Friday, May 6, 2016

Writing with Emily Dickinson

Last month at the Gifts of a Wordsmith poetry workshop, Emily Dickinson was the focus. It was part of the The Big Read Birmingham project in which the Birmingham Public Library teamed up with Birmingham-Southern College to “to enhance understanding of the work of poet Emily Dickinson.”  

Each participant at the poetry workshop was given a copy of The Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson.  We read some poems by Dickinson and then took part in writing a poem patterned after her style.

One of the things about Dickinson is that she would often give concrete descriptions to abstract concepts by making a simple comparison to a physical object. “Hope is the thing with feathers” is one such example.

For our poetry assignment, we were asked to first list three abstract terms. I wrote down:

Joy
Relief
Respite

Once we had our list of abstract concepts, we spent some time thinking of solid objects that can be easily described in concrete terms. I jotted down a few:

Tree              Flower                Man
Rock             Mountain          Woman
Chair            River

The next step was to pick one of our abstract terms and compare it to something solid and objective. Here is what I came up with in my Dickinson-inspired piece:


Respite

Respite is a tree
That grows down in the meadow
Casting shade in summer
And shadow in the fall.

Respite is a steady woman
Who sees through pomp and pretense.
She pulls the chair up close;
She shakes her head and smiles.

Respite is a rock
Emerging from the hillside.
Some will sit,
Some will trip.
Everyone will stop.


Once we had all read our poems, we were instructed to replace our abstract term with another abstract term.  For this exercise, each of us was handed an 3 x 5 card with a word to substitute the one we used in composing our poem. The word I was handed was “desire,” and you can see below how that one word changes the poem:

Desire

Desire is a tree
That grows in the meadow
Casting shade in summer
And shadow in the fall

Desire is a steady woman
Who sees through pomp and pretense.
She pulls the chair up close;
She shakes her head and smiles.

Desire is a rock
Emerging from the hillside.
Some will sit,
Some will trip.
Everyone will stop.


Desire seemed to work well in the poem. What do you think?

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Poetry Event Happening May 10

The Gifts of a Wordsmith group meets on the first Tuesday of each month at the Central Library in downtown Birmingham, Ala. This coming Tuesday (May 10), Gifts of a Wordsmith will present a poetry reading in which each will share something of what we have written. All are welcome to come hear our selections.

The festivities will take place from 6:00 to 7:45 pm in the Boardroom on the 4th floor of the downtown Birmingham Public Library. The event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

For information, e-mail hm@bham.lib.al.us or call 226-3670.




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