Poetic Asides: Today is a two for Tuesday prompt. Here are the two options:
1. Write a looking back poem. There are a few ways to tackle this one, I guess. The narrator could be reflecting on the past or literally looking back (like over his or her shoulder).
2. Write a poem that doesn't look back. This poem would be kind of the opposite, I suppose. Narrator who refuses to look back or who is literally looking forward (or I suppose another option even is that the narrator is blind or something).
Two'fer's are definitely interesting, although they are usually opposites. Black-white, Love-AntiLove, Up-down. AKA Tuesday bipolar poems. Since I like to take the prompt and turn it all around, shake it upside down to see what falls out, opposites aren't too unusual for me. Then the question becomes, how to reflect on the past without becoming maudlin or too introspective. If it's a look back at a personal past, how to keep the reader engaged with something they shouldn't really have an interest in.
For some reason the idea of looking back over your shoulder is kind of intriguing. What if your head became stuck that way, and you could only walk forward but look backward? What would that kind of poem look like? How would it be to be a horse wearing blinders, never to see life outside a narrow field of vision? What if every morning you were required to forget the previous day, and carry on as if it never happened – a la Groundhog Day, but with your knowledge and cooperation. Could someone do this? Would it be a Buddhist world filled with living in the present moment? Is it even possible?
These are the thoughts that bounce through my head when thinking on a prompt – well, at least the thoughts I'm willing to put down in black and white. As for writing a poem that doesn't look back I wrote one that never ended, a phoenix poem if you will, about regrets devoured and the failure to break the cycle that keeps my protagonist stuck. Not in mud, but in the shards of previously devoured bones... yeah, some days are like that.
Here are two poems to ponder. What do they say about looking forward—and looking back?
by Seamus Heaney
As a child, they could not keep me from wells
And old pumps with buckets and windlasses.
I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells
Of waterweed, fungus and dank moss.
One, in a brickyard, with a rotted board top.
I savoured the rich crash when a bucket
Plummeted down at the end of a rope.
So deep you saw no reflection in it.
A shallow one under a dry stone ditch
Fructified like any aquarium.
When you dragged out long roots from the soft mulch
A white face hovered over the bottom.
Others had echoes, gave back your own call
With a clean new music in it. And one
Was scaresome, for there, out of ferns and tall
Foxgloves, a rat slapped across my reflection.
Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime,
To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring
Is beneath all adult dignity. I rhyme
To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.
Exposed on the cliffs of the heart
by Rainer Maria Rilke
Exposed on the cliffs of the heart. Look, how tiny down there,
look: the last village of words and, higher,
(but how tiny) still one last
farmhouse of feeling. Can you see it?
Exposed on the cliffs of the heart. Stoneground
under your hands. Even here, though,
something can bloom; on a silent cliff-edge
an unknowing plant blooms, singing, into the air.
But the one who knows? Ah, he began to know
and is quiet now, exposed on the cliffs of the heart.
While, with their full awareness,
many sure-footed mountain animals pass
or linger. And the great sheltered birds flies, slowly
circling, around the peak's pure denial. - But
without a shelter, here on the cliffs of the heart...