Prompt: Worth a thousand words
This week we’re going to turn to the visual arts for inspiration and see if we can’t come up with a thousand words worthy of a picture. If you can, take a field trip to a nearby art museum or gallery. Otherwise, go on a virtual art tour like one at the Frick in New York or explore the vastness of Google’s Art Project which contains work from 285 museums around the world including MoMA, Indianapolis Museum of Art, and many outstanding collections from Europe and Asia.
Once you find a work of art that catches your eye, really look at it. Write what you see. No detail is too small. Now describe the work using only your four other senses of touch, hearing, taste and smell. Compare the two descriptions. What are the strengths of each?
Try one of these writing prompts:
• If it is a portrait, write one or more pieces from the subject’s perspective. Try experimenting with first, second or third person narration.
• Write about what is happening just out of view or “beyond the frame.”
• Imagine that you are a character in the artwork and have just received some news that will dramatically change your life. What is the news–and how does this change your view of the world around you?
If you choose to share your writing, be sure to tell us the name of the artwork and a link if the work is available online.
About the Keeping the Appointment Challenge! Check in each week, grab the prompt and go. New prompts will be posted on Tuesday. Find a quiet place and write in response to the prompt for 15-30 minutes. Only after you have something on paper, take a look or a listen to other examples if you like. Wait a day or three and reread what you wrote. Revise for 30 minutes or so. If you want, post what you wrote. We would love to see it–and we promise to keep our own editing selves to our selves! In other words, this blog is a place to share your work, not to “fix” the work of others. We receive it with the open, generous mind of a fellow-writer and reader. Comments are welcome as are words of thanks.
Image: Richard Diebenkorn’s Seawall (1957) Oil on canvas. 20 x 26 inches. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, gift of Phyllis G. Diebenkorn. © 2013 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation
I was about twenty yards from the shore
when I saw the floating hump
of its hull bobbing for food
in the late September water
and as I rowed out to meet it,
I let myself imagine: what if
it was the body of some forgotten creature–
from before the Ice Age even–
and any minute now its head
would rise up with a neck
as long as that of a swan’s,
a twist of milk being pulled
upwards to the sky.
Would it recognize the way the clouds still hold
the wind and the wash of neglect here
when it rains in the north country?
Where, even in the distant blue
of summer, there is the promise
of snow returning?
The skiff measured about 12 feet long
and it would not turn over.
I wedged the new, good wood
of my oar into the splintered grooves
that ran along its hull
like pinstripes on a whale’s throat
and considered lowering
myself into the water already
thickened with cold
grasp its lip and flip it upright.
But this time of year
even a couple minutes in the water
can be dangerous
when you are alone. Just
that morning I had slid my own boat across
the fringes of ice
gathering up rocks along the shore.
Best to come back tomorrow
with Jim. He might even know
whose boat it was though,
by the looks of it,
it had been missing a long while.
not so much a splash as an exhalation
of water. I felt cold droplets,
then searing pain. First
in the tender skin along my left temple,
then my neck, followed by the sharp
click of rock on rock, or rather
a beak, shutting the world up tight
and taking the sun with it.
When I woke, I was conscious only
of water. Of breathing water.
I don’t know how I could–
I remember thinking that at the time.
In and out. Water.
Holding me and in me and around me.
And then I saw
the smooth pebble of an eye
Inspired by Michael Combs mixed media piece, Spent Cases (1989)