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Writing at the Centre

8 May 2010

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

Today I attended my second Writing at the Centre Saturday Poetry class with Helen Hagemann. This one focused on “Syntax & the Sentence in Poetry,” and coincidentally featured Natalie Goldberg‘s Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, a brilliant book that I checked out of the local library just last week! The class was a refreshing look at some of the ways language and syntax trap us into a formula of writing, and gave us time to practice breaking out of that formula. Here is one of my attempts at “breaking out:”

A mountain forgets its muscles as a seed
marinates. Sautéed blood runs rivers,
floats gladiolas. Light arrests the eyes, arrests
the myth of mountain. Sounds of bells play tag
among cave walls. Their echoes arrange themselves
like icicles, pointing towards the smallest room.
Waggy dogs rent feelings to dilapidated parents.
A familiar voice inches towards me, rummages
in my sludgy memory. Mountain recomposes and sings.

I arrived at this particular combination of words by pairing unusual sets of nouns and verbs. Some of the examples Natalie Goldberg gives in her book are the nouns blood, lilacs, mustache, muscles, myth, and bicycle, and the verbs float, repeat, marinate, whip, run, and rock. The idea is to pair any of these words to make an interesting meaning. We also used some words from poems by Michael Farrell, a modern-day language (l=a=n=g=u=a=g=e) poet.

While language poetry doesn’t grab my interest, studying it today was fascinating and showed me some unique ways to approach my own writing, especially when I’m in need of a good starter kick. And I will be back to that forgetful mountain to turn it into a real poem!

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