Sunday, February 27, 2011

Finding inspiration

As I write more poetry, I'm becoming a collector of odd phrases, things people say as part of a conversation. I've always collected these as writing prompts for fiction, especially those that hint at a story behind. Now I'm also looking for the interesting turn of phrase, those that carry an emotional spark or revive a memory, or set me thinking

When I'm in the middle of writing fiction, especially a novel, it's my imagination that's hard at work to weave the tales of these characters and the process goes on a long time. But with poetry, there's a constant need for fuel, for inspiration. So I'm changing my detective habits and listening harder to the way others speak and think. It's fascinating. Here's a poem from a phrase I heard in Nashville.

Up Burnside on the 20

I’m a slave to transit fashion, the pretty blonde said,
And Mrs. Malaprop aside, I thought about butts in navy
Polyester grown wide from eight-hour shifts
Behind the wheel and baby blue cotton shirts tight
Across the spare tire created by doughnuts and
64-ounce caffeinated colas that keep the hands
Steady on the wheel in rush hour
With buttons that gape high over the breasts
And draw the eye away from the embroidered
Marilyn or Shawonda on the pocket,
Shirttails stuffed into those same navy 
Pants even though loose they would have brought
Some relief to the low-slung gut of Ted or Harvey or Mike
In the last hours of an evening shift out to Gresham,
And those military-style jackets cropped to the waist
That only look good on a few slim types in their youth
And I wondered who designs transit uniforms and why
There aren’t more styles for all those different bodies
Driving the bus

1 comment:

  1. I don't write poetry or fiction, but I do like to collect words and phrases. One of my favorites was the admonition of a young girl to her mother and me as we sat down to visit. "Speak wisely," she counseled before she scampered off to play with my daughter.