Chapter 3: Start where you are

This chapter tells us that poets are regular people.  We do routine things, every day things.  There is a lot of myths about poets.  There are also a lot of clichés about poets, such as the “poet” poet who is more “poet” than poet.  You might call these people poetasters.  There are beat poets who have tuned in and turned off, and there are poets who are held to be the font of wisdom.  But that is far from the truth.  Do we see things differently?  I can’t answer that question without bias.  Do we know the hidden secrets of the universe?  Ummm…
Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Samuel Johnson
A not so random group of cliches from Blackadder.  Sourced from Blogging Blue
I used to think that poets were above awful racist ignorance; being a poet exposed you to a more accepting position about your fellow person. However, a long time ago I heard a poem use an anti-Semitic slur in a particularly negative way.  I was very offended, and stood up to say so.  At that point I realised that poets are no more special than others, we are just able to relate our experiences to others in a meaningful way and the poems we write are just reflections of ourselves.  Now I realise that the poet had the right to use that slur because it was what that poet understood of the world. Instead of being offended and saying so, I could have talked to the poet to ask why that expression was used. 
At the end of the chapter are five activities.  I am stuck on the first one.  J

Choose an activity you do regularly that is the absolutely most routine, unremarkable event of your day. Write down the answers to these questions about it.
  1. Notice the physical feeling of this routine.  Which muscles are involved? What kind of rhythm or tempo does it involve?  Are you cold or hot, energised or depleted?
  2. How do you feel emotionally when you do this?
  3. What are the smells associated with this activity?
  4. What do you see when you are engaged in this routine?
  5. Pay close attention to what you are thinking.  What images and ideas bubble up as you do this activity?
  6. How does the time of day or weather or location affect your experience?  (Indoors vs outdoors, your home vs someone else’s home, summer breeze or snowfall.)

So I thought about these questions and wrote the first draft.  While I was writing it I had in mind the The Whitsun Weddings by Philip Larkin.  In that poem he takes a mundane activity – riding a train – and turns it into a meditation on marriage.  That was a couple of months ago.  
Today I had the opportunity to show the poem below to a poet friend, Janet.  She helped me through with some good suggestions which I will not reveal until I post the next draft of the resulting poem.  And this is where you come in.  Here is the first draft of the poem.  Current title: “Wet Clothes”.  I’d like to read your thoughts and observations about the poem.  What works for you what doesn’t.  What might improve the poem?  This ties in to my blog name: Mastering Class.  Please help me master this poem.
Wet Clothes

I enjoy the rhythm of hanging wet clothes on the line
The order, sequence of the process
Gathering wet clothes from the washing machine
The weighty plastic clothes basket carried like
A sacrifice to the sun
Lifting the wet clothes up from the basket
To hang in the sun. Snatching from the potpourri
of clothes. A random choice of colour and texture.
The rhythm of clothes, pegs, hanging
Occasionally broken to pull a sleeve
Straighten a collar
As my arms dive into the basket
And raise a t-shirt to the line.
I feel like a priest washing his hands
And raising them to a god in servitude.
I enjoying finding a spot on the line for similar items
I even name those sections, like suburbs,
Sock City, Undie Alley, T-Shirt Terrace
Tea towels hang limp like flags on a calm day
Tired after a long spin
I am reassured in this ritual by the sounds of
Rituals that echo around me.
A lawn mowers are like crickets that change location
Like the wind.  Buses growl by on their way to uncertain destinations
A baby cockatoo irritates the world with its constant need.
And I look at the size of my childrens’ clothes. Every year they grow
Larger taking up more line space, arms reaching down to the ground as my memories of the toddler years vanish into my long term memory.
This is the course of time in my family.  New items free of stains and wear, older items frayed at the edges and the wind blows them dry and ready for the next wash cycle.
Simon Lenthen 1 June 2013
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