Last weekend, Silver City hosted its second biannual Southwest Festival of the Written Word. Three days were filled with activities ranging from poetry readings and workshops on writing song lyrics to talks on the state of the publishing industry and the art of book design.

I attended a workshop with Mary Sojourner entitled “Scalpel and Thread: The Art of Fine-Tuning Your Writing” in which we were invited to reconnect with a safe and sacred space, use a sentence as catalyst for a ten-minute free-writing session, then take another five minutes to edit out those parts that a reader would skip over.

Following this exercise, a few of us were invited to share our opening paragraph. I read mine, and received a spontaneous kudo from the participant next to me, as well as an indirect affirmation of my writing skills when another participant felt compelled to say that her work was not as good as mine. Sojourner, however, suggested that I shorten my sentences, speaking of cadence and rhythm, along with the need to keep the reader’s attention.

A part of me resisted her feedback, but another part recalled those seasons when poetry flowed in my life and I wondered about the possibility of turning those images into a poem. Over the past week, I’ve sat with this initial paragraph, played with it, and here are the results.

The initial paragraph as I read it in the workshop:

pine-lookupp8232134I kneel and pine needles poke through my jeans. Brown and dry, their faded musk drifts up to my nose as I slide onto my left hip and settle on the ground. My gaze slides up the trunk of a nearby Ponderosa, jigsaw-puzzle bark weaving past my sight. Needles join a million gentle dances on the breeze. I hear that precious sound, somewhere between waves and willow sighs, as wind weaves melody through the branches above me.

One poem:

Brown, dry, and sharp
Faded pine needles
As I kneel
Slide onto hip
Onto earth.

Ponderosa towers above
Jigsaw-puzzle bark
A roadway for my eyes
Traveling toward heaven
Detoured by pine needles
dancing in the breeze
sighing as wind slips through them.


And some haikus:

Kneeling under pines
Eyes travel jigsaw-bark path
Upward to the clouds

Eyes travel upward
Along puzzle-bark highway
Touch needle-pierced sky

Crouching in forest
Pine needles tickle heaven
Dead ones tickle knees

Which of these speaks best to you?

When is the last time that you’ve been encouraged to do something differently? Did you resist the invitation, or follow through? What were the results? Did the process have an impact on your life or your perspective?

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