An Audience of One #PoetryFriday

Happy Poetry Friday! (Wondering what Poetry Friday is? Click here.)

I’m trying to deepen my poetry practice in 2021, and one thing I’m doing is a book study of Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook. In last week’s practice, I chose a poem to imitate. One way I want to stretch myself poetically is to imbue my work with more emotion. I love descriptive poetry, but I think sometimes I favor image and wordcraft over heart. So I decided to imitate one of Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s poems, because her poems always have SO much heart. No matter what the poem is about, you always know how Amy and/or the narrator feel.

I love her book Read! Read! Read!, and I chose the poem “Maps” as my mentor poem.  The elements I wanted to incorporate were the style of the opening, where the narrator acknowledges the existence of the more modern, digital version of what is being done; the free verse form; the first-person narrator; and the repetition of “I like …”

And what to write about? My husband, Randy, recently showed me an amazing video of a British pianist playing piano for blind elephants in Thailand. (You can read more here.) So, I decided to write a poem about that. You can watch the beautiful video, the one I watched as I wrote this draft. (This is draft 3–I might come back to it to keep working on it, but regardless of whether I do or don’t, I loved writing it.)

And here’s my poem draft:

And for lots of wonderful poetry, don’t miss the Poetry Friday Roundup with my friend Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche.

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16 Responses

  1. I love the introspection and thoughtfulness you bring to this unusual subject, Laura…I can definitely see Amy’s influence in this. I never would have thought “elephant music” was even a thing!

  2. Beautiful, what a treasure of a post Laura, and so much ❤️ and sensitivity in your poem, and special bonding between your poem and the video, thanks! ????

  3. Thank you for sharing the lovely and inspiring video, Laura. I was mesmerized. Your poem captures it beautifully. Favorite lines: “I like the way she stays and sways” and “sending the moon into her delicate, tattered ears”

  4. Laura, I was totally surprised by this video. It’s astounding that he did this and he plays so beautifully. You definitely captured the highlights in your poem. The way the elephant “stands and sways.” I’d like to check out Mary Olivers book. Thanks for this post.

  5. Beautiful! It’s like she’s dancing with her ears, and he plays with such care and delicacy, like he wants the notes to be just right for her. Very touching. I especially like your second to last stanza.

  6. Amy LV is all. heart in every poem, I agree. And I’m with you, about all that you are doing here. So wonderful to have Mary Oliver as your guide, also.

    I love your poem idea of stillness with each of them, representing a Thank you. And elephant as boulder — brilliant!

    This post is a breath of Sweetness & the video is a Joy along with the TreeHugger story. How kind of your hubby to find & share!

    So many appreciations ~ I needed this.
    Hugs xo
    Jan/Bookseedstudio

  7. That form you borrowed is made anew with this special moment of pianist and elephant. I adore it. Can you imagine having an elephant sway with your music. Thanks for sharing your process. This is an activity I can take to my students and write alongside them. Love “thanking each other in stillness.”

  8. Just beautiful‑I loved the video, the way the elephant was so attentive-ears flapping, eyes soulful. You captured the sweet connection in verse and the surprise sight of a piano in the jungle.

  9. Forehead to trunk. yes. This is something I wish to do in my lifetime…visit elephants in Thailand. I think you nailed the emotion here. That last stanza had me right there understanding the elephant’s love.

  10. *tears*
    Such beauty in this man’s gift to one blind elephant. Such a great reminder that what each of us do for ONE makes the WHOLE a better place. And their connection at the beginning (getting to the piano), in the middle (when the first notes are played and her ears twitch) and especially at the end, with his forehead pressed to her trunk.
    Thank you.

    1. Thanks–I’ve read that one, actually! Might be worth going back to, though. I struggled to follow his advice–I have a really difficult time capturing sensory, detailed moments from memory. I guess that’s why I use images to inspire poems so much. I know he had lots more to share in that book, though. Once I finish exploring my two current process books, I think I’ll take another look.

  11. I love everything about this–your reflection, playing the piano for elephants and your heartfelt poem.

  12. This is so good. I love “hammer-struck, string shaped.” And that lovely last stanza.

  13. I’ve seen that video, Laura, and more about elephants in various ways, just saw one today where an elephant & a dog were buddies. The elephant threw sticks for the dog to fetch. This is a special capture of the moment. I love especially that “sending the moon into her 80-year-old delicate, tattered ears.

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