Friday, December 9, 2011

London Dreaming, Umbrella Path, & SPARK 14


(oil on canvas , "40 x 30")

Students - sometimes I find that my writing is best when I am inspired by someone else's idea. This may sound funny since I often write about the many different ways that I try to find topics on my own. But there is something neat about writing from someone else's work, writing to deadline, writing about something that first grew in someone else's mind. That's the work of SPARK, connecting writers, artists, and musicians...allowing each to inspire the other.

This is the third time that I've participated in SPARK, founded by Amy Souza and described below in her own words -

Open to writers, musicians, and visual artists of all kinds, SPARK is a participatory creativity event that takes place four times each year.

During each 10-day project round, participants create a new piece of work using someone else's art, writing, or music as inspiration. All resulting work is then displayed online, alongside the piece that inspired it.

For this round, I connected with artist Alix Martin, my talented friend who painted all of the images you see on my website and blogs. Honestly, I was a little bit nervous to write from "London Dreaming" because Alix is my friend, and I wanted her to feel that my words met her image well. So day after day in the 10 days of SPARK, I went back to my notebook -- writing the poem, writing the poem again, circling the poem, stalking the poem. I even used a prose writing exercise from Ursula K. Le Guin's book, STEERING THE CRAFT, to help me with the sounds in "Umbrella Path."

Exercise from p. 26 - BEING GORGEOUS - Write a paragraph to a page (150 - 300 words) of narrative that's meant to be read aloud.  Use onomatopoeia, alliteration, repetition, rhythmic effects, made-up words or names, dialect -- any kind of sound-effect you like -- but NOT rhyme or meter.Doing this exercise gave me some snips and snaps that helped to build the foundation for my finished poem

I feel very lucky to have written from Alix's work in this round, and early next week I will post the inspiration poem I sent to Alix along the artwork she created in response.

It is exciting to write from someone else's art and to wonder what an artist will do with your words. These are the pieces I've written for previous SPARK rounds along with the images.

SPARK 15 will take place in February, and this time there will hopefully be an experimental Kids' SPARK too. SPARK founder Amy Souza, Webster teacher Jamie Palmer, and I are putting our heads together about how we will do this, so please stay posted for details at SPARK and here as well.

This week was marvelous in more ways than one. Last Friday, I had the good fortune to hear Naomi Shihab Nye speak at Kleinhans Music Hall. Her great soul and words have stayed with me all week. When she read "Kindness," I looked at my friend Nancy. It's one of our favorite poems ever. And when Naomi closed with "Gate 4-A," I felt forever new. Should you ever have the chance to hear Naomi speak (she will be back in the Buffalo area this spring) -- go. You will be renewed.

Robyn Hood Black is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at Read, Write, Howl. Thank you, Robyn, for weaving such a lovely post for us today!

(Please click on POST A COMMENT below to share a thought.)


  1. You've done a great job, Amy, describing what's going on in the painting.

    Take care today. I just heard on the radio that Buffalo is in for one of those "lake-effect" blizzards. The unbrellas might come in handy, better than snow shoes.

  2. I love that you include so much in your posts. There is much to reflect upon, and maybe to work with. Your first verse, 'like old stones across a river' is beautiful, just the way they look 'forming a path across the water'.
    I have seen the Nye poem "Gate 4-A" before, so wonderful & what we all wish for. Thanks!

  3. Love the poem - especially on a dreary day. Like Linda, I am so appreciative of all that you include in your post - as a writer and teacher, it's fascinating to read through and see how you envision your writing suggestions. Thank you!

  4. This is really beautiful. I love images of umbrellas in the rain. Your poem captures the feeling exactly! SPARK sounds like a really inspirational event. I'd love to get involved in that!

  5. What a great combination of art and poetry! I love the unexpected perspective in your poem. The SPARK program sounds terrific. And, your students are very lucky -:0)

  6. "Like old stones in a river""
    I love this image and the visual shape you created of a path. Spark sound wonderful. I want to try!

  7. Amy,
    Your post got my brain going all over the place! First of all, love the poem and the image! Love the idea of art paired with art -- art inspiring art -- art doubling art...

    Then I got to looking at the images in your sidebar. Are they new, or have I just not noticed?

    Then I went all the way down your sidebar to look at your links and I discovered Storynory -- WOW! Can't wait to use that in my classroom!! How have I missed that???

    And there's more, but I'm out of time. Oh well, you know I'll be back...