetry and therefore a great poet to read. As I read beyond the enjoyment of the words, I am looking for her choices in line breaks and stanzas. I want to look for how she uses sounds from the words and language she chooses.

What I Have Done So Far

I’ve crossed a lot out. Don’t read, just look.

(1)Shoved deep into the bench seat
of an old Ford truck 
we found a kitten.

(2) The bench seat, like a black sofa,
leaned against the chicken coop.
We used to play house 
and pretend outside was our living room.

(3) It was dead, of course,
the kitten,
you can't stuff a body,
no matter how small,
between the stiff cushions 
of a Ford bench seat.

(4) Other animals had been found, recently
Cats, kittens, chickens, a mouse.
They said it was a coyote
or a fox
but how can an animal
stuff a kitten into an
abandoned black bench seat?

(5) There was that day when...
A porcupine attacked the dog.
The dog howled in screams
as men pulled her from the truck.
It wasn't a porcupine that killed the kitten.
This needed human hands.

(6) We ran home
to tell our mothers.
We climbed over split rail fences,
through dead and dying orchards.
across old rail tracks that once
transported swine, beef and grain,
but now the trains were ghosts
and the rails vanished into the

(7) We reached the farm house,
the white peeling paint revealing rot.
We'd lived there, but not long, two families without 
fathers, and many kids. Sometimes men
would visit. Some fathers. Some not. 
They'd bring beer.

(8) We were out of breath from running.
We heaved and pressed our palms against our knees.
Ma! we called. Ma! It's dead. 
A kitten! we called.
It was empty.
There were no mothers.
No fathers. no adults.

(9) Stapled to the door
A pink paper. Animal Abuse it said.
The animals were all gone.
The dog with the porcupine quills.
The cat missing kittens.
The puppies. The chickens.
All gone.

(10) A dust kicked up around our tired feet.
The pink paper waved in the breeze 
the tape held it to the door.

(11) A car was approaching from the distance.

(12) They would take us next
put us in foster homes
send us to strangers.

(13) Soon we forgot all
about the kitten.

I focused on the sound of the words. For example: I pulled out words that ended in “d” began with “d”. Died, down, found, abandoned. Peeling, revealing, pull, small, adult. Consonants and vowels. What did these collections of sounds do. What does shock sound like? How about surprise? Fear? Discovery? Swimming? Laughing?Then I took out all of the words and started over with the same idea, but told in a new way.

The Work in Progress

In its current form the poem is now ten stanzas, but the structure is still in the works. I’m happier with the language, but I have yet to find the shape. This is what I have so far:

Dust swirled about our bare feet 
as we kicked heels against
 the abandoned ford bench seat.

The chicken coop, empty of chicks, 
and large enough to be a playhouse was our living room, 
the dying orchard our t.v.

Through dry trees and sun-cured leaves
Beyond a battered split rail fence
We could see the once white house.

The line breaks and the stanzas are merely place markers at this point, but already I like the language better. I will change the title, once again, as I have removed all references to the pink slip.

One Last Note

It takes a lot of time and thought. It takes some pacing, some frustration, some thinking its going nowhere, but I’ll keep working, and one day it will tell me what it is really trying to say, and then hopefully you can hear it too.

A Memory to a Poem

Notes on a Slip of Pink Paper.

Where did this come from?

These are my workshop notes on A Slip of Pink Paper. You can read the poem in its current form here.

This poem about childhood comes directly from childhood events. The poem is nowhere near complete and has already gone through many sloppy transformations.

There Have Been Various Titles:

  • The White House
  • The House in Durham
  • Durham, C.A. 1978.
  • Notes on a Slip of Pink Paper
  • ?

It is still a work in progress and titles tend to come last. In fact, many of these “poems” are just ideas that need to be worked and worked before moving into what I call finished or complete. Before being able to say that this poem is complete I need to ask these questions: What is the poem trying to say? What am I trying to say? Is it worthwhile? Is there a landscape? Does it progress? Does it lead the reader somewhere? How about the language and word choices? Are they strong, weak, too much, too little? The line breaks and stanzas, do they work? Is there a reason that they break where they break? What tools do I use to create feeling, substance, and tone? Do I have structure? Do I make use of sounds? Honestly, critically, this work is just words slapped haphazardly onto the page and moved around. The real work still needs to be done. 

We climbed over split rail fences, 
through dead and dying orchards. 
across old rail tracks that once
transported swine, beef and grain, 
but now the trains were ghosts 
and the rails vanished into the dirt.

This is probably my favorite verse because of the imagery, but where is the sound? What am I trying to convey? Do I want to create a feeling of running? How fast are they running? Are they scared or excited? Can I create one or both of those feelings through my word choices?

Oftentimes, a poem comes from a memory, or a feeling. I rarely have something that I think is right on the first draft, but I also rarely return to the work to improve it. This is a problem that I am here to solve. My new conviction. Much of this lack of work comes from me not always knowing what the poem is doing on the page in the first place. I get it out there instagram quick, but in truth, it is rarely good or ready. That’s okay as long as I am willing to do the work to make it better. What is it truly about?

I’ve decided to try and explore this mental block through a new practice I’ve titled, Where did this come from?

So where did this beginning of a poem come from?

Memory. Definitely a Memory.

In 1978, my mother moved us into a white house in the small town of Durham in Northern California. We lived with some of her friends. A couple of women who were divorced from their husbands. I believe we shared the house with one or maybe two other families. One woman, her name was Georgia, had three children, but there was another woman named Debbie and she had two children. These women were my mom’s friends. 

The Town

There isn’t much I remember about the town itself. I believe I spent half of kindergarten there because there was once a photo taken of my kindergarten class, but I  know I spent another half of kindergarten in another town because I have stronger memories at the second school. In fact, I don’t remember anything from kindergarten in Durham, except maybe a faded memory of a playground. Why I don’t have any other memories of the place may be because we didn’t live there for long. I remember having my birthday, which is in February, at my kindergarten at Ponderosa elementary not Durham elementary. I also remember a couple of students in my class at Ponderosa. I remember making candles in milk cartons, and painting, and that if we behaved well in class we could sleep with a stuffed animal named Grover, a character from Sesame Street. I also remember that I absolutely loved my kindergarten teacher Ms. Carelson. I don’t remember anything from Durham, not a teacher, not a classmate. My guess is that we lived there in the summer and fall since school photos tend to be in the beginning of the year, and because in my memories of the white house in Durham it is always hot, dry, and dusty. 

The House, The Place, The Kids

What I do remember about my short time in Durham was the house and the animals.This was the seventies and our mothers’ liked to party. There wasn’t a lot of parental supervision and I don’t remember any other homes nearby. There were many people in and out, and many children running wild into the orchids and surrounding fields. We lived at the end of a long dirt road that was off another road. Across from that road was a fire station. I have a memory of walking to the mailbox to check the mail, probably on request of the moms, the other children were walking with me or I was walking with them. Most likely a boy, Billie, was in the lead. He was the oldest and a bully, and would often boss or lead us other kids around. The mailbox was an old steel post mount mailbox with a front access door posted on a tall wooden post. I liked the sound and pull of the door whenever I opened or closed it. It was located at the end of the dirt road, and across from the fire station. When we reached the mailbox we discovered wrapped around the base of the wooden post a giant rattlesnake. It was a huge, fat snake that wrapped around the post at least three times. When we approached, its rattle rested on its body. It wasn’t frightened of us. There was a boy, maybe in middle school or maybe high school who killed the snake. I don’t remember the killing, but I remember the boy taking the snake away in a wheelbarrow. The snake’s tail and rattle draped over the side and dangled as it was wheeled away. I also remember Billie asking if he could have the rattle and the teenager said no. I was happy about that because I didn’t like Billie, and Billie usually got whatever he wanted, but this boy was too big for him to try to take it by force. 

What in the Poem is Real?

The dead kitten is real, and so was the porcupine and the dog. There were snakes, many snakes. California mountain kingsnakes and the rattlers. The pink sheet of paper is also real. There was a day when we came home to find the sheet of paper taped on the front door from animal control. I know my mother had a dog, and we must have been away from the house when animal control came as we were able to keep Baby (the dog). There was a chicken coup that smelled terrible, and rabbits, and feral kittens. All of these animals died. We talked about ghosts and played with spiders. Billie would abuse us there. Hit us. Touch us where we didn’t want to be touched. Hold us down and punch us in the chest. When I think back on these very faded and dimming memories, I wonder, was it him killing the animals or was it someone or something else? Perhaps there was a fox or a coyote, and Billie just found the animals and hid them for us to find. It’s hard to know. A child’s memory blends and bends. For example, maybe the snakes were in another house. Along with the chicken coup. We lived with these families more than once, and we visited them at the various homes where they had lived. We moved many times, more than 30 times before I turned 15.

The Process of Making a Memory into a Poem

Most memories become impressions, and those impressions can become stories and poems. The question is what do I, the poet, want to say in the lines of the poem? I had never mentioned the rattlesnake, or the boy, or Billie or even the women in the lines of the poem. Why did the memory stay? The greatest impression was of the animals. Many animals had died there, and it disturbed me. Over and over again the poem and the memory return but lack shape. The house. The snakes. The kitten. The fence. The orchards. The chicken coup. The friend. This imagery returns. 

Even if a story or a poem is from real life, once it is on the paper or on the screen it becomes a part of the reader. Yet, this can only happen if you can make it accessible. So, we break it down to imagery and words and sounds that cause an emotional response. What response to do I want? Nostalgia, childhood, innocence, exploration, discomfort, and unease? The writer must decide. When a child discovers that not everything is okay in the fairytale, and the adults in charge seem to be gone. That’s possible. Is there a word for that?

Now the work goes from where it was born to how it must grow-up. How to make it grow and work and become accessible this is the process. The process of making a memory into a poem.

This is the next step.

How to Read A Poem

I first began a blog in 2008. It wasn’t this one. Back then I had no idea what I wanted to do with this whole blogging thing (still don’t, but I’m getting closer to the idea). I have about four separate blogs, a ridiculous mess, and I’m putting things into order. For the next few posts on this blog I’ll be transferring some post that were written in 2008, and posted elsewhere. 

In 2002, I had taken a poetry course with a teacher named McDowell at Portland Community College. I actually dropped the class. That had nothing to do with him, and everything to do with me. The following post is from notes I had taken while attending his course. I can’t take credit for all the information, and if I had his full name I would post it here. If anyone happens to know his full name send it my way, and I’ll update this and credit it properly. The notes were all taken by me (by hand even) and they are also adapted into my own language and examples, but the ideas are McDowell’s.


  • Read it all the way through.

What if you don’t get it? Its form is strange, the language isn’t familiar, the imagery is abstract- forget about it- don’t stop reading. Just let it go and read it all the way through from beginning to end- try to relax your mind and just read.

  • Read it again but this time read it out loud.
Poetry like plays are meant to be heard. There are always exceptions to every rule and form but just go with this one for the purpose of the exercise. Of course, some poets may feel that their poem is meant to only be read but so much poetry is meant for the mouth, the sounds that the words make can sometimes reveal meaning that the quiet mind may have missed. I hated Shakespeare till I had a very passionate theatre professor teach a course on Shakespeare. It was an acting course, but he could not impress more that Shakespeare was meant to be heard not read. Once I began reading it out loud slowly without attempting to “Act” it I finally began to understand much of the language.
  • Word by word
A trick in writing poetry is the idea of taking away- Imagine that the poet’s first draft is filled with tons of words swimming aimlessly on the page, with each reread the poet scoops out each unnecessary word that may take away from or slow down the meaning of the poem. There is a definite art to this and I am often awed by the work of a clean and crafted poem. How does the poet find the perfect word or image to convey a thousand meanings or one single thought or idea where so many others end up writing three sentences to try and say the same thing? So what’s this mean? If you don’t know a word look it up. That word, that one word could be a secret key in the telling of the poem besides it can help increase your vocabulary.
  • Look for the Imagery
I love imagery. For me it’s what grounds the poem. The poet is putting the reader right there in the place of the moment, the feeling and the action- read this bit from Dylan Thomas’s “After the Funeral”
I know her scrubbed and sour humble hands
lie with religion in their cramp, her threadbare
Whisper in a damp word, her wits drilled hollow,
her fist of a face died clenched on a round pain;
And sculptured Ann is seventy years of stone.
To me that description is so vivid- I can see her hands, her face and also get an idea of the kind of woman she was in life. I’ve never considered myself to be a poet or much of a reader of poetry but the type of prose writing I enjoy reading and writing are often filled with the vivid imagery.
  • Read for Organization
Who is speaking? Who is the poem addressing? Is there a pattern? What is the pattern, does it have anything to do with the meaning? What is the tone? How are all of these elements put together? Take the puzzle apart.
I’ll be honest with you, this is pretty much where I stop and my mind decides I’ve had enough of breaking the poem apart. Unless forced by a grade, I’ve often neglected this part of the process, but if you love poetry and you want more out of the poem going through this process can be very rewarding. When I read the Death of the Ball Turret Gunner  by Randall Jarrell with these questions in mind I felt like so much was revealed to me. I knew the poem was about war- but after reading it with these questions I saw the birth in the poem the purely sad and tragically empty affects of an individual position within a war and what it does to a body. The visual image of there being so little left a person physically that what is left can be washed away with water. That’s powerful.
From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in it’s belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.
  • Read for Technique
The craft of the writer. Metaphor, simile, personification, metonymy, meter, rhyme scheme, adaption, adaption of sound to sense and use of symbols.
If I didn’t get through step five you know for sure I didn’t get through step six unless assigned for a course. My mind fought this process until I took a course with David Biespiel at Portland State University. As a teacher he had a way of making poetry come down from it’s lofty elitist cloud of flutes and angels, and stand on the ground in dirty work boots and a human voice of any color, any gender, any class, and suddenly I could see technique. If you happen to live in Portland, Oregon and have the money and the time I recommend taking a course with him at The Attic (or any of the teachers there) or if you are a student at PSU and he is teaching a course you should take it. He has a wonderful way of removing the fear out of the poem. “Poetry is for the working class”.  He’s a pretty great poet too. Still, that doesn’t mean I am such a disciplined reader that I always look to find the techniques, but if you want to explore your poem at this level like I mentioned in the above step you can make some very rewarding discoveries.
    • Read it with all the above– I’m just going to quote McDowell’s bullet point here:
  • Often a poet will go through dozens of drafts of a poem before allowing it to be read by anyone else, much less published. Dylan Thomas often went through 80 or 100 drafts. You can be assured that if you are alert, you’ll gain more from another reading. Poems aren’t like newspapers, to be read once and then tossed into the recycling bin. Each year you’re a different person; you’ll find that when you return to poems read years before, the good poems will seem to be telling you exactly those things you learned in the interim; they’ll seem like different poems. Every poet, every age, every country, every emotion, every climate, every language, every temperament produces different types of poetry. If you don’t like a poem, do it the justice to find out what about it you don’t like, and then move on to a different kind of poem.
I’d just like to add: if you want to figure out why you don’t like a poem take the time to figure out why you don’t like it, but if it doesn’t appeal to you don’t strain yourself to find out why- maybe you just don’t like it. If you are new to poetry find a poem you like and put your love into discovering why you love it, and then if you go on to be a lover of poetry maybe one day you will stumble across that poem you turned away, and perhaps this time you will see it differently. In the interim maybe you’ll learn some new things that make you feel that you want to put your energy into finding out why it doesn’t appeal to you or maybe you still just don’t like it. What I’d like to emphasis is don’t let go of the idea of poetry even if you’ve read a hundred poems and you never liked them maybe somewhere out there is a poem with your name on it. Remain open to the art form, one day it will speak to you and to you alone.
Speaking of difficult poetry I’ve often struggled with Sylvia Plath stumbling over her metaphors. Most of the time I feel I miss the meaning, but even getting one poem is incredibly rewarding to me so I’ll leave you with one I “got”.

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see, I swallow immediately.
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike
I am not cruel, only truthful –
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me.
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

Sketching Poetry advice from Robert Hass

In my last post I had mentioned the first of my online classes through the University of Iowa and the Canvas project- did I mention this course was free? There is good in the world. I had really enjoyed some of the suggestions that Robert Hass had offered for coming up with ideas for poems and which are all apart of the beginning of the course of How Writers Write. I’ve been journaling/notebooking, scraping, and sketching since I was a teenager, but I had never really thought of it as a part of my writing process. Honestly, I’d never really been sure what I was doing and I definitely didn’t know what to do with all of the words, ideas, and thoughts. My notes and writing have always lacked discipline and I’ve gone months with out writing a word, so having this class is a nice way to start jotting down some randomness.

In my last post I also wrote out Robert Hass‘s breakdown of sketching. My understanding of it is that you don’t really plan out your thoughts or words but just let things fall as they may. It could be nonsense, it could be bad, or you could get something really inspiring, but the outcome at this point doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are generating some ideas, some words onto the paper.

  1. Start with a basic line
  2. write a second line: try the call and response- let the second line surprise you.
  3. Write out three lines which is the rhythm of the body
  4. Write out four lines- the rhythm of the mind.

His first video instruction was to look around your room, and your space and write a single line. I had stopped the video and wrote down 5 lines based on observations around me.

  1. This empty bottle waits for me to fill it.
  2. On my night stand I see a Chinese warrior with a bronze Japanese rabbit at his feet, and the bone of an ancient civilization safely kept behind a framed piece of glass.
  3. My laundry hangs like wilted flowers over an overturned bed frame and opened lockers.
  4. Oh these books these awful books.
  5. How I wish my lamp were a crystal ball.

Next was to write the second line. I could do either a call and response or whatever came to my mind. In the next following sentences I didn’t really take much time to think about what I was writing but just to allow myself to write- something whatever. The most important point that I’m taking away from it is not to critic what I’m writing but to just write it.

  1. This empty bottle waits for me to fill it
    but who will drink from it when I’m gone?
  2. Dear Chinese warrior with the bronze Japanese rabbit at your feet- do you know what is behind you?
    Ancient words carved into bone as fragile as glass and as clear as stone.
  3. Oh these books these awful books
    lies of little children.
  4. I wish my lamp were a crystal ball.
    And if it were, what would you ask for?


For the three lines he suggested another approach- one was to quickly write out a paragraph that came to your mind and then to pull the three lines from the paragraph.

  1. I awoke with a panic this morning. The same if not worse than before. There was drool, actual drool on my pillow, my heart was racing, and my mind was sunk into some kind of a hole. Where was I? What kind of anxiety was attacking my dreams, and what were my dreams telling me? There is no manual for this kind of suffering.
  2. I awoke with panic
    The same and worse then before
    dreams lost in the whole of my mind

Then for finding the four line poem he went back to suggesting that we take our ideas from the room that we are in. To use your observations and to just let the lines fall into place one after the other.

  1. I’m sitting on the dirty floor
    watching and listing to you read poetry
    We’ve never met before
    but I’m here, listening to your stories.

Anyway, something like that. Are they poems? No. Can they be? Sure it’s possible. Can I scrap them and toss them away? If I want- that’s my choice. It’s just the beginning. Only the beginning.

Poetry Lessons Day 1

The online course from The University of Iowa’s International Writers’ Program has begun. The course is “How Writers Write Poetry”. I found the course on the Canvas Network which has many free online classes.  I’m really very thrilled that taking this course is a possibility for me, and even though I can’t afford to get the certificate (I like that it’s an option) I can still take the course and do the work.

The first lesson was on Note-taking, basically the beginning steps that any kind of writer needs to gather information and to practice writing and capturing images, conversations- anything that you need to build your poems or stories. I watched a video with three poets discussing their note-taking processes.

The first was Lia Purpura who spoke about keeping journals and the process of note booking which is different than keeping a diary. The key points were to keep an active journal and to keep it with you all the time. You could also just have scraps of paper or small notepads both of which can be transferred to your main journal. The point is to capture the world around you. She also mentioned a way of collecting your thoughts through something she called a found journal. This is a journal that is created from all of your notes of life; meaning your check book, your lists, your calendars, e-mails, whatever you do to record and archive your own life can be transferred to your journal. I had liked this idea because it is new to me. I’ve kept journals since I was 16 (not always active journals) and I’ve done the scrap method, and attempted to use note pads, but unfortunately I’m pretty bad at keeping them on me and remembering to take notes. This found journal is something I think can be fun to try because I have tons of scrap notes that keep reminding me of what I need to do and what I haven’t done.
A couple of things that she noted that I found to be useful to hear was her opinion of the reason behind the journalling and how it is different from a diary. The reason that we journal for the purpose of writing poems or stories is to look for patterns. Patterns of thoughts, images, types of conversations. To see what you gravitate toward in your observations of the world. According to Purpura the purpose of taking notes and  keeping a writing journal is to teach yourself about yourself. I thought this was very insightful because as a person who has kept a journal for years I had never quiet figured out how to make use of the journals which tend to be a combination of observations, and diary. and story ideas. I had never thought to look for patterns of what I tend to capture, and I like the idea of looking at my jottings in this objective manner.

The next person on the video was Kate Greenstreet who spoke about her notebook or collection of words that she called “The Epic”. For Greenstreet “The Epic” is her way of collecting her words and then swirling them around until she gathered or saw what she wanted from her words.

Lastly, Robert Hass spoke and offered his experience of what he called “sketching” a way of collecting your fleeting bits of thoughts and words. Hass also offered up a loose formula to play around with your thoughts and ideas and he numbered this sketching 1-4.

  1. Start with a basic line
  2. write a second line: try the call and response- let the second line surprise you.
  3. Write a third line which is the rhythm of the body
  4. Write a fourth line- the rhythm of the mind.

I will explain more on Robert Hass’s sketching in my next post since he offered some moments in the video to pause and to try some writing.

On thing he did was give out a sentence like this one:

I’m asleep on skis, and, The rain fell all afternoon

Then he said for us (students of the course) to write our own response- what are the first thoughts that come to your mind? Below are my responses to Hass’s first lines:

I’m asleep on skies
and you are not here.

The rain fell all afternoon,
and still the grass did not grow.

So far I’m enjoying the course, and I’m grateful to have found it. Although, I won’t be getting the certificate I’ll at least be writing and listening to people talk about writing- and right now- I need that.