Poetry Class

This afternoon I took a class called Finding the Poem in Your Heart’s Garden.  During the class I wrote four poems which I’ll share with you, even though they are a little rough and incomplete.  I always have difficulty working to external prompts and within strict guidelines, so these types of poems never feel quite legitimate to me, rather more like back alley bastards.  But let’s digress!

First, for a little background, here’s the course outline.

“Finding The Poem In Your Heart’s Garden


Everyone, no matter what their skill level can learn to write a poem, and will leave with at least 5 poems to plant into their lives and into the lives of others.


What makes a poem? How you can pick a poem out of your experience and turn it into a delight How you can write poems for other How to become a poet or becoming a better one

Facilitator: Wendy Morton has published five books of poetry and a memoir. She believes that poetry is the shortest distance between two hearts! She is the recipient of the Spirit Bear Award, the Golden Beret Award and is an honorary citizen of Victoria. She is sponsored by Fairmont Hotels, AbeBooks and Prairie Naturals Vitamins and was WestJet’s Poet of the Skies, and Chrysler’s Poet of the Road. She believes we are all poets at heart.

Length: 3 hours Date: Sat, Feb 9, 2013 Time: 1pm – 4pm”

And here, below, is some promotional verbiage from the Royal Roads University website.  It really is a fabulous location, and Hatley Castle has been used in dozens of feature films and TV shows over the years.

“The Royal Roads University campus sprawls over 260 hectares of lush parkland, where you will find walking, hiking, and biking trails, magnificent examples of the west coast’s flora and fauna, gorgeous views of the Juan de Fuca straight with the majestic Olympic mountain range in the background, a stunning Japanese garden, and a castle built for one of Vancouver Island’s most recognized coal barons. And that’s just what you’ll see when you get here. Once you start getting around campus, you’ll also discover the breadth and depth of the education we provide and the opportunities a degree can bring to your personal and professional world.”

And here is a much more complete bio for Wendy:

“Wendy Morton’s first book of poetry, Private Eye, was published in 2001. She knew she had to find some way to turn her poetry into currency. She had once been stopped by a cop for speeding, read him a poem and escaped a ticket. She was thus convinced of the power of poetry.

One day she called up WestJet Airlines, suggested she read poems for the passengers and write poems for them in exchange for flights. After some enthusiastic urging, they said yes, and so she became WestJet’s Poet of the Skies. She has turned her poems into the currency that has provided her with a PT Cruiser from DaimlerChrylser, luxurious hotel rooms from The Fairmont Hotels, vitamins from Prairie Naturals, a digital camera from Fujifilm. She is also sponsored by Green Beaver skin care products and AbeBooks. Her poem “If I had a name like Rosie Fernanez” appears on the label of Southbrook Vinyards Cabernet Merlot as part of their Poetica series. The queen, in Alice in Wonderland, says to Alice, “Why, when I was your age, I imagined 6 impossible things before breakfast.” Wendy imagined that poets all across Canada could commit “random acts of poetry” on strangers: read them a poem and give them a book.

In 2004 , 27 poets across Canada did just that with the sponsorship of abebooks, and National Random Acts of Poetry Week was born. It is a project of the Victoria READ Society. In 2005, there were 27 in Canada and 9 in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Northern Ireland committing Random Acts of Poetry. In 2006, with the sponsorship of The Canada Council for the Arts, 39 poets across Canada were involved, bringing poetry the streets of their cities, to anyone who crossed their path. They also presented poetry in ESL and Adult Literacy Classes across Canada. In 2007, 37 poets across Canada are again committing Random Acts of Poetry in their cities, with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts. In 2008, 25 poets across Canada committed Random Acts of Poetry and presented poetry in middle school classes, ESL classes and adult literacy classes. They left in those classes copies of We Can Say This, a book of poetry of middle school students, including many poems of First Nations students. This book was produced with the support of the TD Financial Group.

She has four other books of poetry. Undercover and Shadowcatcher, published by Ekstasis Editions; Gumshoe and What Were Their Dreams: Valleys of Hope and Pain. Canada’s History, a book of photo/poems, published by Black Moss Press. She has been an insurance investigator for 27 years.

Her memoir, 6 Impossible Things Before Breakfast was published in 2006 by emdash press. It outlines her journey from private eye to poet to WestJet’s Poet of the Skies, DaimlerChrysler’s Poet of the Road and how she took poetry public across Canada. Her memoir is her journey into believing the impossible, and making the impossible come true for any dreamer.

The first exercise was to write a ten line poem with each line starting with “I am”. We weren’t allowed to use feelings, but were told to keep it to concrete nouns.  Here is my effort:

I am a guardian of forests and meadows

I am a snapped fedora

I am fingers on a keyboard

I am a lone voice in a rabble

I am connective tissue

I am shapeshifter

I am stardust reassembled

I am alone in the crowd

I am a tuning fork vibrating

I am a window

It was good to see everyone getting into it and warmed up for the rest of the class. There were about ten of us in the class so it did take some time to go around the room and read all poems. Next up was an unusual exercise.  We were given a truly exorable, supremely awful poem as an example and then told to salvage something from its wreckage.  I’ll spare you the original poem, and give you my attempt:

Moonlight beckons through windows

Smoothed by raindrops

In the shadow of Hinoki trees

Breezed branches salute solitude

Dawn approaches

The next exercise was really a lot of fun.  First Wendy laid out dozens and dozens of photos and had us all choose an image.  Then we had to write ten lines inspired by the image and then reassemble the ten lines into a Pantoum format.  While I have read pantoums, and heard them being read, I have never written one myself.  The image I chose was a black and white photo from the early 20th century, of a New York City street scene.  It’s a sidewalk with a lot of detail, stores and people and things.  But the people are all very static, talking to one another, grouped together on stairways or in front of store windows.  It’s a sidewalk with hardly any walking.  What caught my eye was the group of young children clustered in the foreground. They are from about four years old to maybe eight, mixed gender and race, and they are all happily playing together without a care in the world.

Here is my first pantoum:

We are an unnamed team

We are a window walking

We are the pot, melted

We are a found playground


We are a window walking

We are a theatre, rounded up

We are a found playground

We are tattered shirts


We are a theatre, rounded up

We are skinned knees scabbing

We are tattered shirts

We are marble eyed pennies


We are skinned knees scabbing

We are a gutter boat

We are marble eyed pennies

We are sidewalk standers


We are a gutter boat

We are the pot, melted

We are sidewalk standers

We are an unnamed team


The final exercise involved a random distribution of catalogues and then being given a much less rigid instruction to write a poem from the catalogue.  Here is mine:

Winter catalogue

A beacon for what’s real, perhaps

Somewhere else

Where winter is more than a ski trip

Requiring fleeced everything

In my reality I’d overheat

Wearing downfilled clothes in layers

But catalogues target clichés

Like a northern winter

Where quilted warmth entices smiles

From chilled adventurers

Who need bundling in bright colours

To get from car to front door

While I’m okay in last year’s thin drab comfort

I don’t need


Luxurious warmth!

In this northern Eden which is unfrozen

And snow is only found in pictures

In a Land’s End catalogue

I really enjoyed the class and of course there was lot more going on than just these exercises.  I learnt a lot and it was fun doing so.


Filed under Passing Thoughts

2 responses to “Poetry Class

  1. Ah! This explains the bounty I was reading this morning–well done!

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