Upon Reflection: A Month of Unexpected Poems

Random Access Poetry

During April, every day, I woke up, not knowing what I was going to write. As part of my Random Access Poetry activity, my goal was to use a few different tools and sites to find an unexpected image that could spark a poem for the day. So, for 30 mornings, that’s what I would do — grab a cup of coffee, go to one of my image-finding spaces, land on an image and write small poems.

Here are some of the places I went to for random photo inspiration:

  • John Johnston’s Flickr Promptr (which he set up after I asked if anyone had anything that would generate a random image for poetry, and I so deeply appreciate that he took that idea and built something in Github)
  • John Johnston’s Flickr Stampr — which is as Creative Commons search engine
  • John Johnston’s (he’s great, right!) Flickr Blendr site, which randomly grabs two images and blends them together
  • Alan Levine’s Don’t Look At My Photos — designed to surface photographers in Flickr — a new photographer every hour (although I noticed some repeats and not all of the photos were Creative Commons designated — this is not Alan’s fault. By the way, I regularly use Alan’s Flickr Creative Commons attribution tool)
  • Internet Archives Book Images collection on Flickr — I follow a bot of this site, that sends out random images, and I often found neat things to inspire writing
  • Bud Hunt’s mostly-daily posting of images for poetry during April. Bud has been doing this for years, and I appreciate that he takes the time. Sometimes, I feel like he is doing it just for me, since I am often the only poet posting there
  • Big Huge Labs Random Photo Browser — not all of the images are Creative Commons, but there is a good variety and a search engine tool

Looking back over the 30 poems from April, there were some decent writing days, more than a few mediocre days and a couple of blah days with the poems. Some poems just worked and some poems just didn’t. Some poems seemed to write themselves — I would start and the lines would flow, and I’d try to figure out where the poem was going as it was being written. That’s an awfully strange and interesting experience. Other days, I’d get stuck mid-way into the piece, force myself to plow through and get to a good-enough stopping place.

What I found, as I was about to start writing each morning by calling up a photo with one of the tools above, is that I was searching for a hook in the visual image — something that grabbed my attention, a spark of a hidden story, or a character on the edges, or a small moment, or an emotion. I didn’t know what I was looking for as I was looking but I was fairly confident I might find it if I looked close enough with my writing eyes. Only once or twice did I not use the very first image I found and reset the process. Mostly, I let the random nature of my search become the inspiration, and just went with it.

The thing about poems is that they are designed to evoke, and photos can do the same. Evocation is also a tricky business for a writer in a rush — I wrote poems in a short span of time — and that’s why they don’t always work in this format. There was often a tension between what I saw, what I wrote, and what I aimed to accomplish. But I often left the writing with a phrase or line or stanza on the screen that I found worthy of the page, and for that, I was always inspired and confident as a poet.

If you bothered to read any of the poems, thank you. I hope you were writing, too.

Peace (in poems and more),
Kevin

Making Music Letters (An Illustrated Alphabet)

Musical ABC CollageI’m not sure I knew what I was getting into when I saw some artistic friends doing an activity called Illuminated Alphabet in early April — where many people were doing daily “letters” on a theme through art (I found out later that it was part of some contest) — and decided to give it a try.

Mostly, I jumped in out of curiosity, using the theme of music, and then kept going, and at some point, I was too far along with the letters not to keep going. And some CLMOOC friends — like Algot and Ron and others — were in the mix at times, too. So, there’s that kind of collaborative inspiration.

Some days were definitely challenging to keep the theme of music flowing into letters (and some letters require a leap of faith that they somehow directly connect to music .. so, you know, trust me on my thinking on those ones). But, I had fun with making the simply-designed art (I used the Paper App to make mine, often working rather quickly once I had an idea) and seeing them all in a single collage is pretty cool.

Also, during the month, keeping an eye on the IlluminatedAlphabet hashtag on Twitter was one of the neatest things I did as the flow of letters and art was just magical and inspirational, and the mix of amateur artists (me) and professional artists made for some intriguing artwork and letters.

Peace (go on and play it),
Kevin

 

Random Access Poetry: Day Thirty


Silky – Soyeux flickr photo by monteregina shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Random Access Poetry: Day Thirty

Some words just drift
upon air, a cluster
of potential
from a translucent
flower seeking soil for
root, all with hope
that a new poem
might yet emerge
from where another
nurtured —

one idea seeds
a
n
o
t
h
e
r

(NOTE: OK, so the letters of “another” as the last line of the poem are meant to be scattered across the page but the blog keeps formatting it to flush left and I have given up making it work. Imagine those letters scattering to the wind …)

Peace (in the flowering),
Kevin

PS — this is the last poem for this month’s poetry adventure I called Random Access Poetry, in which I used different paths to find images to inspire poems each morning. Thanks to Alan Levine, John Johnston, Bud Hunt, Sheri Edwards, Terry Elliott, Kim Douillard, Raymond Maxwell, Algot Runeman, Margaret Simon, and others for all of the places I have used to write poems and leave poems. Some of those pieces ended up here, as daily poems, and some just drifted into the comment bins of blog posts. Thanks, too, to all the photographers whose images helped inspire me. I tried to leave notes of appreciation where I could.

Remix Poem with a Remix Message

My friend, Bryan, asked at his blog about views on remix. Bryan fuses remix into his Remixer Machine site, which is fun to use (and something I support via Patron). The poem above came after thinking about how to respond to him. I guess maybe it resonated with folks, since it has nearly 8,000 views on Twitter, where I first shared it. Huh.

Peace (remix it and make it better),
Kevin

Making Music: Sold Out

My latest rock and roll band is Sold Out! and we had our first gig the other weekend, rocking to raise money for an animal shelter. We had the nervous energy of a new band playing for a real audience for the first time after weeks of practice, but we ended up getting the whole place dancing and moving, and now we’re shifting ahead with booking other gigs this summer. Making music sure is something magical! (That’s me singing above and playing sax down below)

Sold Out! band icon

You can follow us at Facebook if you are local to Western Massachusetts and shout hello at our next show.

Peace (sounds like rock and roll),
Kevin

Song Demo: Friends We Can Believe

I wrote this song for some friends and then realized that while some of the lines are specific to my group of close friends, the message of friendship is wider. I include friends in my networking spaces, like CLMOOC in this idea of finding people you can trust. I put the “demo” label on a lot of songs recorded quickly like this …

Peace (to all of you),
Kevin

 

Carry That Poem Around in Your Pocket

Today is Poem In Your Pocket Day — so either write your own poem to bring around with you or find a favorite or maybe discover something new. There are lots of resources at the Poets.Org site.

Before our April break, I handed out a poem to every one of my students. We read them and I had them fold them up, put them in their pockets, and carry some words around with them. A few students were a bit befuddled but others were appreciative and curious.

Me?

I wrote this poem as a riff of my CLMOOC poet friend, Raymond, the other day, and so, while I made it digital, I also hand-wrote it out, and this is the poem I will carry with me today. I lifted the first line from Ray’s poem — a Lunch Break Sonnet.

A Poem for Ray

The middle is a spring
thunderstorm –
all wind and fury
and unpredictable worry:

You keep me covered
while I hold you tight
Love is what gets us
through the night

Peace (make it linger),
Kevin

CLMOOC: Where Rings and Planets May Yet Connect Us

CLMOOC Web Ring comic

Greg has been building out a few fun, helpful video tutorials on our move in CLMOOC to use Web Rings and RSS Planets to gather the work and writing and sharing and connection of people together after the plug got pulled on G+ space. Sheri wrote a useful post that gives more specific details on joining these ventures.

The CLMOOC Web Ring, still under construction with a few hiccups along the way (including this platform of Edublogs not quite in synch with how Web Rings work), is designed to provide paths to different CLMOOC blogging sites, so that you can move in circular patterns through the ring of writers. I still don’t have a full handle on Web Rings, yet, but I’m getting there, and Greg created this video tutorial on how to connect your space to the ring.

Greg also earlier had created this video of the “history” of Web Rings and the entry of CLMOOC into the system.

The CLMOOC RSS Planet, meanwhile, is a gathering of RSS feeds from bloggers who have been part of the CLMOOC experience over the years. Greg (with generous help from Sarah) set up a master feed that pulls in RSS into one place — one “planet” where we all orbit as constellations.

Again, Greg created an amusing video overview. The robots are here.

You can see both the CLMOOC Web Ring and the RSS Planet at the site that Greg has set up. Here’s another example of CLMOOC venturing into unknown terrain, under the ethos of making connections with each other and hopefully, expanding out the Affinity Space in different ways. And all with Greg’s continued guidance and support and, well, cheerleading, around the IndieWeb movement and Domain of One’s Own concept of DS106 and other connected networked spaces (a shift which I might need to start re-thinking myself this year, too).

Peace (in stars and circles),
Kevin

SmallStories: Pedagogy of the Small

My friends Laura and Kate, along with Geoff and Tanya remotely, presented about the idea of Small Stories and the Pedagogy of Small at the OER19 Conference.

I’ve been part of the SmallStories gathering over at Mastodon for some time (often with CLMOOC friends), first drawn there by Tanya and Kate and others, and now find myself a regular SmallStories writer. SmallStories is the idea of small moments, shared in the open. They are typically short bursts of writing, often hinting at something larger. Sort of like Slice of Life, if you are a Slicer with Two Writing Teachers.

Laura and Kate: SmallStories

I’m enjoying watching Laura share the ideas of the writing (including work that Geoff has done with the Young Writers Project in Vermont) at a conference considering the possibilities of open networking. She begins by contrasting the push towards bigger, bigger, bigger networking spaces with small corners of writing, sharing, connecting like the #smallstories hashtag. (oops, then the sound goes out when she moves to chat about Mastodon. Read her lips!)

Laura and Kate: SmallStories

Kate then explores the difference between flash fiction (short creative fiction) and small stories (mostly non-fiction of a single event).

“This little thing happened, how weird was that?” is how Kate explains how our days, all of us, are filled with small stories. “Noticing is something you need to learn to do.”

It’s in that noticing that we bring forth the story, however.

Kate defines small stories as:

  • being composed of the details we notice
  • having something to teach us about ourselves or the world
  • notice our values in action, made visible

Thanks to my friends for gathering this together and sharing it out.

Peace (in the open),
Kevin