What is the Ocean Thinking?

Here is today’s picture prompt. Do you know the most important lesson we learn from prompts? That anything can be an inspiration for a poem. Anything. A poet in touch with his or her creativity need never fear boredom.

Even with an abstract image, I can access a multitude of angles for poem seeds. For an image like the above, there are so many ways to go.

There are the most straightforward ones: A journey. Loneliness. Nature. A character: what is the walker thinking? Where is he or she going? Why?

Oh, but there is so much more. Gestalt theories of dreamwork postulate that everything we see in a dream is a part of our own consciousness. When I look at a picture, I sort of reverse this idea and imagine that anything in it can have a consciousness and a story.

What is the ocean thinking? Or the sand? Or the walking stick? Or the walker’s shoes?

Who or what is seeing this scene from above? What’s the story there?

Is this whole scene happening in someone else’s thoughts? Do they miss the walker or try to imagine what he or she is doing?

Do we want to delve shamelessly into archetypes? We’ve got symbolism from water, mud, traveler/seeker, the rod…have fun.

It may all sound cheesy. One hundred flights of thought may lead to one promising seed–or less.

But contemplating a picture–or any image we see, as long as we do it with conscious intention–invites our creativity in for tea; helps it feel welcome.

And when it feels welcome, it’s more likely to drop by with gifts.

Picture This

Today's prompt

Today’s prompt.

For about ten days last year, I drew a new picture from a bag as a poem prompt every day. It was meant to be an improv exercise as well as a meditative one; if something I wrote led to the seeds of a more developed poem that was fine.

I gave it up when I found myself missing days. Perfectionism is truly the bane of creativity.

It was a mistake to stop doing it—maybe I would have been inconsistent about it at times, but even the brief foray into daily pictures yielded several poems I am glad to have in my body of work.

The most interesting thing about picture prompts is the space between picture and poem. A shot of a snarling badger becomes a poem about repression of the Self. A shot of a laughing chimpanzee becomes a poem about meeting God. A barren desert landscape turns into a poem that makes people laugh out loud.

Most of the pictures in my stash come from old National Geographic magazines. I obtained about 200 old issues, and find the cutting out of pictures to be therapeutic in times of anxiety. Nature scenes, people, animals…and abstracts. I’ll cut a picture at places that are not the obvious ones if it creates an interesting image. Some of them, on the other hand, are quite dull…it’s up to my imagination to get an idea from them more interesting than “Fuck, that’s a lot of sand.”

I’m thinking I will start to pick a picture every day again–but with some new rules:

1) I am not obligated to write anything inspired by it, but I must leave the picture somewhere in plain sight all day so that random thoughts can percolate.

2) Then I glue it into a binder, so that I can go back to it if I wish.

3) The most important rule: If I forget, blow off or otherwise ignore my picture stash for one or more days (as is not unlikely because hello, imperfect human being) I am allowed to come back to doing it as soon as possible.

Ghost Writings

Are you like me? Do things you did not write cause you more grief than anything you ever have written? Is the pain of the nonexistent greater than the pain of the inadequate or banal? Is it greater than the frustration of the rejected, the outgrown, or the embarrassing?

Go into the palace of your mind, while I go into mine. Find the door that leads to the room of the unadmitted; the room filled with ghostly manuscripts that were never given flesh.

Take one down from the wall, as I do, and open it. Do you feel the way I do? Are you almost, but not quite, able to hold it in your hands? Do your eyes strain to make out the shifting print, amorphous and taunting you with an unreadable message?

Do you apologize to them? Do you promise to let some of them come into being?

Do you admit to yourself that you are lying?

That it can’t be done; that even if you tackle an old idea you can’t recapture the way you would have given it voice in its destined space and time. It might be better in some ways, or not–but that piece of aether, that ghost, will never take its solid form.

Do you pause in the doorway, suspended in currents of regret and acceptance?

I do not think I am the only one. You don’t have to be as old as I am, or have stifled your creativity for as many years as I did, to have a ghost library. We all have one, no matter how large or small.

I cannot change mine. The spirit behind words may be nonlinear, but my personal timeline only moves in a single direction. But when I think about trying to write, I can be conscious of the delicate brush of cobwebs against my skin, reminders of my last visit to that room.