Monday, June 6, 2016

Poem Sketching

From my weekend sketchbook: Pentel Stylo pen, Sumi ink, and watercolor.
I've been studying Chinese painting techniques, especially trees--
very meditative and just right for poetry!

How did it get to be June? And how have I managed to skip out on blogging for so many weeks? It seems like the A-Z challenge was only a few days ago . . . 

May was a hectic month: Someone drove into my new car (all fixed now, yay!), I wrote at least ten versions of a new query letter and synopsis of The Abyssal Plain (finally settling on one I liked, thank goodness), and my day job was intense--I went to the post office so often it's a wonder they didn't offer me a cot so I could just stay the night.

So in between driving here, there, and everywhere and buying postage, I started writing poetry, and then I started sketching poetry illustrations, and before I knew it, I was living on another planet--a secret creative place that shut out the whole world. I didn't Tweet, I didn't email (sorry, email friends), I didn't blog, I just zoned out and concentrated on doing what I wanted to do: write and draw. 

The poems, as well as the drawings, are based on my trip to Taiwan last year. Ever since I got home I've been trying to duplicate my feelings and experiences through my artwork, but there always seemed to be something missing. Now I know it was the words to go with my pictures. While I was still searching for those missing pieces, I knew I didn't want to write some sort of travelogue (I did enough of that in my Taiwan Travel Diary blog posts), and I certainly didn't want to start a new novel or short story collection. But I wanted to express myself in some strong and meaningful way, and poetry seemed to be the perfect vehicle.

I try to write at least one poem a day, basing it on various aspects of my journey: from riding the bus, to savoring tea and cake while thinking about monkeys in a museum tea shop. To get the ball rolling, I use a brainstorming technique I learned in Writing From the Inside Out by Sandford Lyne. Before I start writing, I take a piece of paper and head up two columns: one titled "Inner" and the other "Outer." "Inner" is for everything that involves feeling, e.g., what were my thoughts, emotions, even my state of health? "Outer" is for everything that was happening around me, including the weather as well as the people, places, and details of what I observed. Once I have all my memories and notes in place, I weave them together into a poetry draft, seeking connections and making leaps into new directions for more writing. It's a helpful and enjoyable process, and sometimes it almost seems as if the poems write themselves.

The most exciting part of this new work, however, is that I now have a good use for my paintings of Taiwan, as well as a reason to continue painting them: illustration! Best of all, I can use the same pen to draw and write with, LOL!

Old tree trunk: Pentel Stylo pen, sumi ink, 
and Japanese watercolor.

Tip of the Day: You don't have to be a published poet or MFA candidate to write poetry. All you need to be is someone in love with words and the chance to play with language. The next time you sit down to journal or freewrite, try putting your feelings into a poem. It doesn't have to rhyme or have verses, or even have proper line breaks--it just needs to be you experimenting on the page with a fresh approach. If you need some inspiration, read a few published poets first and then try the "Inner and Outer" technique to organize your thoughts and feelings.


Lisa Handley said...

Happy Summer, Valerie! Oh, I can so relate to being focused on the in-the-moment experiences of real-time life and stepping back from the online world as a result. I've been so immersed in trying to balance my increasing work as a SoulCollage® facilitator, continuing my "regular" collage work and my personal work in SoulCollage® and healing art as well as parenting and so on and so forth. Alas, writing posts for my blog has fallen by the wayside as has keeping up with enjoying the writings of fellow bloggers like you! So, here I am, catching up. : ) Thanks for the inner-outer tip. What a great technique for recollecting the details of a travel or other memory before writing in honor of that memory. I love how you are blending your artwork with your poetry.

julia said...

love this, valerie! could you send me an harddrive died and took all emails and email addresses with it. i've been working to get email addresses from friends for a month! happy painting!