April 12, 2016

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Poetry Friday: Finicky Feline

Remember the great Poetry Postcard project of early 2013? Remember how I said, "Stop at the planned 44 poems? Heck no! I'm having too much fun."

That was until I met Postcard #49. It is a paper collage from a fine art postcard series, 30 Contemporary Women Artists. And it had me stumped for months.

Detail from Postcard 49.
See full information at the bottom of this post.
My first attempt was to describe the image. Although visual imagery is my habitual "way in" to a poem, I struggled. Describing this image was not easy. The postcard features two Keith Haring-style water nymphs (nude), carrying a spotted leopard (hammock-style) through a lily pond. And the provocative title, Post Coital -- I didn't need to see that.

I let that sit for several months while I was teaching. When I went back to the poem, there was one salvageable line: "They have spent all day eating white paper petals."

The petals and shadows of the water lily are a fitting
subject for the depth and layers of  collage art.
Round two. Persona poem. I like persona poems! I teach persona poems (see some student examples here). Maybe that will work.

I tried the poem in the voice of one of the water nymphs. This draft was called "Cut Out Woman." See, I can write provocative titles, too. But the poem? Bleh.

That's when I threw the early drafts out, gave up trying to create a meaningful poem, and took my own advice. Remember this "points of entry" exercise?

With your postcard (or other prompt: object, idea, memory), jot down:

1. Visual image
2. A word or phrase that jumps out at you
3. An image using one of your other four senses (not visual)
4. Is there something to research?
5. A personal connection

One of these will lead you down the path to the poem.

Is your path to the poem free of obstacles.
Mine certainly wasn't! Look out for those pesky water nymphs.
Did it work for Postcard 49? You bet! I researched the etymology of the word "leopard" and  was rewarded with this juicy piece of information: it contains roots for both lion and panther. In ancient times, the leopard was considered to be a hybrid cat. What did the leopard think about that?

The Leopard

Leo is my lion stride.
I’m velvet paws and kingly-eyed.

Pard is panther’s sinewed gait.
I climb up trees. I watch and wait.

A hybrid beast, the ancients said,
as if I had an eagle’s head

and mere spots on my dappled coat,
where sun and shadows swim and float,

as if my grace could be defined
or catalogued by human mind.

Patience is a hunter’s work,
and silent is the leopard’s lurk.

by Laura Shovan

Postcard Information:
30 Contemporary Women Artists
Beverly Bigwood (American, b. 1952)
Post Coital, 1988. Paper collage, 27 x 45 in.

Pomegranate ● Box 808022 ● Petaluma, CA 94975
Beverly Bigwood's site is worth checking out. There's a cool collage portrait at this link:

Have a wonderful Poetry Friday and happy Summer Solstice to all this evening! Today's host is Carol at Carol's Corner.


Carol said...

The process of poets fascinates me, and this one was no exception. All of your different entry ways into the poem are so interesting. I've been experimenting with multi-genre research with kids and this would be a perfect example to share! I especially love those last two lines!

Author Amok said...

Thanks, Carol. Please do try the exercise with your students and let me know how it goes. I really love this "points of entry" exercise because it gives writers options when we're feeling stuck.

Tabatha said...

Yay, another postcard poem! Excellent :-) I especially like "Pard is panther’s sinewed gate" and the ending (but I think you want to change "gate" to "gait.")
I also liked Julia's parody from the last post. We're on vacation at the moment -- glad my insomnia gave me a chance to visit you!

Author Amok said...

Thank you for catching my typo, Tabatha!

Mary Lee said...

Your advice is good advice for you and for all of us! The poem turned out great!

Anonymous said...

I love this post, hearing your struggles, and following your path. The resulting poem is wonderful. I have written down the points of entry exercise for students or for myself. Great advice.

GatheringBooks said...

I am enjoying all of these poetry prompts. I'm sure I would have been better at poetry if you were my teacher! :) Lovely poems.

Ruth said...

I love the "points of entry." Very helpful! Thank you!