It’s hard to believe that October is here. 2020 has been a strange and challenging year in many ways. This season, between October and the end of December, has always been my favorite, and I’m trying hard to not let that be diminished this year because of Covid-19. Poetry has always had the power to lead me to peaceful places, and I turn to poetry (writing my own and reading other poets’ work) more often than usual these days.
In certain symbolisms, five is a number of balance and harmony. During this ongoing and protracted pandemic, these qualities are important in our lives and not always easily achieved.
For this prompt, I thought something simple with just a few guidelines might be something you’d enjoy (and, hopefully, something that might elicit a bit of balance and harmony for you—with an eye toward whatever moments of peace we can find).
1. Take yourself to place outdoors in which you can relax (your front porch or back deck, your backyard, near a lake or stream, the woods, a park). Take some deep breaths, let yourself become absorbed by the space around you. In this time of social distancing, we often feel isolated and alone, but find something peaceful in the place you choose and think about the balance and harmony in being alone (not lonely, but alone).
2. Once you’re settled and comfortable, look around carefully.
Notice things around you (objects, trees, plants, water, stones, etc.), and
write down five things that capture your attention. You might select five
things that are similar or the same (five flowers, five birds, five clouds
above you, five people walking by).
3. Now notice the details of those “things.” Jot down some notes.
4. Then write a poem that’s based on, about, or that includes the five things you selected. Are these things associated in any way? Look for connections among the five “things” you've chosen and yourself. How do they “speak” to you? What story might they tell?
5. Let your environment become the “landscape” of the poem. Write in the present tense—here and now. Let the objects direct the content of your poem. Describe them, define them, contextualize them, analyze them, repurpose them, recreate them. Play on the number “five.” Let your poem take you where it wants to go, but don’t let your five “things” get lost. You might even limit your poems to just five lines (some formal 5-line poems include the quintain, the limerick, the pentastich, and the tanka).
Examples of 5-Line Poems:
By Emily Dickinson
A sepal – petal – and a thorn
Opon a common summer’s morn –
A flask of Dew – A Bee or two –
A Breeze – a’caper in the trees _
And I’m a Rose!
(From The Poems of Emily Dickinson, ed. by R. W. Franklin,
Harvard University Press, © 1998. All rights reserved.
A Meditation in Time of War
By William Butler Yeats
For one throb of the artery,
While on that old grey stone I sat,
Under the old wind-broken tree,
I knew that One is animate,
Mankind inanimate phantasy.
(From The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats, Scribner Paperback Poetry,
© 1996. All rights reserved.)
Sounds of highway traffic
crash like waves
(From Spy in da House, Author House LLC, © 2013. All rights reserved.)
What You See All Night
By Adele Kenny
The wild bird you catch and let go—what you see all night at
the corner of your eye (along the outline of unfolded wings)—
when the self gives itself up (a bell diffused into air)—more
idea than expression:
a lightness, a thirst, or nothing at all.
(From A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing At All, Welcome Rain Publishers,
© 2015. All rights reserved.)