In June, in January…

CREATIVE WRITING

Sometimes exposure to one environment gets me thinking about the opposite of that environment. It’s strange, really. It’s the beginning of summer and I’m sitting here thinking about winter. Come winter and I’ll be thinking about summer. And not even in the sense that I’m longing for that season – I am definitely not longing for winter- just pondering it. If I’m spending time in a city I’ll imagine dusty country roads. If I’m out in the Midwest I’ll close my eyes each night to city lights. (Maybe that’s from longing.)

I guess it makes sense. As a creative writer, I write best from experience, but even better when I have some distance from that experience. Still, doesn’t it seem contradictory to remove oneself from the environment your writing pictures, develops, scrutinizes? I don’t like the idea, but I guess I have time to figure out what works best for me.

I mentioned in a previous post that the poet I’m most inspired by is Ted Kooser, former Poet Laureate. One of his poems I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is called “In January.” I love the way Kooser develops atmosphere in this poem, creating shapes and sounds from intangible things like light and age.

In January

Only one cell in the frozen hive of night
is lit, or so it seems to us:
this Vietnamese café, with its oily light,
its odors whose colorful shapes are like flowers.
Laughter and talking, the tick of chopsticks.
Beyond the glass, the wintry city
creaks like an ancient wooden bridge.
A great wind rushes under all of us.
The bigger the window, the more it trembles.

 

Ted Kooser

CREATIVE WRITING, POEMS

Ted Kooser is a brilliant poet.

I stumbled upon his collection, “Delights & Shadows,” a few years ago and it has influenced my writing ever since.

Kooser, an Iowa native who was the United States Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006,  writes poems that show glimpses of daily life. He has a way of making the mundane fascinating, of making everyday events  awe-inspiring.

Kooser maximizes meaning in minimal words. He proves that economy of language is extremely effective. Kooser’s clear, simple, beautiful language is something to be emulated in all writing forms– creative, academic or journalistic.

Listen to an interview Kooser did in 2005 with NPR.

Here’s on of my favorite poems:

A Rainy Morning
by Ted Kooser

A young woman in a wheelchair,
wearing a black nylon poncho spattered with rain
is pushing herself through the morning.
You have seen how pianists
sometimes bend forward to strike the keys,
then lift their hands, draw back to rest,
then lean again to strike just as the chord fades.
Such is the way this woman
strikes at the wheels, then lifts her long white fingers,
letting them float, then bends again to strike
just as the chair slows, as if into a silence.
So expertly she plays the chords
of this difficult music she has mastered,
her wet face beautiful in its concentration,
while the wind turns the pages of rain.