The Art : " Lux Aeterna" by Edward Elgar, live at the Gresham Centre in London This gorgeous piece of choral music was brought to me by my step-mother, Vicki Burrichter, who directs the Boulder Chorale . " I like the idea of 'eternal light' during this time of darkness," she said when I asked for a recommendation. I couldn't agree more. I also like the idea of singing together, which you all have done so beautifully this week, both on the forum and in your own quiet writing practice -- singing back to the artists and artworks. So this final prompt will be the most open of them all:
Listen as many times as you like.
Write what comes.
Share if you're moved to.
It has been such and honor and inspiration to read your words. Thank you for singing together in these times.
The Art: A photograph by Lawrence Sumulong from his series "Manila Gothic"
Lawrence discusses the portrait: “Love, 9 years old, a witness to the death of her parents Adrian and Vivian Peregrino in Camarin on August 25, 2016 during the ongoing Philippine Drug War. She has 5 other siblings and is presently staying with her aunt. Her other siblings are scattered among other relatives. This is a formal portrait that my friend, Rica Concepcion, and I set up with a gravedigger and florist to create a wreath of indigenous and popular Filipino flowers that are associated with death and funerals. This photo was taken in a church and safe house in barangay Bagong Silangan, Quezon City.” The Exercise: This portrait of Love has such power that I think it makes sense to keep our exercise simple. I've tried to keep the steps very open-ended, but have offered a bit more structure (optional) at the end if you're feeling stuck.
We'll take our classic ekphrastic start: Set a timer for two minutes and devote this whole time to observation of the artwork. No need to take notes. Just try to keep your attention in the portrait, noticing details of its composition.
Take another two minutes to write down a literal description of the photograph. Try not to look at the artwork until the end of your description. Did you miss anything? Fabricate anything? Both are fine, just good to notice.
Take another two minutes to observe the portrait, this time with particular attention to your own thoughts an feelings as they arise during observation.
Free write! This writing can take any form -- poetry, a story, stream of consciousness, or fragments of thought. If you're feeling totally stuck, maybe start from the following premise: Write a letter to Love. Please share your creations in the comments below!
The Art : Neighbours, a short film by Norman McLaren (1952) Since this film is 8 minutes long, our exercise will only prompt you to watch it once. We’ll also take advantage of the fact that this is a silent film to practice crafting some dialogue. One of the hardest things about writing dialogue is to make it sound natural. An important tip in that regard: people rarely talk explicitly about what they are literally doing or feeling, they circle. Just a quick heads up: there are some allusions to violence in the last two minutes of this film that, while not gory, may not be your cup of tea — skip that bit if you want! The Exercise: Watch the film (or a portion of it). No need to take notes, just try to keep a keen eye for details and, as always, your own emotional responses. In a page or two (about 5-10 minutes of writing), jot down what you just witnessed. When in doubt, keep it factual — describe the events: the gestures and facial expressions, the objects and colors. No need to look back at the film. You’re just making a record of how you saw it/ remember it. Review your first batch of writing, circling places or passages that stand out to you. What feelings do you think the characters are experiencing here — anger, passion, fear? Write those in the margin. Locate a passage in your writing that has a lot of these margin feelings happening. You may even want to re-watch that portion of the film. Then, go ahead and draft a little dialogue for the characters involved. No need to use quotation marks and dialogue tags (like the classic prose format: “Well that’s a mighty fine newspaper,” he said.) unless you want to. You can just make a new line each time a new person starts speaking.
Another tip: Try not to use dialogue to simply describe what’s happening in the film. Instead, try to reveal something the film cannot — some deeper aspect of your characters’ interiority — by how they say what they say. Is their language curt and formal, or do they sound drunk? There’s a big difference between “Top of the morning to you, neighbor! Can I offer you a pinch of this lovely Burley leaf for a bit of a shmokey smoke?” and “Morning Bob.”
Feeling experimental? Maybe the flower or fence posts get a voice, too!