Every month, one of my critique group partners poses a challenge to the group and we all post our responses on the first Friday of the month. This month, it was my turn to come up with a prompt. Since life has been challenging enough lately, I wanted to pose more of a supportive opportunity than a challenge. This passage from S. Kirk Walsh’s essay “How E.L. Doctorow Taught an Aspiring Writer to Hear the Sounds of Fiction” in The New York Times Book Review was exactly what I had in mind:
For the final writing assignment, Doctorow asked us to choose one of the works on the syllabus and borrow — or steal — from it in a fiction of our own... I chose “The Waves”: I copied Woolf’s sentences word for word, then replaced her language with my own.
So our challenge was simply this: Copy a mentor poem (or other text) “word for word, then replace [that poet’s] language with your own.” Finding a mentor poem was easier than I thought it would be. Looking for another book, I found Light & Shadow (Holiday House, 1992), a book of poems by Myra Cohn Livingston inspired by photographs by Barbara Rogasky. Livingston’s poem, “Late Afternoon,” caught my attention immediately.
in the crooked
elbows and branches of
in the shadows
of moss-covered rocks, naps
forest floors, stretches out
a shining necklace of
Isn’t that stunning?
Here is the poem my “borrowing” inspired:
through the outstretched
fingers and branches of
in a tangle of brush, quickens
of cardinals and jays,
who flutter around
snow-covered feeders, reaches
deep into the shadows
an iridescent crown of
Draft, © 2021, Catherine Flynn
Please visit my fellow Sunday Night Swaggers to see where their borrowings led them:
Heidi Mordhorst @ My Juicy Little Universe
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone
Then head over to Jone Rush MacCulloch’s lovely blog for the Poetry Friday Roundup.