This prompt is based on my lesson on “At the Bomb Testing Site.” With the background and tension of this bomb about to drop, the poem focuses in on a small lizard on the floor of the desert.
Through this lizard, we experience the anxiety, tension, anticipation. We wait for … the consequences of bombs, of human action.
The poem is also a lesson in sene and perspective. It begins zoomed in on this little lizard’s “elbows” (I mean, how much smaller can you get?), spans out with the lizard’s gaze down a road, further out to what the lizard sees (beyond human vision), and then zooms out the furthest, to the continent, to the sky.
The Prompt: Setting and Point of View
So, from this poem’s inspiration, the prompt here is to write a poem with both of those “techniques” in mind: telling the ‘story’ from a unique point of view, and zooming in or out to give perspective.
First, visualize a scene you want to explore or that seems important to you — like Stafford’s “bomb testing site.” Clearly, he was disturbed by this and wanted to explore this place, set a poem there. You could make a list of a few options and then circle the one that seems most appealing, like there’s something there you want to keep exploring.
Second, let yourself “rest” in this scene awhile. Freewrite about it or just let your imagination go. Set a timer for 5, or 10, minutes and write about (or imagine) the scene. What’s there? What do you see, hear, taste, feel, smell? Even if you don’t put any of this in the final poem, this will help you construct a more powerful scene.
Now, choose someone or something in that scene to tell the story of it. Choose something small and surprising like the lizard. It can be an object, an animal, an onlooker. You’ll know you’ve found it when you feel a sort of “oh! that could be interesting!” You might want to freewrite a little more from this object or person’s point of view. How does this thing or person see the scene? Anything new or different emerge from its/his/her eyes?
Finally, read over your freewriting. Circle any images or phrases that seem to belong in the final poem.
As you draft your poem, use Stafford’s poem as a model.
Start “zoomed” in on your object’s perspective.
In the second stanza, move out, following the object’s gaze.
In your last stanza, zoom out even further, giving a view from above or very far away. You can choose to leave it zoomed out, or zoom in again to the object’s point of view at the end, as Stafford does with the lizard.
Questions? Feel free to message me or comment.
See other creative writing prompts here.