“Embryonic Self*,” mixed media, by Clare L. Martin
A tree held in its branches
a womb that carried me.
My strong heart
beat brilliant red
through fluid translucence.
A thick cord
connected me to roots
of the tree
into the blood
of the earth.
Who knew I would experience
such sorrow, such joy
once born into the world?
*Dedicated to Bessie Senette.
Clare L. Martin ©2016
I am part of a group of trusted writers and newcomers who meet every other Saturday at various locations to write together. This past Saturday, I led the exercises. We take turns leading, so the responsibility of running the group is shared. I am posting here my writing exercises. I only ask that if you use them in a class, that you credit me. Please feel free to use them to spark your own writing. It would be interesting to see examples of your work generated by these prompts in the comments below.
- LANDThe land has stories. Consider our natural environment, or a particular place that you have ties to, and tell its story. Start by listing the ideas you have associated with this land, and any memories. Use the items on your list as a source of inspiration and write a poem examining why this occupies your mind. As you write, continue to hunt for clarity and more to say. Does the land change you? Do you feel a particular way when you think of it or visit it? Does this place still exist? Is it threatened? Do you feel calm or fear when thinking of it or visiting it?
Weave your impressions and ideas into a poem or short piece of fiction.
- Thirteen ways of looking at a _____________________________
After reading the poem, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” pick an object and write several stanzas numbered 1-13. Strive not to be literal but to see beyond the thing. Write the most imaginative narrative about the object you chose that you can conjure.
- Word Prompts
Circle 3 or more words that resonate with you from each group. Write sentences with each of those words. Push for clarity and interrogate the sentences to determine a narrative thread. Spend time shaping this into a poem of short piece of fiction.
We will repeat the process with another round using different words, or your own list.
©2015 Clare L. Martin
On Saturday, August 31st, I presented a workshop at Acadiana Wordlab, which is a literary drafting workshop directed by poet Jonathan Penton, Editor in Chief of Unlikely Stories. This was the second time I was a presenter and I was very excited for the opportunity. When planning the presentation, I wanted to aim for the “heart of the matter” and present something “meaty” and challenging to the writers that would be conducive to creative breakthrough. Apparently that was the right thing to do, because as evidenced by the examples of raw writing produced by participants, some brave, necessary, and inspired writing occurred.
I am sharing the prompts that I presented to the group and also the poem with which I began the presentation. The poem, “What We Carry” struck me as a good example to use as a prompt, as the lines could be interpreted individually since it is an “image list,” and because, as I said at Wordlab, everything we carry, even the smallest thing, has weight.
The seriousness of the business we are in was apparent by the tone of many of the pieces. I was struck by the imaginativeness and near creative ferociousness of much of the writing. I asked participants to relinquish their burdens to the page. That is not an easy thing to do and I don’t know how deep our writers went, but I was struck by how brave everyone was and by the level of trust which has deepened among many regular attendants of Wordlab.
Through the process of creative experiment/ group writing the participants made the active choice to begin new artifices. I believe we are ultimately transformed on a multiplicity of levels in striking and valuable ways through this process, and for this reason I am grateful to be an Acadiana Wordlab participant, and occasional presenter.
More information on Acadiana Wordlab, its meeting schedule and opportunities to be a participant or presenter can be found here: http://unlikelystories.org/acadiana_wordlab/
Thanks to Jonathan and all of the participants for your trust and courage.
I am sharing this poem and the prompts as an educational offering. If you choose to use them for yourself, have fun. If you choose to present them to a class, please credit me. If you would like me to present a workshop to a group, I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
WHAT WE CARRY
and rusted things
a knife wet with blood
the tail feather
of a rooster
a burnt match
a fistful of sins
the stain of roses
a storm of horses
letters from the dead
all in solemnity
all in solemnity
embodied in the sunken hull—
itself, an ocean
Clare L. Martin
What do the dead speak? What murmurs under water, or sputters from a mouth full of dirt? What name is on their lips? What resonance in their bones permeates our conscious living? I am the dead. I am in them. I dream their lilting, cold bodies, the slack musculature, and the worm-heaven of their putrefied skulls. Sing to me of the dead, their wishes and their folly. Sing to me their misery and what is seen through their maimed glares. The dead linger here and we must hear them. The dead have something to say. What is it?
Recall one object/thing in your bedroom. It could be a memento, a gift, something you mean to discard but have not, even the covering of dust on the furniture. Describe it in detail. Describe it with love or hate. What is its significance or insignificance to you? What will you do with/to it in the future?
Write a letter to a part of your body. It could be a love letter, a Dear John, an apology, or a revelation of a secret.
You are given a magic seed. The seed can grow into anything—what is this seed and what will it become? How will you cultivate it? Does this seed change your existence?
Imagine a mist. Imagine it clouding your sight, leaving your skin wet, filling your lungs. Something emerges from the mist. What is it? What does it mean to you?
IN MY TIME OF DYING
Before your death, before your last breath, you are given one wish. What is this wish? You may or may not choose to write what this wish is. Consider the implications of your death and the lasting effect of your wish.
Write about something that you wish to forget. Explore the emotions of the experience and why you want to forget this experience so desperately. End your piece with one sentence stating one thing you desperately need/want to remember.
Clare L. Martin