Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wednesday Writing Workout to fill your well: Poets in the Gallery!

Howdy, Campers!

It's Wednesday, and you know what that means!  It's time for another TeachingAuthors


Do you ever feel as if your idea well has run dry?  Here's an exercise that's sure to tap into ideas you didn't know were waiting to pour out.

I've taken the adult poetry class, The Courage to Write, taught by Anthony A. Lee, several times.  He's a terrific poet and a kind and generous teacher.  

Tony's classes are held in a building which also houses an art gallery.  During one class, we wrote poems based on the following exercise...and then came back at night to read our poems at the opening of the art exhibit. Scary and invigorating!

Note: although the exercise below is written to inspire a poem, you can use this exercise to begin a poem or a story.
based on a workshop by Anthony A. Lee
  1. Go to a gallery or any place where art is displayed.
  2. Which photo, painting or sculpture calls to you?  Walk around until you find it.
  3. Sit down in front of it.  Breathe deeply.  Close your eyes.  Listen to the sounds of the gallery.
  4. Open your eyes.  Look at the art for a full minute.
  5. Now, begin writing.  Describe an image in the artwork. Just report it; write exactly what you see.
  6. Once you have that image on your paper, begin a poem with the word "I."  The only rule is to write in the first person. 
  7. Write as fast as you can. Write without a plan. Whatever happens, happens.
  8. Describing something, as a journalist does, is the Reporting Voice.  That voice comes from the lips, the mouth, the throat. 
  9. Writing about feelings comes from a lower, truer, sometimes scarier place.  This is the Deep Voice.  This voice attracts readers.  It connects them to your story.  Be brave.  Find the feelings.  Go there. 
  10. When you’re done, write it again, taking out as many words as you can. 
  11. Write it a third time.  Do you really all those “the”s, “and”s, or “a”s?  Try taking them out. 
  12. Now, take out all the adverbs.
  13. Next, take out most of the adjectives.
  14. Poetry is word music.  Read your work aloud. Do you like the sound of your poem?
  15. Don't hide your light under a bushel—your poem is a gift to be shared.  Bring someone you love to that piece of art.  Share your poem with them.  Bring an extra copy and leave it by the artwork.
Tony says: asking your students (or yourself) to describe an image in the artwork is better than telling them simply to write something about the piece of art, which will make some students freeze.

Try it!  Have fun!

And, apropos of nothing, here's a sign I saw in Seattle recently which made me laugh:

This post was written by April Halprin Wayland.  Thank you for reading it! 
(Our cruel and heartless blog mistress makes us put our names here so we can't hide from our subscribers.)


Carmela Martino said...

Great exercise, April!
And I'm sorry you have to put up with such a "cruel and heartless blog mistress." :-)

Margaret Simon said...

I love writing in a gallery. We usually take our writing camp kids to a local gallery. I'll have to add this exercise to our program. But as all good writing teachers do, I'll have to try it out myself, too.