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How to Open

There is a vulnerability to writing, not only the possibility of judgment but the danger of facing our own demons or wandering into territory we’ve tried to avoid. To write with honesty, we have to write to that edge, not force it but allow ourselves to discover that we are letting ourselves be open. In “How To Open” by Tim Geiger, we explore that journey.

How to Open

from Weatherbox, Cloudbank Books 2019

You may find yourself opening 

like a bruised sky, 

cloud cover 

unburdening itself of rain. 

Look towards 

extravagance sleeping 

in the dandelion’s petals 

stuttering apart, 

transforming to seed 

like smoke after the harvest, 

the chaff burning. 

When you were younger 

remember the fear 

riding the roller-coaster’s rails, 

the shunt and call 

standing in an endless line? 

Anything was better 

than being told to sit still, 

keep your hands 

to yourself in your pockets. 

Somewhere, outside 

all those years, 

there is the shut door 

of the house you were born in, 

a chimney like your father’s mouth 

belching forgiveness. 

You have come to believe 

in nothing that can’t be held. 

You have arrived 

at this place 

where the swallowtail stutters 

above the flower 

become a weed 

through no fault of its own.

Tim Geiger tells us about his process in writing this poem: "Many times, early drafts of my poems begin as situational poetry. That is, the poem will present a speaker rambling on about a situation, or thing, or event, until all descriptive, narrative, meditative, and imagistic means are exhausted. After a while I usually recognize that the writing isn’t moving anywhere, remaining constrained and suffocated, and the discoveries the poem allows itself to make are being limited by remaining in one time and place. It’s not until I find a way to move beyond that initial situation, by making an imaginative leap, that the poem really begins to breathe. “How to Open” began as such a situational poem—a meditation on a dandelion. For a while, (six or seven drafts) it seemed to be no more than that; that is, a speaker examining and talking to a weed. In short, it was derivative, clichéd, and boring. It wasn’t until I asked myself “what is my impetus for examining this dandelion, and why does its habit of turning to seed make me feel afraid?” that I “opened” the real discovery hidden in the poem. The notion of transformation and how we recognize and define it in our lives— from cloud to rain, flower to seed, child to adult—presented itself in an abundance of images and metaphors both directly and indirectly related to the dandelion. The final four or five drafts of the poem began a process of cutting and crafting the language to, hopefully, arrive at some larger sense of discovery—the patience, courage, and finally, acceptance it takes to change and be changed in life, to “open” to all possibility.”

PROMPT: Write for five minutes about anything at all. Be aware of things that might be lurking in the background of your mind. Frustrations, fears. Name them. Write for another five minutes about one of those difficult things - maybe something that bothers you but you don’t know how to resolve your feelings about it. Now walk outside and find something in nature, a flower or tree, bird or bee. Write about what you see. Let the thing that bothers you exist there as well. How does that fear or frustration affect how you approach writing?

ANOTHER PROMPT: Think about your process of writing. Are you a situational writer or do you begin with more pointed purpose? Do you plan what you will write or sort of let the ink flow and see where it takes you? Write 20 lines about writing. What do you discover about yourself when you look at your writing process?

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