My friend, Sherri, called when I was in a rather deep depression, like many in my country after the presidential election of 2016. Sherri and I live 900 miles apart, but she could hear the hopelessness in my voice. “Are you writing?” she asked. I admitted that I hadn’t. “Then I challenge you to write every day. Not on the keyboard, but in longhand to be connected to the words.” I took her challenge; I hand-wrote and sent a letter to her each day for a week. It helped. I got more involved, started journaling again and generally felt more hopeful that we could make a difference in the face of this challenge. She sent me an empty book to continue the practice which I have used for over two years. I call it my commonplace book. Here is what it contains.
What’s inside my commonplace book?
meanings for interesting words
many that were unfamiliar to me
others I thought I knew but I didn’t
snippets of poems not yet written
phrases that make me smile
questions posed without any answers
post-it notes used as bookmarks
a coffee-splash stain on a page or two
eureka!s on scrap paper stuffed between pages
writing prompts and inspirations
customized just for (and by) me
but most of all when I open this book
the love of a friend when I was in need
still reaches out and comforts me
through the pages of this book
For more information on keeping a commonplace book see Keeping a Commonplace Book.
Day Sixteen prompt: Today’s prompt takes its inspirations from Christopher Smart’s “Jubilate Agno.” Fundamentally, this is a poem about a cat. It’s also a structurally very straightforward poem – every line begins the same way, and is about some aspect of the cat at issue. But from these seemingly simple ingredients, Smart constructs a poem that is luminously, joyously weird. Just as English’s poem listing things found in a hedge renders the familiar strange by making us focus on each, individual item in the hedge, Smart makes a humble housecat seem like the most wondrous thing in the world. Today, I challenge you to write a poem that uses the form of a list to defamiliarize the mundane.