Poetry Friday: Winter Morning

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.

“Light rests
in the crooked
elbows and branches of
old trees,

drowses
in the shadows
of moss-covered rocks, naps
In piles

of leaves
scattered over
forest floors, stretches out
to sleep

and dreams
itself wearing
a shining necklace of
dewdrops.”

Isn’t that stunning?

Here is the poem my “borrowing” inspired:

Winter Morning

Light seeps
through the outstretched
fingers and branches of
bare trees,

rouses
birds, roosted
in a tangle of brush, quickens
the blood

of cardinals and jays,
who flutter around
snow-covered feeders, reaches 
deep into the shadows

and dreams
itself wearing
an iridescent crown of
feathers.

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.

18 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Winter Morning

  1. Yes, it IS stunning. Your careful crafting rhyming rouse with drowse, and the crown of feathers to bring the birds into the structure of this poem is beautiful. So similar…and yet so different. It’s like two sparkles off a gem. Bravo!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love the “Iridescent crown of feathers”. I want to use this structure for a nature poem. I love how the action of the light leads us to see things in a new way.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, it is marvelous, Catherine and your own ‘turn’ to birds is equal to it. I love your challenge & sometimes take a line from a poem as inspiration. I love your “light seeps” and “rouses birds”.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m sure that Myra would’ve loved the way you’ve honored her poem, Catherine! Great work! For those who want to know more about Myra, here are a few tidbits: her Master Class students included Alice Schertle, April Halprin Wayland, Monica Gunning, Kristine O’Connell George, Tony Johnston, Ann Whitford Paul, Sonya Sones, Ruth Lercher Bornstein, Deborah Chandra, Joan Bransfield Graham, myself, and more. One of her favorite exercises involved having us change voice/perspective: from a poem using the narrative voice, to the lyrical voice, to the dramatic voices of the mask, conversation, and apostrophe. You can find her book POEM-MAKING at a library and reading it will give you a comprehensive understanding of poetic forms and techniques (whether you’re 9 or 89).

    Liked by 2 people

    • Janet, thank you for reminding me about Myra Cohn Livingston’s book, Poem-Making. When I taught an enrichment poetry class, I used to take it out of the library. I always wanted to buy a copy of the book, but I forgot to. Now, I will buy it and another book of her poetry to use as a mentor book for my writing. She must have been an amazing teacher to have inspired so many talented poets and authors. Congratulations on winning the 2021 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Catherine, yes, it is stunning and so is your poem! Both poems are like looking through a camera lens to capture the effect of light. I love how you used birds in your poem. My favorite lines are “fingers and branches,” “quickens the blood of cardinals and jays,” and
    “an iridescent crown of feathers.” Great writing and a great idea! I’m going to give it a try.

    Thank you for reminding me about Myra Cohen Livingston; I always wanted to buy her book, Poem Making, which Janet has mentioned. When I taught an enrichment poetry class I would take Poem-Making, out of the library; I told myself I would someday buy my own copy of it, but over the years I forgot until I read her poem here and read Janet’s comment. Now, I also want a book of her poetry. Thank you! I have to tell Janet thank you, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That original poem is stunning, Catherine, as is yours. I loved all the “r” sounds in your second stanza and the movement of the birds, again captured by your wonderful word choice. Thanks for posing such a rewarding challenge!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Double beautiful–and what a good assignment it was, supportive indeed. Like many I love your last stanza in which winter light dreams of plumage. I appreciate Janet stopping by to give us some deep background…how I wish I could have played in that group!

    Liked by 1 person

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