Saturday, November 14, 2015

Prompt #238 –Not Just Wood (Chrome, Glass, or Plastic)


This week the challenge is to write a poem based on a piece of furniture. Yep—that’s right—a piece of furniture. Furniture is often merely functional, but there are special, meaningful pieces that we hold close in memory or live with every day.

For example, here’s a poem that Robert Rosenbloom wrote in memory of his mom—it’s about an ordinary breakfront that he remembers from his youth, but the memory and meaning are much greater than the piece of furniture called to mind in the poem.


Breakfront

I am forever grateful to my mother
for prayers she uttered alongside
our breakfront, for the yearly
metamorphosis of this

bulky red-brown furniture
into ark and tabernacle.
I am grateful for how she
helped blessings rain down

on its contents, a hardcover
War and Peace no one read,
a chrome serving tray
meant for show,

a miniature torah scroll from
one of the bar-mitzvah cakes,
all visible behind the glass,
baseball card sets, a shoebox

full of family photos stored below,
behind one of its doors,
linen tablecloths and expensive
silverware kept in the drawers.

I am thankful for how she dovined*
before this tall, unsecured
ceilingscraper on the High Holy Days,
how it shook when she rocked

back and forth in awe, how
in a housedress, she turned
a circle of spotless living room
carpet into sacred ground.

 *Rocking back and forth in prayer

(From Reunion, Finishing Line Press, © 2010. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of the author.)

Consider:

1. What does Bob do in this poem to underscore the meaning of the breakfront for him?(What imagery, what reminiscences, what details?)

2. How, specifically, does he make the poem about more than a piece of furniture?
3. How does Bob remember his mom through the breakfront?
4. If the breakfront is the obvious subject of this poem, what is the unspoken or inherent subject?

Note: Bob has written of this poem: “Poetry is my ‘remembrance wall.’ There are so many ways to ‘honor thy parents’ and if they were good parents, even bad parents at times, why not? One of the answers to a poem like ‘Breakfront’ for me is that my parents gave me more than religion, they gave me faith, which means, at the least, not giving up and the recognition of that faith in everyone.” 

Guidelines:

1. Think about a piece of furniture that you grew up with, that you once had in your adult life, or that you live with now that means something special to you.

2. Jot down how that piece of furniture came into your life, how it fit into your life, what it meant or means to you (and to other people who lived, or currently live with, it).

3. You may choose a large piece of furniture or something much smaller and not at all dominant in the room.

4. Bring a person, pet, or something “other” into your poem—something other than the piece of furniture

5. If you’re stuck on this one, you might consider writing from the point of view of the furniture piece. If you opt for that, be sure to bring in a human element. 

Tips:

1. Your obvious subject in the poem you write this week will be the piece of furniture you’ve chosen. The goal is to develop that subject while working toward another, deeper meaning. Consider how Bob Rosenbloom’s poem “celebrates” the breakfront but also honors his mother and her faith, and what the example of her faith means to him now, many years later. He begins by expressing his gratitude—think about why he’s grateful. Are you grateful to the furniture piece you chose to write about for any reason (or perhaps just the opposite)?

2. Avoid sentimentality—an easy pitfall with a poem of this sort. Look at Bob’s poem again and see how he creates true poetic sentiment without being sentimental.

3. Remember that simply telling a story is nothing more than anecdotal—make your poem more than that. In other words, don't just tell a story that includes your piece of furniture—go deeper, use your furniture piece to somehow show something more.

4. Make sure your poem moves forward with a sense of “trajectory” and the momentum it needs to illuminate something about the human condition.

5. Create a coherent and concise “whole” of language, form, and meaning.



 
You can order Bob Rosenbloom’s book Reunion, which contains “Breakfront” (and other skillfully-written poems) by clicking on either of the following links (I recommend the book and know that you won't be disappointed if you order a copy):










18 comments:

  1. This is my favorite poem by one of my favorite poets. Bob's "Breakfront' shows how a simple, everyday object transitions to a sacred place through devotion and memory.

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    1. Ditto, Gail Fishman Gerwin!

      I couldn't agree more. Thanks so much for your comment.

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  2. What an interesting prompt idea! And ... I love the inspiration poem by Bob Rosenbloom. What a gorgeous way to honor his mother, and that poem says so much about who he is as a person. Just beautiful!

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Jamie! Yes, the Rosenbloom poem is very special!

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  3. Very cool idea, Adele. My students will run with this one. Thanks!

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    1. So glad you like this one, Rich! How about if you ask your students to write about a piece of furniture and to bring in a picture of whatever they write about. (Smart Phones and digital cameras make that easy!)

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  4. Amita Jayaraman (Mumbai)November 15, 2015 at 1:12 PM

    Such a creative idea for a prompt. Thank you, Adele, and thank you to Robert Rosenbloom for that wonderful poem. I'm going to try to order a copy of the book.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Amita! I'll be very happy to convey your "thank you" to Bob Rosenbloom. If you have trouble getting a copy of the book, please let me know -- maybe I can help.

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  5. Hi, Adele,

    This week's prompt reminded me of some rather large pieces of furniture from a long time ago.

    ~ ~ ~


    Unnatural Pose


    Under the bluest of skies, the bee

    forages on the bloom by the church garden

    wall in red afternoon sun where the boy

    with an air-gun shoots at the cuckoo now

    silenced and stuffed into the collection

    in the school hall's glass display cabinets.


    ~ ~ ~

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    Replies
    1. I love your pieces more and more. Always some powerful punch to them. =/\../\=

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    2. Lewis,

      Your poems get better and better. As Risa noted, this one has a punch—from the bluest of skies to a glass display case. Shorter poems appeal to me more and more. Thanks for sharing this one.

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    3. Thank you, Risa and Sandy, your comments are most appreciated and encouraging. Sometimes the poems 'work', and at other times we learn from them and how lucky we are to have our dear Adele and her wonderful blog :)

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    4. This is one of your best, Lewis! Thanks so much for sharing with us!

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  6. Vilda Chaya
    Yiddish for a Wild Life, a wild person

    Ethan Allen
    rocking chair weather
    from winter
    to spring
    "Live Free"
    All American Free

    Ethan Allen
    rocking chair
    distressed
    beautiful
    authentic
    Straight from the NE forest
    Wild Life

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    Replies
    1. Nicely done, Risa, as always! Thanks for sharing!

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    2. Risa, I like this poem, the way it brings thoughts of wild wide open spaces. Also, when the poem is read in reverse—from the last line to the first—there is a lively rhythm to it.

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    3. Lewis and Risa,

      It never occurred to me to read the poem from the last line to the first, but Lewis is right that there's a lively rhythm (and coherence) when read either way! Brilliant, Risa! And brilliant, Lewis, for recognizing that!

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