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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Where have you been and what have you learned?

Liz Rhodebeck, an award-winning Wisconsin poet, blends the soul of the human experience with the spirit of the land in the following poem:

What I Learned in Kansas by Liz Rhodebeck

I learned to tell the difference
between the smell of alfalfa and wheat,
to note the breeds of Charolais and Hereford;
I learned the purpose of burning
the pastures to bring life again,
green and tender as any hope.
I learned how hard the wind blows,
driving the prairie grasses
into undulating oceans
of whispering songs,
to hear the swelling moans
of labor hard under
the relentless sun.
And I learned the stillness
of the vast night sky,
broad as here to here,
crammed with stars
and silent, flickering lightning
as I shivered.
I learned that my lips could
recite the words,
the secrets of the prairie's strength
and that I, too, could
swallow those truths,
feel them expand
rising and rising like the hills
to meet the clean line of horizon,
the moment of flight.
I learned in Kansas
the difference between living
and existing,
loving and emptiness,
that the heart can wander
from Olathe to Liberal
and still find its way home.

The Creative Writing Prompts for this week are:

1. Poetry: Write a poem titled, "What I Learned in (or at) ____________"

2. Creative Non-fiction: Write a short essay of 500 words or less titled, "What I Learned in _____________."

3. Fiction: Create a new character through exploring, "What (insert name of character) Learned in (insert place)." Or you can use a character you are already working with from one of you current short stories or novels, etc.

Ideas for the "What I Learned" exercise:

1. Try to focus on place and think about the five senses as you reflect about that particular place. Writing about the senses will give you automatic imagery. Notice how Liz's poem refers to the smell of "alfalfa and wheat" and ". . .burning/the pastures to bring life again," and hearing the ". . .swelling moans/of labor hard under/the relentless sun."

2. Sample ideas below:

What I learned in: the peach orchard, my sister's bedroom, my aunt's garden, California, Door County, high school, etc.

What I learned at: the Horse Power Healing Center, the Lady Gaga concert, the local gas station, the farmer's market, etc.

Liz Rhodebeck's book of poems, What I Learned in Kansas, has just been released by Port Yonder Press. You can order her book by clicking on the link below.

A huge thank you to Liz for letting me feature her poem this week! To find out more about Liz, please visit:

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