Walking While Writing

Lighthouse Writers’ Workshop has scored again. They have created a project called Write Denver. (Details at Write Denver.) Yesterday at Friday 500 Dan Manzanares and Yanara Friedland rolled out the concept for us, including the process: walk to connect, set your own pace, pay attention to departure and arrival, include memory/reflection, attend to details. We walked on Race Street and wrote in a spattering of rain for just ten minutes, returned to the house and read, without preamble or commentary, what we had written, what Yanara calls the collective story. I loved it.

Walking while writing includes concepts like place making (if we write it we help create it), awareness of movement through space and across boundaries. Place-based writing works well with some constraints: attending to departure and arrival, reflection/memory, and capturing detail. To witness and record our place in the world, to let rain fall on the page, the earth receive our footsteps.

This idea matters in the grand scheme of poetry making. Memorable poems do not exist in a geography of the mind but of the world, specific places like McDuffy’s farm in Minnesota (James Wright), foggy old London (T.S. Eliot), museums and forests, bedrooms and hospital rooms. And isn’t that our assignment as writers?  To bear witness to truth as it appears before us, wherever we are. I live life in motion, place to place. I write to fine tune my internal GPS. I think universal, I write local. The world is not my oyster. I am the oyster and the world I build is my shell. Tough old oysters enlarge their shells. May it be so.

Here’s my poem Crossings. It was originally published in The Cafe Review:

CROSSINGS

Again this year and this year and this,

small birds scatter up

from northern fields and cross

the equator. If I follow them

I will not stop myself

from making one slow wing beat

to mark there from here, a new sphere

entered, the world’s waist unbelted.

No, I’ll stay put and mind the wind

that grinds the corners of the house,

and try not to be afraid when

I can’t see the lines I cross, but know

that each degree of latitude has

its danger. Time the pilgrims

make their visit south. And now

all flight is in two places, the body

always slipping whole over the line

as the flock wheels with one mind,

one creature with a thousand heads

who knows without knowing where

to go and need no mention of its passing.

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