Monday, September 16, 2013


Some places inspire us to run and play and  laugh and dance.

Some places hum with the voices and activities that once filled that place.
Some landscapes and buildings are so packed with memories, encounters, and emotions that as soon as we step into that space, we are there again--we remember.

Other places are so hushed-still that you are tempted to hold your breath so as not to disturb the sacred silence.

There are places we love, places we fear, places we long for, and places we never want to go again.

Katherine Bomer writes of  the places that form and inform her life in Writing a Life:

I grew up in New Mexico where the landscape of mountains and desert, sand and rock, the clean smell of pine trees, and the crystal quality of the light all formed my writer's soul.  Other people have forest in their soul, or ocean shores, or gentle streams.  Still others have skylines and buses and street lamps.  The landscape outside us when we were little lives inside us too, like a map of the heart, and we can return to it in our writing to find memories and comfort.
Where did you grow up?  
What images, scents, and feelings flood your mind when you think of that place? 
What comforts and fears come to mind as you remember this place?
What landscape lives inside you?

Place is important when we write, whether we are remembering our own lives and writing a personal narrative or creating a fictional life, whether we are writing creative nonfiction, or constructing a poem. 

Place lives and breathes in our writing as much as the people do.
Place can almost function as another character.
Who is this place?

In  Live Writing: Breathing Life into Your Words, Ralph Fletcher quotes Louise Borden:

A sense of place is key to all my writing ... I think when I am writing I picture every scene in my mind and the words that come out in the writing are just describing that scene as simply and truly and clearly as I can.  It is almost as if I must become the place.

What words will you use to describe the place you are remembering?
What small details will bring the images you see in your mind's eye to the page for others to read.
What place will you become?

Several authors offer us a glimpse of places they love, describing these places in vivid language and at the same time, offering us ways we might  describe the places we love.

Eli loves his family's farm and all the places that surround his home.  In her classic poetic language,  Patricia MacLachlan allows Eli to take us to all the places that each person in his family loves, as he shows these places to his new baby sister in All the Places to Love.

 In response to her daughter's inquiries, a mother tells her daughter of life in the rural south where she grew up in Momma, Where Are You From? by Marie Bradby. So lovingly  is her picture of her childhood home painted, that her daughter wants to go there.

Nikki Giovanni shares her love for summer in her birthplace in her poem, Knoxville Tennessee.

With whom can you share the places you love?

Who can you ask to share a place they love with you?

But what if we did not love the place in which we grew up or lived for a while? What if we hate the place in which  find ourselves now?

Some places are not remembered  fondly.

In An Angel For Solomon Singer, Cynthia Rylant writes about the tremendous effect a place can have on our spirit. Solomon lives in a drab, dreary place in which he is cannot add personal touches and is extremely lonely.

It is important to love where you live, and Solomon Singer loved where he lived not at all, and it was his that drove him out into the street night.  It was dreams of balconies and purples wall that took him to the street. Solomon Singer wandered.

In Life Doesn't Frighten, Maya Angelou writes about a place that is downright frightening.  The young narrator, however, shouts  with confidence, with bravado:

 The shadows on the wall and noises down the hall 
Life doesn't frighten me at all.    

The brave declarations are accompanied by the bold angry images painted by Jean-Michel Basquiat, of things that may do her harm  in her urban neighborhood.

What places frighten you?
How did you deal with the fear?

Some places we revere and honor.  We come as nations to the monumental. We come as congregations to the sacred.

We come to celebrate, to mourn,. to stand together in awe.

We come to remember, to praise the fallen, to celebrate our integrity and intelligence, to recall our power, our humility and our humanity.

In a variety of poetic forms which celebrate beauty and magnificence,  architecture and artistry, creativity and construction ,  J. Patrick Lewis takes us all over the world to well-known monuments in Monumental Verses. Through his poems, paired with dramatic photographs, our tour includes the Great Pyramid of Cheops, the Statue of Liberty, Stonehenge and the Great Wall of China.

Monumental poet J. Patrick Lewis will be one of  our keynote speakers at the Columbus Area Writing Project Fall Forum in October.

Like Monumental Verses, in Sacred Places, Jane Yolen takes us all over the world to 12 holy places --magical places which take us beyond ourselves--the oracle of Delphi, the Wailing Wall, Easter Island and Cathedrals-- places that call us in book end poems to hush...

What places take your breath away?
What places inspire awe or profound stillness

What places live inside you?

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

What are the places that are special to you?

This may be a childhood home or haunt, or a community of which you are a member.
This could also be a  place that you fear or hate.
You may also think about the monumental or sacred places your have visited.

You may want to sketch or map your place.
As you add details, you will find you remember more and more.
You may want to label  your sketch with phrases or keywords recalling  memories invoked, encounters, people, conversations, objects, feelings, and perceptions.

Write about your special place.

You may write a narrative, essay,  or poem.  You may want to pair your writing with images--either actual photographs other artwork.

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