Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Where Does Writing Hide?

The lovely Georgia Heard in her book Writing Towards Home, has a prompt called "Where Does Writing Hide."  She starts with with this poem:

Valentine for Ernest Mann
by Naomi Shihab Nye

You can't order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, "I'll take two"
and expect it to be handed back to you
on a shiny plate.

Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, "Here's my address,
write me a poem," deserves something in reply.
So I'll tell you a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.

Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn't understand why she was crying.
"I thought they had such beautiful eyes."
And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he re-invented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.

Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the odd sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.

Heard goes on to challenge writers to search for the places that writing hides for them.  To me, this remains one of my favorite beginning of the year writing prompts.  My students follow me on a search through and around our school as we create a list in our notebooks of places we found hidden writing. 

Then I have each student choose one line, record it on a post-it, and we each share out our one line.  The resulting wrap-around is a lovely poem in itself.
{sorry the title got cut off}
Check out these lines:
In the sparkle of the silver earring
in the warm bricks of my old school
in the white, cold, glowing snow*
in the fire of the blazing sun
in the soft, colorful feather of a peacock*
in the prickly feel of a cactus in flip flops
in the pages of a book

Hopefully we'll add to our lovely poem as the year goes.
*Editor's note- I have NO idea where my students saw snow or peacocks.  We've got some good imaginations!

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