Monday, October 16th
– Detail Question: What’s your favorite word?
-We read the poem of the day, “Fifth Grade” by Amy Fleury
– We discussed the Orr essay and compared it to his poem “Gathering the Bones Together” and then compared the poem to Judy Jordan’s “Help Me to Salt, Help Me to Sorrow”
– We discussed the function of time in both the poems you read for homework this weekend
– We compared these two poems (and the poem of the day, “Fifth Grade”) in terms of unity of time and place. Both these poems allow for a of skipping around on the part of the poet, and information is meted out slowly
Homework for Wednesday, October 18th
- Read: “Abandoned Farmouse” by Ted Kooser
- Read: “I Go Back to May 1937” by Sharon Olds
- Read: This short essay “The Very Act of Telling: Sharon Olds and Writing Narrative Poetry” by Aaron Smith
- Write: Each week for the next month, I’ll be giving you a prompt each class period for you to start chewing on and working through. You don’t have to respond to every single prompt, but you will need to generate at least two poems for your portfolio, so I recommend taking a crack at as many prompts as possible. Here’s today’s:
Both Judy Jordan’s “Help Me to Salt, Help Me To Sorrow” and Greg Orr’s “Gathering the Bones Together” use a patchwork of memories and temporal leaps to center us in different, but similar, emotional states throughout the poem. “Gathering the Bones Together” uses delineated section markers (1 – 5) to skip between particular time periods and locations, both real and imagined, to give us insight into the speaker’s brother’s accidental murder and how the speaker processes his relationship to violence and to guilt.
In “Help Me to Salt, Help Me To Sorrow,” the speaker grounds us first in a present moment with concrete place- and person-based images (“In the moon-fade and the sun’s puppy breath, / in the crow’s plummeting cry, / in my broken foot and arthritic joints, / memory calls me”) and then leaps temporally to thread us in and out of a developing narrative. Unlike “Gathering the Bones Together,” there are several settings and time periods we slip through without specific section breaks as we gain a fuller portrait of the speaker’s life. Some leaps are direct (“It’s still 1976 — … No, it’s 1969”) some use markers from the setting (“Again the washed-out photo in the family album”) and one, in the beginning, gives the reader a sense of where the poem is going by directly acknowledging the time shift: “It’s a strange leap but I make it / and bend these small harvests.”
Both of these poems teach us different poetic techniques to slip through time. Write a poem that focuses on a specific event in your life that skips between two different time periods to give the reader a fuller understanding of what that specific event means to the speaker, using either Orr’s technique of little numbered snapshots or Jordan’s technique of time and place markers.