Saturday, August 18, 2012

Prompt #114 – Me and My Shadow


When I was a child my mom sometimes sang me to sleep with a song called “Me and My Shadow,” or my dad often entertained me into the “land of Nod” with stories about hand shadows that he made on my bedroom wall. Remembering those nights filled with music, stories, and the wonder of shadows led me to this week’s prompt.

Shadows have an intriguing, mystical aspect, and we often encounter then in poetry, even when the poems’ subjects are not specifically shadows or even shadow-driven. “Shadows of the world appear” in part II of Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott;” in Eliot’s “The Hollow Men,” we read “Between the motion / And the act / Falls the shadow;” and in Yeats’s “When You Are Old,” we find the deep shadows of a loved one’s eyes – and this is just a tiny sampling!

Superstitious thought proposes that your shadow is part of your soul and that to step on or throw stones at a person’s shadow may cause that person harm. In dreams, shadows are said to represent a person’s latent potential, fear, illusion, and unknown parts of the self. Seeing your own shadow in a dream may also signify an aspect of yourself that you haven’t yet acknowledged or recognized; it may also suggest a quality or part of yourself that you reject. In Jungian psychology, the shadow or “shadow aspect”  refers to the unconscious – everything of which a person is not fully conscious, as well as a facet of personality that the conscious ego doesn’t recognize within itself.

Shadows typically suggest things that are dark or threatening, but have you ever seen the beauty in a weeping willow’s shadow on a lake, or the way cloud shadows float over a field or mountainside? This week, let’s think about shadows and write about them. Keep in mind that you needn’t go to the dark side in a shadow poem – though you can, of course, if you wish to.

Examples:

"A Horse Grazes in My Shadow" by Matt Rasmussen 

Suggestions:

Be sure to stretch your inner vision and your imagination. Remember that a poem needs room to move, sometimes away from your original idea. Give your poem room to veer off course and to change direction.

More important than your compositional method or conceptual framework is how you make a poem about a single experience (idea, time, place, bird, stone, stream, etc.) bigger than its singularity. In poetry, it’s important approach the universal through the personal.

Now …

1. Write a poem about your shadow.

2. Write a poem to your shadow.

3. Write a poem in which shadow becomes an extended metaphor.

4. Write a poem about hand shadows on a wall.

5. Write a poem about any shadow – a weeping willow’s shadow, a tenement’s shadow, an animal’s shadow, skyscraper’s shadow, a flower’s shadow, cloud shadows on a field.

6. Write a poem using the following (borrowed from T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land”) as your title or epigraph: “Your Shadow at Evening Rising to Meet You.”

7. Write a poem based on the following shadow poem, written by Emily Dickinson (c. 1863):

Presentiment – is that long Shadow – on the Lawn
Indicative that Suns go down –
The notice to the startled Grass –
That Darkness – is about to pass –

8. Do you remember the old song “The Shadow of Your Smile,” famously sung by Barbara Streisand? Try writing a poem based on the title of that song. Here’s the song for you to enjoy:




22 comments:

  1. It is really too hot in Rome for thinking about a poem about shadow, but for Henrik Nordbrandt (Norway -1945) it is easier:

    Thousand roads (Tusind veje)

    You cast a beautiful and hard shadow
    on my restless days. Round it

    the light became incredibly bright.
    Thousand roads suddendly led toward the sea.


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    1. Hi Jago!

      We finally got a break form the heat and humidity here with temps cooling down to about 80 and not much humidity today. Sorry to hear it's still hot in Rome.

      Thanks for sharing the Nordbrandt lines. So much nuance in so few words! Beautiful!

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  2. My father made hand shadows on the wall for my sister and me too! Your prompt brought back wonderful memories. Thank you, Adele!

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Jamie -- I'm so glad the prompt brought back happy memories for you!

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    2. I remember Dad making those hand shadows too -– one of many special shared memories. Thanks for another really thought-provoking prompt.

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    3. Thanks, Nicola! It's so lovely that you are Jamie are sharing happy memories.

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  3. O Peter
    Peter Pan
    Get Wendy to sew your shadow to your shoes!
    Mine is still attached
    though threadbare
    I have my needle and thread
    ready
    to repair the tattered sole
    but this body is
    still
    too solid
    It may be a while yet
    till my shadow
    and I
    part

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    1. Thanks for sharing, Risa! love the beginning (I was a huge Peter Pan fan as a child), and the ending is a beautiful affirmation of life.

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    2. Risa, as always, this poem is true to your style (short lines, right to the point). The image of Wendy stitching Peter Pan's shadow to his shoes is wonderful (as is the way you developed the idea). I agree with Adele that the ending is a great affirmation of life. Thank you for sharing with us each week. I look forward to your poems.

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    3. Risa,

      You have a very nice minimalist style that conveys much in just a few words. The staccato effect of your short lines emphasizes meaning and feeling. Thanks for posting your poems!

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    4. How encouraging! Thanks for your kind words!
      Risa

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    5. Risa, that took me back to my childhood! Thank you for the lovely poem.

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    6. Rich Mandel and vivinfrance - Thanks so much for your comments. It's always wonderful to share good feedback!

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  4. Here's my offerring.

    http://thelintinmypocket.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/writing-challenge-shadow/

    S. Thomas Summers
    Author of Private Hercules McGraw: Poems of the American Civil War

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    1. Wonderful, Scott! The "dismount" is so simple and yet so stunning. Thanks for sharing with us!

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    2. Thanks you S. Thomas Summers for sharing your poem! It's really amazing to think that you wrote from the perspective of an American Civil War soldier, but the timelessness of the topic means it's relevant forever. These lines make me think of contemporary politics, and your Lt. Everly might be any one of us trying to make sense of those "dark robes of politics."

      But this spring rumbles.
      Men who drape themselves
      in the dark robes of politics

      brandish words as warriors
      brandish swords –
      and I am afraid.

      Thanks again for sharing a great poem!


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  5. We follow on,
    That we may know;
    Yet we only kno
    That we may follow on:
    Light prepares
    The way for love;
    Love girds the loins
    Of the heart:
    As light refreshes
    In the morning,
    After a dark and stormy night;
    So is knowing,
    After the travail;
    God's mercies, after affliction,
    Are very sweet:
    And so, we follow on.

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing your poem, cunneda!

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  6. We follow on,
    That we may know;
    Yet we only know,
    That we may follow on:
    Light prepares
    The way for love;
    Love girds the loins
    Of the heart:
    As light refreshes
    In the morning,
    After a dark and stormy night;
    So is knowing,
    After the travail;
    God's mercies, after affliction,
    Are very sweet:
    And so, we follow on.

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  7. Sorry I'm late - I only found you for the first time via Margo Roby's Friday Freeforall. Here's mine: http://vivinfrance.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/shadow-play-2/

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing! It's never too late to share your words! Thanks again!

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  8. Blasted word verification.......

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