This afternoon, at a green picnic table under the sweetgum trees in Portland's Westmoreland Park, a Grand Experiment in Poesy was conducted by four Utterly Dedicated Writerly Types, amid the fanfare of shrieking children on the playground and honking geese in the close-cropped clover.
Said Writerly Types included myself, my husband Tyler, my mother-in-law Elaine, and my sister-in-law Kate.
Here's what we did (a.k.a. “Methods” section):
- I gave everyone a verbal prompt, which was, off the top of my head, “With the rocks whirling in the flatlands, the daffodils...”
- Each of us did a 15-minute freewrite (“Write whatever comes to mind, as fast as it comes to mind”).
- Each of us passed our completed freewrite to the person on our left, who then read it through, underlining whatever words/phrases struck his or her particular fancy.
- The underlined freewrites were then passed to the left again.
- Each of us constructed a poem by rearranging, trimming, and punctuating the collection of underlined phrases that we'd been given by the person on our right.
Here are the four poems we created together in this manner (a.k.a. “Results” section):
I. (freewrite by Elaine, selection by Kate, poem by Tanya)
So happy to catch
the slight misfortune
of someone else:
a little vase set just so
in the sunshine,
the lacy edges of enlightenment
a blithe “meanwhile....”
Nothing to see, no dizzying jumble
out of the corner of an eye:
nowhere, whirling in circles.
II. (freewrite by Tyler, selection by Elaine, poem by Kate)
Humble wild eeps – mumble apologies
to maligned German tourists
Let it speak for itself!
Don't choke on spaghetti squash and
An inauthentic botanical,
not a Hollywood stunt double
or W. Bush,
so often happy to do it like
the day they were born.
Who really gets paid the BIG bucks
to engineer fruit adhesives
with your accent just so?
III. (freewrite by Tanya, selection by Tyler, poem by Elaine)
The flowers were all wall-flowers,
Sugar cubes of want, scattered grain,
Disuse and genteel paranoia,
That barren go-to wasteland:
Esplanades, rivulets, amulets,
A heart-shaped socketwrench.
O molten lava yellow happiness,
Twirling up like a dervish devil-twister,
Self-satisfied and purple-sleek,
The bluebell of forgetfulness.
We have a bearskin rug and we never shave it!
IV. (freewrite by Kate, selection by Tanya, poem by Tyler)
Abandoned behind the peach,
the sun makes past loves or even current
into warm squash, the core that held the food.
Someone they once knew
made excuses but then forgot,
lolled about, snapped,
dressed a table beside meshy bulbs
and thin crystal with thin green necks,
as if to strip themselves,
snipped by silver,
wrought by a sweating palm.