Family Writing Idea: (with 4 example poems) dm 01/07
Consider all types of family dynamics. Consider Arthur Miller's play "A View from the Bridge." Take a look at the poems in the Academic II section under the "Family" section.
Explore the many sides of the word "family." Consider the the Flash Fiction story we read called "Distance from Loved Ones." Remember how, during our discussion, we talked about how "loaded" with meaning the words Mother, Father, Son, Daughter are? Add to these Sister and Brother.
Even though we are reading the Miller play in class this week, keep writing every night, exploring ideas for your piece due on Monday. If we finish the play early, we'll have time later in the week for you to read your drafts to the class for feedback.
The characters in the Miller play are all part of a distinct group, a tribe with well understood rules, and well understood consequences for those who break them. We are all, in some way, part of a tribe, each with a set of expectations. During your writing explorations, consider your family, your tribe and allow your writing to go where it goes.
Some Ideas: Think more in moments in relation to these ideas. For instance – Father – he was selfless – a moment in summer at dusk when he played whiffleball with me, even though he worked a long day, used to illustrate this concept.
The idea of the rules of your ‘tribe’
Rooms: the kitchen, etc.
The moment a parent became a ‘person’ -
Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?
Entering The Kingdom
by Mary Karr
As the boy's bones lengthened
and his head and heart enlarged,
his mother one day failed
to see herself in him.
He was a man then, radiating
the innate loneliness of men.
His expression was ever after
beyond her. When near sleep
his features eased towards childhood,
it was brief.
She could only squeeze
his broad shoulder. What could
she teach him
of loss, who now inflicted it
by entering the kingdom
of his own will?
by Billy Collins
The other day
as I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
bouncing from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
I found myself in the “L” section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one more suddenly into the past.
A past where I sat at a workbench
at a camp by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid thin plastic strips into a lanyard,
a gift for my mother.
I have never seen anyone use a lanyard,
or wear one,
if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing strand over strand
again and again
until I had made a boxy red and white lanyard
for my mother.
She gave me life and milk from her breasts
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold face cloths on my forehead,
then led me out into the airy light and taught me to walk and swim,
and I in turn presented her with a lanyard.
“Here are thousands of meals,” she said,
“and here is clothing and a good education.”
“And here is your lanyard,” I replied,
“which I made with a little help from a counselor.
“Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones, and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world,” she whispered
“And here,” I said, “is the lanyard I made at camp.”
And here, I wish to say to her now, is a smaller gift.
Not the archaic truth that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission
that when she took the two-toned lanyard from my hands,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove out of boredom
would be enough to make us even.
My Father's Hats
by Mark Irwin
Sunday mornings I would reach
high into his dark closet while standing
on a chair and tiptoeing reach
higher, touching, sometimes fumbling
the soft crowns and imagine
I was in a forest, wind howling
through pines, where the musky scent
of rain clinging to damp earth was
his scent I loved, lingering on
bands, leather, and on the inner silk
crowns where I would smell his
hair and almost think I was being
held, or climbing a tree, touching
the yellow fruit, leaves whose scent
was that of clove in the godsome
air, as now, thinking of his fabulous
sleep, I stand on this canyon floor
and watch light slowly close
on water I can't be sure is there.