Saturday, May 23, 2015

Notebooking Daily Writing Exercise May 23, 2015

Daily Exercise Genre: Ekphrasis.

OK, you got me, that's Ryne
Sandberg not Carl Sandburg,
but Carl's first book of poems
was called "Chicago Poems"
so the Cubs jersey is fitting.
About today's writing prompt genre: Ekphrasis is from Greek meaning the description of a work of art as a rhetorical device. That's actually pretty straight forward, but another way to look at it, is it's highfalutin fan fiction, usually about paintings or pieces of music, but it can be about virtually anything. Look at or listen to the following piece of art and write a piece of prose or poetry that is inspired by some aspect of it.

Today's artwork is...

The poem "Grass" by Carl Sandburg.


Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work—
                                          I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
                                          What place is this?
                                          Where are we now?

                                          I am the grass.
                                          Let me work.

There are many ways to respond to this poem, whether imagining a particular battle's long aftermath, a fictional campaign or whatever. The exercise I used when teaching this poem in my recent war poetry class was:

Imagine yourself one aspect of nature, and how you concern yourself (or, as in Sandburg’s case, don’t) with the affairs and wars of humans. Perhaps trees, a river, the ocean…

But however you decide to respond, read the poem at least four times. It's quite short and uses repetition very well. Repetition/refrain/anaphora is the most prominent device, but listen to the musicality of the line "Shovel them under and let me work." Sho-vel, them un-der, and, let, me-work. Have at it.


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