We hope you had a wonderful start to spring. April was National Poetry Month which means it’s time to celebrate everything this literary craft has to offer. Working with The Field Guide Poetry Mag has been rewarding, especially as we’ve recently finished our latest issue. The submissions received were nothing short of captivating and beautiful. As always, at the heart of the Field Guide is the appreciation for nature and what it’s done for human connection through poetry. This was seen in every piece shared within the magazine and just proves that the art of poetry is thriving. One famous poem I came across this week was Jane Kenyon’s “Otherwise” which conjured up many emotions. It’s rather simple in structure and language, but the message is opposite in tone as it conveys the power of mundane life, which is the true function of poetry.
Kenyon introduces her piece with “I got out of bed on two strong legs. It might have been otherwise” and from there lists her day, highlighting each activity with a reverence that gives its reader the gift of time. After reading it I started to imagine how my day would be described in a poetic list, would I speak of the way in which my dogs dart out the door being met by overgrowing crab grass, the feral cat watching them as dusk breaks day… remembering otherwise this routine would never exist however boring it may seem. That’s what appears to be Kenyon’s purpose, to push the reader to view all the aches and hours in a new light. She further writes “I ate cereal, sweet milk, ripe, flawless peach. It might have been otherwise.” How wonderful to speak so succinctly of what’s otherwise missed.
She ends her poem “I slept in a bed in a room with paintings on the walls, and planned another day just like this day. But one day, I know, it will be otherwise.” As writers we hope to achieve such delicacy with language like hers, so I invite you to work through the following prompts I’ve created that honor Jane Kenyon’s work and style. What better way to celebrate this month of poetry!
Prompts inspired by Jane Kenyon’s “Otherwise”
1. Write about your morning routine focusing on what you’ve had for breakfast, try to highlight the senses experienced with just a few carefully chosen words.
2. Did you take your dog on a walk this week, or go for a run, maybe you watched the weather from your window… write about these everyday moments with detail but challenge yourself to only use five descriptive words that celebrate nature.
3. Describe a room in your home, concentrate on the art hanging on your wall or the top of your dresser, lean into the objects you’ve otherwise forgotten.
4. Describe a moment or activity spent with a family member or friend, maybe even a stranger. See if you can give the reader an insight into these characters without giving away too much.
5. Write about a song you’ve been listening to or a book you’ve been reading, but rather than just describing it highlight how it’s wrapped into your day.
6. Finally, write a poem including each prompt. Revisit Kenyon’s “Otherwise” and become inspired to evoke the way these emotions play into your own day or week.
I hope you find these prompts enjoyable and that they offer a means to celebrate your own literary voice that offers so much to the art of poetry!