Assignment Poem #4: Two Options
1 English 140-143: Poetry Writing @ Grossmont College
Instructor: Sydney Brown
Assignment Poem #4: Two Options
BRING FOUR COPIES of one of the following poems for SMALL-GROUP WORKSHOP on 2/28.
In the middle of Under the Broom Tree, poet Chris Baron takes us on a spiritual and physical journey of
wo(a)ndering, losing and finding—from “the bottom bunk, in the middle of the ʻ70s top ten” to a womanʼs
face, his “palm on her cheek”; from a cab driving out of Jerusalem to a refugee camp on the West Bank;
from the dividing wall where it is written “under the graffiti / bullseye ʻplace bomb hereʼ” to trying to make
some sense of loss and the “confusion of the heart”—reconciling father and Father and much more. For
this prompt, write a poem about a spiritual journey you have made—however large or small (waiting in
line at Starbuckʼs or in a subway in Budapest or looking at your motherʼs palm)—paying special attention
to the physical setting and concrete detail/s that accompany it. Your journey, like Baronʼs, may take the
reader abroad, but equally important, it should illustrate some sort of contemplation, collision, or at the
very least, brushing, with the spiritual—yes, the human spirit or soul, which you may, of course, define for
yourself—but the key is not to neglect the physical details of the material world that place your reader in
the poem. In addition, avoid the clichés this type of subject matter is likely to evoke (if you use the s-word,
do so in a way that surprises your reader). Ultimately,
while I am asking you to write a poem about an abstract
concept, the challenge of this poem is to make it
tangible—real—for your reader, as Chris Baron does in
Via elk, mountain lions, meerkats, otters, pigs, kit foxes,
tortoises, and of course, snools—in this penultimate
section of Baronʼs book, we find ourselves encountering
creatures in a variety of places, and each encounter
communicates something about what it means to be
human in this complex world. The Elk observes the
married couple, perhaps confirming their place in the
natural world; a mountain lion humbles a father and his children on a trail; various animals in a zoo offer
a lesson about freedom and identity; community is admired in the shells of turtles sliding “together like
bricks”; and blue snools remind us of the power of a childʼs imagination and his poet-fatherʼs as well. For
this option, write a poem about an encounter with a wild animal—real or an imaginary one from your
childhood—and use the animal to reveal something about what it means to be human or to perhaps fall
short and/or be invited “back into something / that is not entirely lost.”
FOR EITHER OPTION, PLEASE ADHERE TO THE FOLLOWING:
1. Write in free verse, enjamb lines, and do not employ end-rhymes.
2. Pay special attention to the poetic line, to line length, and consider creating a “container” for your
poem. This will help you avoid long lines and short lines that are not harmonious or purposeful.
Give your poem a shape.
3. Write evocatively by appealing to the readersʼ senses: vision, hearing, taste, touch, smell. In other
words, ground your exploration of the abstract in the concrete.
4. Use traditional syntax and grammar (AKA complete sentences) and avoid fragments.
5. Write a poem ONLY you could have written.