#CLMOOC: On Making a Poem of Play

I’ve been writing poems each morning for CLMOOC’s Poetry Port project — in which there are daily poetry themes as well as an invitation to request a free poem to be written (see more). Yesterday, Greg shared both a poem and then his “behind the scenes” of the writing of the poem.

I figured I’d follow Greg’s lead this morning. (The above video was a screencast of me, in the act of writing the poem, via an Etherpad, which keeps a time-slider version of the writing, so you can follow the writing of a piece from the first word, on. I always liked that feature in Etherpad variants.)

Mostly, during the CLMOOC project this month, I’ve been not looking ahead to the daily themes, even though there is a calendar. I like to write poems each morning in a burst of creativity, letting the theme spark the start of something.

This morning, before reading the theme (which was “play”), I was outside, walking the dog, and found myself in a stunned stop at the view of the full moon — known as the Snow Moon — in the sky. It was so beautiful, this orb of light, and its magic hung with me as I sat down with a mug of coffee and the call for a poem.

Here’s the poem:

The child still within me
shoots the hoop
drops the puck
spins the coin
catches the ball

as the adult in me
slows the pace
stares in awe
thinks on love
writes a poem

of winter’s brilliant Snow Moon,
a heavenly body sitting
above barren bone-fingered trees,
its silver light shouting out delight

in another otherwise
quiet morn

The first line, about being a child, imagining the moon as a ball or puck on the field of play came naturally, which then led to small lines about each element. I was seeking a rhythm to the phrasing: verb, article, noun; verb, article, noun. You can almost hear the dribbling of the basketball, the swishing of skates, the whacking of the baseball.

In the second stanza, I knew I wanted to repeat that rhythm, but this time, on the shift to the adult, seeing the moon, not as a something to be played with, but something to be inspired by. It’s still verb, article, noun, but the nouns now are not concrete objects, but feelings. Something more internal.

After setting up those two pieces as mirrors to each other, I wanted to shift the poem into the present, of the moon in the sky, and how its silver light was in contrast to the leafless winter trees, and the sense that the Snow Moon was shouting for attention, even as the dog and I were the only beings in movement, to notice (and the dog didn’t pay attention). The last two lines, dangling nearly on their own, was intentional — a way to settle the reader into the moment.

I did some recursive editing, too, shifting and changing words as I was writing, “playing” the poem in my head, thinking (but not too much) about flow, the way syllables create or distract from the movement of the poem. One sound can throw the whole cadence off track at times. I’m reading as I’m writing — sometimes out loud but often, inside my head, that writer’s voice that only the writer can hear as words hit the page.

The poem’s not perfect, by any stretch, but I think it captures the wonder of the morning, and what more could I ask of a piece of writing?

Peace (flows forever forward),


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