I chose Chapter 7 from Writing the Life Poetic because I have always been fascinated by the original poem, 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird (by Wallace Stevens) and the many variations it has spawned. I confess, I’ve wanted to do my own take on it but have been a bit too lazy.

These are very short chapters so if you haven’t read this one yet, you have time to go read it and come back. Really. It’s just a couple of pages long. I’ll wait.

What stood out to me in this chapter is the phrase, “Writing poetry is discovering ways of looking.” It’s all about learning to be here, now, and in the moment during days when we are usually busy racing around trying to get more things done in less time. If you are going to look at something in 13 different ways you’re going to stay with it for a while, long enough to slow down and get up close and personal. And while you’re looking at whatever has captured your poetic mind, you may (and will likely) wander away from the original subject. And that’s okay.

I think one of the reasons I love writing poetry is that the nature of it forces me to slow down and be more in the moment.

This chapter advises that when you want to write about a particular subject and you’re feeling stuck that you can utilize one or more of the various ways of “looking” at the subject to jumpstart your poem. I won’t list all the ways of looking. They’re in the book. 🙂

I’m not going to try and use all 13 ways of looking that are listed in the book but I’m going to pick one and do a poem around it. I think I’ll go with #2, which says, “If it moves, how does it move? In what direction? Using what energy source? Toward or away from what? If it doesn’t move, describe the quality of its stillness.”

I hope you’ll play along. You can do the same exercise I’m doing, or if you have the book, feel free to pick a different way of looking at your subject.

This is just rough draft play time. No need to stress over this. Have fun!

If you want to be prepared for next week, Laura will be doing chapter 9.

Okay, here’s mine. I would call this more of a poetic thought than a poem but it’s something I might go back and play with at a later date.

Learning to Pain

Thick, like butterscotch pudding,
paint pools on the canvas
until I push the brush
making waves from corner to corner
drops of yellow to drops of orange
a droplet of red, then another,
swirling the bristles until the colors
blend then burst
across the page
like a sunrise
calling for me to come out and play.

Susan Taylor Brown, all rights reserved