Tag Archives: poetry prompt

The Inimitable Style of Len Cowgill

When the gardener and I lived in Michigan we were good friends with artist Len Cowgill. He specialized in a type of pointillism which was well-suited to the detailed nature of his subjects. We have a series of three pieces that showcase different stages of a man’s life. They are just stunning. Unfortunately, they are under glass, so I can’t really take photos of them.

Recently, I found his work online–in galleries and on Flickr. While his art has grown and changed, it is still recognizably his inimitable style. Using acid-free paper, he works mainly in  ink, graphite, white charcoal, and sometimes colored pencil. Len’s work isn’t merely decorative. He doesn’t turn away from difficult subjects, but focuses his eye on the human condition.

We haven’t seen Len in years, but hope to see him before too long now that we’ve reconnected.

When I really love a work of art, I get all revved up (jumping up and down in my chair, if you must know) and want to share with everyone. This is how I feel about Len’s art. He let me use these images from his Flickr account, but please do not copy them for public or internet use.

 

103 Secret Saints

 

 

Strangers Battling Through Eternity

 

 

Mermaids

 

 

Beatrice

 

 

We Are All In This Together

 

 

The Burden of Personal History

 

You can find Len’s work for purchase at the following galleries:

To contact Len, he can be reached through the contact page at Tamarack Art Gallery.
Just writing this blog post is giving me an idea for poetry: to write an ekphrastic poem based on one of Len’s pieces. An ekphrastic poem about a piece of visual art. Traditionally, the poet expands upon the meaning of the art within the poem, but it really can be any response to specific art. Use the artwork as muse or inspiration. Hmm, gotta get to writing. If you write a poem in response to one of the images in this post, please post a link or the poem itself in the comments!

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Filed under #AmWriting, Art and Music, Inspiration, Poetry, Writing, Writing prompt

Have You Read the Poetry of Linda Hogan?

Do you know the work of poet Linda Hogan?  I love her poetry.  With only two days left of National Poetry Month, I thought I’d share one of my favorite poems, written by Hogan.  The poem is from the “Hunger” section of The Book of Medicines. 

CROSSINGS

by Linda Hogan

There is a place at the center of earth

where one ocean dissolves inside the other

in a black and holy love;

It’s why the whales of one sea

know songs of the other,

why one things becomes something else

and sand falls down the hourglass

into another time.

Once I saw a fetal whale

on a black of shining ice.

Not yet whale, it still wore the shadow

of a human face, and fingers that had grown before the taking

back and turning into fin.

It was a child from the curving world of water turned square,

cold, small.

Sometimes the longing in me

comes from when I remember

the terrain of crossed beginnings

when whales lived on land

and we stepped out of water

to enter our lives in air.

Sometimes it’s from the spilled cup of a child

who passed through all the elements

into the human fold,

but when I turned him over

I saw that he did not want to live

in air.  He’d barely lost

the trace of gill slits

and already he was a member of the clan of crossings.

Like tides of water,

he wanted to turn back.

I spoke across elements

as he was leaving

and told him, Go.

I was like the wild horses

that night when fog lifted.

They were swimming across the river.

Dark was that water,

darker still the horses,

and then they were gone.

###

Poetry Prompt:

Write about the origins of life as you believe, imagine, or create them.  Don’t use Biblical language.  Find a fresh way to describe the beginning.

Here is Hogan reading from “The History of Red”:

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Hey, You, Where Did You Get That Poem?

You can find a lot of good books about writing poetry.  They usually are divided into chapters such as metaphor, rhyme, rhythm, and image.  

But Kenneth Koch approached the subject a little differently.  He theorized that to teach poetry writing to children, you had only to teach them to tap into their imaginations and to give them quality poems to read.

For his simpler book Wishes, Lies, and Dreams, he created practical writing prompts for kids.   Chapters include Class Collaborations, Wishes, Comparisons, Noises, Dreams, and Poems Written While Listening to Music.  It’s exciting just to read the titles.  I want to sit in his class and start writing.

So that’s what I do, sort of—I use his ideas for poems.  After all, aren’t these great prompts for adult poets, as well?

Still, Koch knew that kids—and adults—couldn’t just stop there.  To prime our mental pumps, we have to read quality poetry.  The more we read, while keeping the gates to our imagination wide open, the more we can grow as poets.  Of course, in the circle of reading and writing, by writing our own poetry, we enrich our reading experience of the poetic greats.

In Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?, Koch structures this interconnection of reading and writing around ten poems by masters such as Blake, Donne, Whitman, Steven, Ashbery, and Rimbaud.  I’m sorry to say that he did only use poems by male poets.  I’m not going to make any excuses about that tremendous oversight.  Ahem, let’s continue.

Koch introduced the children to Blake’s poem “The Tyger.”

He didn’t want them to stumble over Blake’s “language and syntax,” so he tried to connect the poem to the experiences of the kids, asking questions, such as had they seen a dog’s eyes glowing in the dark.

Here is the prompt he eventually gave them, and it’s one you can use too:

Write a poem in which you are talking to a beautiful and mysterious creature and you can ask it anything you want—anything.  You have the power to do this because you can speak its secret language.

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