Part One: Twice each year, I help to organize and participate in Antioch University Los Angeles' MFA residency—a 10-day festival of literature and language held on the campus in Culver City. On Saturday morning, the poet Richard Garcia taught Jumping Into the Flow, a class about how to design and lead an in-class writing exercise. Richard says that to write a good exercise, you'll need (a) a model poem, (b) a procedure, and (c) an atmosphere. He described the good classroom exercise as "a combination of structure and chaos". He gave us this recipe before we took out our own pens: (1) be aware of your atmosphere, (2) be especially aware when memory kicks in and opens a door. If it does, follow it. This is one of the poems I wrote that morning. All the similes are by members of the Antioch Poetry Program:
Solstice Morning Similes
for the people of A1011
As soon as my eyes opened, I found myself
Again. Yup, there I is—on the mattress like
Pubic hair on a bar of soap. That’s the way
It goes some days I guess: thought simmering
Like a pancake in its own grease, oil splatter
On the poor chef, on the poor chef’s clothes.
Why even bother? I rolled around and stretched
My legs and found—what?—well, it was like
Crumbs under the sheets, like the boiled egg
I left in the trash yesterday that stank when I
Got home at 11. Damned summer heat—like
Hot waves off the barbeque grill. Some days, I’ll
Stand and stand outside in the dusk, feeling
The one heat beat into the other, cooking
For the family. And it’s just like that sometimes:
One child bored…what do I do, Mom? And
You-know-who needing—a hand, some
Attention. For me to give a damn. And like
Picket signs outside the grocery store, I protest. I
Flip the burgers. I take another sip of iced gin.
You can read poems by Richard Garcia here.