Your Place Autobiography
In this week's Drop-In Writing Workshop at The Cabin, we wrote the story of our lives in using place, images and people.
We started by reading Jam Hale's poem "(people &) PLACES, an autobiography."
It's a long, winding poem with several vulnerable, heart striking moments.
I'll include the beginning here, but look HERE for the full version.
(people &) PLACES, an autobiography
by Jam Hale
Seattle, Washington and Yachats, Oregon
It's the ephemera that drew my attention
How a gin & tonic looks pale turquoise
In evening light--
A perfect marriage of
The concomitant blue bulb at the strike of a sulphur match and
The flash of green on the horizon
Silver City, Idaho or Bear Valley Springs, California
I can spend hours hand feeding a horse
Watching her strong jaw
As I massage her neck
Her lips inspect the palm of my hand
For more apple, celery, green beans
The sound of her giant teeth chomping baby carrots
Could put me to sleep
The breath from her nostrils
Is sibling to the comfort of a hotspring in winter
It wasn't until years later that I learned
Some suckling horses are called
Trail Creek, Idaho
It wasn't until years later that I could look at a hotspring
Without filling up on a sense of loss
I'm saving all my broccoli stalks and trimmings of asparagus
For the horses
I'm dirtying dishes just to have something to wash
A few dashes of tabasco
I'm not eating much these days
I will wash my glass
Between each drink
I'll wash my glass a dozen times a night
When my hands are soapy and wet
They are occupied with an empty glass
This is why I'll never quit smoking
This is why I'll wash down crumbs of tobacco
(stuck to my lips like burrs on horsehide)
With one more glass of whiskey.
What do you notice in this poem, so far?
What images, phrases, moments stand out?
What places stick with us most?
How does it make you feel, emotionally?
Close eyes. Breathe.
Cast back on the places you’ve lived.
The places you’ve spent time, that impacted you.
Maybe a small, short-term town you passed through.
Maybe a city you spent most your life.
Maybe a gas station that meant a lot to you.
Try to look back far.
Your whole life. See it all. See now. See close-up.
Each place that bubbles up.
What are the images that capture that place at that time?
Who are the people that shine through the most, that space and moment?
What were you feeling then? What do you feel as you look back at then?
Try to let all the meaningful places come forward. No rush.
When you feel that is done, make a list.
List all the places that came up, in any order.
And any that you’re just remembering now.
Some places may come up multiple times, for those of us who go back and forth.
Stay true to that. The back and forth, the returns, the repetitions.
Once you’ve listed all the places that impacted you through your life,
by each place, write or draw an image/symbol that signifies that place,
and the person who most impacted you, or with whom you spent the most time.
People can also be animals.
Also note any significant events.
Now, this list is your map. Use it, but you don’t have to follow it exactly.
You can change your mind, change the order, the places, images, people.
Using your map,
write your autobiography as seen through places, people and images.
This can be a poem, an essay, a story, a play, a long cartoon.
You can go back for inspiration from Jam’s poem
or cast it aside and do your own thing.
If you start to lose inspiration or clarity, take a walk.
Collect images from here/now.
Come back, continue.
Share what you wrote with someone.
How did that go? How did that feel?
Thank you for writing with me!
Process notes on a work in progress. This page serves to invite you into the way I work, with intermittent posts to show you the hows and whys on the whats I make, as well as prompts and ideas I bring to certain workshops. There will also be some raw, rough content found in notebooks written years ago, previously posted on: