Last spring I enrolled in Holly Wren Spaulding’s Poetry Spring Apprenticeship. During the first week of class, she reframed Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages for me. For those of you unfamiliar with Morning Pages, they are part of a practice from the book The Artist’s Way designed to jump start your creativity. You write three pages by hand of whatever comes to you, first thing in the morning.
Holly suggested that instead of writing three pages, we write a poem. She suggested we bring emotion, experience, or other concerns normally written in the morning pages into the poem through concrete means like metaphor, simile and descriptive images. She also suggested we use something to spark the writing like two squirrels playing in the yard, the cat catching a mouse, or the numbers on the thermometer.
This poem by Alison Luterman does just that. She describes all the obstacles she encounters while swimming laps, making the idea of the obstacle concrete.
Because even the word obstacle is an obstacle
Try to love everything that gets in your way:
the Chinese women in flowered bathing caps
murmuring together in Mandarin, doing leg exercises in your lane
while you execute thirty-six furious laps,
one for every item on your to-do list.
The heavy-bellied man who goes thrashing through the water
like a horse with a harpoon stuck in its side,
whose breathless tsunamis rock you from your course.
Teachers all. Learn to be small
and swim through obstacles like a minnow
without grudges or memory. Dart
toward your goal, sperm to egg. Thinking Obstacle
is another obstacle. Try to love the teenage girl
idly lounging against the ladder, showing off her new tattoo:
Cette vie est la mienne, This life is mine,
in thick blue-black letters on her ivory instep.
Be glad she’ll have that to look at all her life,
and keep going, keep going. Swim by an uncle
in the lane next to yours who is teaching his nephew
how to hold his breath underwater,
even though kids aren’t allowed at this hour. Someday,
years from now, this boy
who is kicking and flailing in the exact place
you want to touch and turn
will be a young man, at a wedding on a boat
raising his champagne glass in a toast
when a huge wave hits, washing everyone overboard.
He’ll come up coughing and spitting like he is now,
but he’ll come up like a cork,
alive. So your moment
of impatience must bow in service to a larger story,
because if something is in your way it is
going your way, the way
of all beings; towards darkness, towards light.
This poem first appeared in The Sun magazine in January 2010.
- Take two pieces of paper, cut them into random shapes and rearrange into a composition. Just play for awhile, don’t glue anything down just yet.
- Today’s collage uses a gesso image transfer. There are all kinds of ways to make transfers. One of the easiest is using packing tape. (see pic below for instructions.) Layer that transfer into your collage. You may find that you want to put the transfer down first and have it peek out of the collage like I ended up doing here.