Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Poetry Writing Prompt #17 - Bringing a Place to Life Via Your Poem

In Rainer Rilke’s “Diaries of a Young Poet” (not his more often sited “Letters”) he was making careful notes to his lady love, describing his travels as he ventured into Italy.

Please note Rilke's technique:

1.        He considered his audience: he is writing especially for an audience of one. A woman he is in love with who highly values the words he is writing. She is hungry for rich, ripe narrative.

2. Consider his writing voice.  Can you hear his voice and his heartbeat as he writes for his
  “audience of one? Keep your voice authentic no matter how large – or intimate – your “audience.”

3. Consider the overall metaphor.  What does it speak to of these two cities?  How does Rilke make these places feel like people?

The Words of Rilke:

“Florence, unlike Venice, does not disclose herself to the casual passer-by.  In Venice the bright, cheerful palaces are so trusting and talkative, and they linger like beautiful women forever by the mirror of the canal, wondering whether people ever see the aging in them. They are happy in their brilliance and have probably never desired anything other than to be beautiful and to display and enjoy all the advantages of this possession. Therefore, even the most fleeting person goes away from them enriched, richer at least by the festive fronts and their incomparable golden smile, which at every hour of the day remains awake in one nuance or another, and at night gives way to that almost over sweet, surrendering melancholy that has found a place in the Venetian memories of even the hastiest traveler through Italy.  

"Not so in Florence: the palaces raise their mute foreheads toward the stranger in almost hostile
fashion, and a wary defiance lingers around the niches and gates, and even the brightest sun does
not succeed in dispelling its last traces.  It is a strange sensation, especially amid the open life
of the modern streets where the people celebrate their festivals and shout their business, this dense fortified suspiciousness of the old bourgeois palaces, of the broad gigantic bourgeous arches with their eternal somberness embedded fossil-like in the folds of the mighty ashlars." 

Do you see how he makes these places into characters?

Poetry Writing Prompt: Consider a place you feel strong feelings about, whether you can’t stand the place or love the place deeply. Jot some notes about those distinctive characteristics you love or dislike and make them come alive as characters or as intriguing backdrops for your poem.

Your task is simply this: bring this place to life via your poem.

Word Prompt: Name of the Place of Your Poem

Sentence Prompt: “Name of place does” or “Name of place doesn’t”

As always, use these as possible leaping off points. If your writing moves in a completely different direction, be grateful! I am pleased when I see any of your poems posted, even if I don’t comment right away.

Also, please don’t feel there are any “hafta’s” or “gotta’s” attached with OctPoWriMo. We would rather you write sometimes than no times. We understand busy lives: there are no rights, no wrongs, no “only this way or that.”

Feel the freedom of poetry and love your words into life.

Oodles of Word-Love,



Background on the circumstances of the creation of Letters to a Young Poet along with excerpts from the website, Silence Speaks.

Rainer Rilke "Letters to a Young Poet". This link takes you to a 21 page PDF that you may print for free. I believe this is a must read for all creative people. You may like to seek other translations as well. In fact, after you read this you may want to go to your local bookstore and compare the different translations you find there.

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