Prompt Against Anxiety #6 | from CA Conrad, author of nine collections of poetry, most recently While Standing in Line for Death (Wave Books, 2017)—winner of the 2018 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry
I designed this (Soma)tic ritual for Woodland Pattern, and I enjoyed every minute of it! If you have not yet visited Woodland Pattern, it is one of my favorite homes for poetry! I look forward to visiting in person again one day!
I suggest taking three days for this ritual.
I chose Carrington, a marvelous biopic about artist Dora Carrington, played by Emma Thompson.
BRING BINOCULARS, a magnifying glass, as well as your notebook and pen.
For three days, watch the same movie with the sound off. Each day will have a different focus of study:
Day One: Art
Day Two: Nature
Day Three: Windows
If we study one film three entirely different ways, is it not a trilogy? Is it not the ongoing saga through three views in three days? Do we not make it three different stories from the original one?
Please watch the film, looking for any signs of art, which could be paintings, sculpture, or a vase that catches your eye. Pause the movie whenever you see art, then study it with binoculars to get a fresh, close view of your interest. I stopped Carrington so many times, and this is a film still from a favorite scene with a beautiful iron wood stove, Art Nouveau shelf, oil lamp, and of course, postcards and drawings on the wall. It felt essential to begin this (Soma)tic poetry ritual by studying the things human beings had to reach through their creative powers to give us. Look for the gifts of art, pause the screen, examine it through binoculars, or get close to the screen with a magnifying glass. Then take notes.
Follow the link above to learn generally about (Soma)tic poetry rituals and specifically about how to take notes.
Spend time looking for any signs of living plants or animals. The natural world has begun to flourish in our absence from the world. Less human traffic, less pollution, it is as though nature has been waiting for us to give them all a break. Freeze the frame and study a leaf, its branches, then look carefully into the tree. I found the faint outline of a bird sitting on its nest, a silent, secret cameo. I enjoyed ignoring every human activity, looking instead at flowers, moss, and birds, imagining life before real estate, deeds, barbed wire, highways to risk your life crossing for water, food, or love. Last spring, I was driving across the United States and counted 27 dead raccoons in one day, little hands frozen reaching above their bloody fur. It was the time of year they were all looking for one another to mate. How much more relaxed the spring of 2020 will be for them. Look at the natural world on your screen, then take notes.
Windows and all that they frame and reveal is the third day's focus. There are many windows in the movie Carrington; film footage shot from both indoors and from outside. What is it we take for granted about windows? What do I know about making glass, making wood and metal frames? Very little is the answer. The less we know about a thing, the more likely we are to dismiss it or never notice it. Windows fascinate me, thinking of the first humans who poked a hole in their mud and straw hut. Windows let light in, let us look outside, allow us to see who is approaching. Use your binoculars and look through the windows of the film; see what the actors were seeing. Windows, like most things in the human manipulated world, can be strictly utilitarian, or pleasurable, even beautifully crafted. It made me happy to watch the film one more time with a completely different focus. Let your mind go into theories you did not know you had about windows, then take notes.
On day four, you can take your handwritten notes to the computer and begin making a document to then mine for your poems.
For tips on shaping your poem or to learn more about (Soma)tic poetry rituals, click here.
To share your results with us, send your work by email or mail to Woodland Pattern, or post to social media tagging #promptsagainstanxiety and @woodlandpattern.
More from this series
Personification: A Social Justice PromptPrompt #21—Derrick Harriell
Ponge ExercisePrompt #20—Tyrone Williams
Occult DocupoesisPrompt #19—Kimberly Alidio
Junk Drawer SongPrompt #18—Hoa Nguyen
TALK TO THE POETSPrompt #17—Stacy Szymaszek
Make-Do Origin Stories & Concrete FuturesPrompt #16—Ching-In Chen
The Family PhotographPrompt #15—Rosa Alcalá
Writing Advice for Your Younger SelfPrompt #14—E.J. Koh
Note(s) to SelfPrompt #13—Stacy Blint
Embracing ConfusionPrompt #12—Bryon Cherry
Writing/Playing the ArchivePrompt #11—Jay Besemer
CAPTURED & FREEDPrompt #10—Dasha Kelly Hamilton
Poetic Exit StrategiesPrompt #9—Ana Božičević
Proyecto ConbífPrompt #8—Erick "CK" Ledesma
TRILOGYPrompt #6—CA Conrad
Utopian CompromisePrompt #7—Paul Druecke
A Series of RoomsPrompt #5—Laura Solomon
Two Variations on N+7Prompt #4—Jenny Gropp
T H E A P A R T / TOGETHERPOEMPrompt #3—Margaret Rozga
An Exercise in WindowsPrompt #2—Marla Sanvick
Erasuring AnxietyPrompt #1—Peter Burzynski
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