....said William Carlos Williams, he of the wheelbarrow and chickens and plums and gulls. Objects and images of them can be incredibly evocative as writing prompts. Neruda wrote a whole collection of odes to common things. My favorites tend to be the ones written to ordinary, overlooked, or even hard to love things.
Photographs are also good sources of inspiration. I don't have a smartphone, more for frugality than any other reason. I do, though, understand the appeal of Instagram and documenting one's world visually, making a diary of the eye.
So here are some prompts around objects. After that, some images from my collection, my Slowgrams.
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Title and notes/bullet points from a presentation at a conference of mythical creatures.
An important speech. The speaker stubs their toe intensely right before.
Combine an untimely ailment or bodily function with a momentous occasion.
The architectural firm that designs snowflakes has closed.
You wake up in a painting.
Do you have a landscape/place that can be summoned with a sound or scent? Write us there.
Write about your most worn pair of shoes.
At the end of Naomi Shabib Nye’s “The Only Word a Tree Knows” she says “I was born to answer a tree?” What about you? Answer it.
Take the books by your bed or where you read. Pick, at random, a line from each. Use these to jump-start a poem.
A lock of hair. Is it a trophy? A curse? A love spell? Whose?
Job interview, something embarrassing falls out of your purse/bag/pocket.
Your loved one leaves you something to remember them by but it is not at all charming, or sweet, or sentimental.
The possession you'd protect from a house fire that would be hard for others to value.
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So Bowie's left Earth. Briefly put, he was an artist who was a constant part of my growing up. I think I saw him first as an actor. He was playing the Elephant Man and it must have been shown on PBS. I have never been able to find it since, unfortunately. He was riveting. For much of the play he wore a diaper-like thing and twisted himself into Merrick's character. That's it. No makeup or prosthetics, just his contorted almost-naked body and a voice that sounded like it was pushed through a great deal of flesh.
As an oldest child with little access to college radio or record stores, it was probably not until the "Young Americans" album came out that I heard him again. Once we got the satellite dish and MTV, everything changes. I found Bowie and Grace Jones and the Eurythmics and Kate Bush...all the wondrous, freaky sounds and images I craved. There are so many of his songs and videos to love, but I have a special feeling about "Heroes," specifically his performance during Live Aid. The powder blue suit, the GIRL saxophonist, the mass of people screaming in joy!! (I also remember Mama talking about what pretty hair he had.)
I was 16 on that day and earlier in the summer I had traveled to France, at (unappreciated at the time) expense to my family. For almost two weeks, I saw castles and Parisian streets. I stood in front of Van Gogh paintings trying not to cry. I came back home and worked in the same tomato fields as always, dizzy from heat and culture shock. My teenage brain veered between grandiosity and self-loathing, hope and fear. The world was so big and so beautiful and so troubled. Was this the beginning of the world or the end? Bowie always chose the wise path - not choosing an answer, kissing under gunfire, looking death in the eye, living til the end and then....somehow, impossibly, beyond. Matt posted the Lazarus video the day Bowie died with the statement: "today's lesson: Do your thing. Every day. Until you die." I can think of no better tribute.
Back home, the name of a road that crosses a railroad track. Here, a place to keep my verbal play-pretties and whatnot.