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Quarantine Activity: Taking Nature Photos then Writing Poems in Response

Updated: Jan 3, 2021

I want to share a practice with you that helped me cope and heal this year. I take a walk around my neighborhood, ready to take a picture with my cellphone. Sure, I'd love to be somewhere breathtaking and stunning like the folks on Instagram with breathtaking vistas and pricey cameras with even pricier lenses. But I've decided as an artist that it's best to work with what I have on hand rather than endlessly improve the tools at my expense.

If something I see speaks to me, I take a picture. I don't always know why I feel that thing speaks to me. I just trust intuition.

When I get home, I write a free style poem of what the subject of this photo is wanting me to see or to say to others through me. A way to find resolution? A prayer? A meditation? A visual way of describing a complex thought or difficult situation?

It's like walking a tightrope at the point of writing though. There's a delicate balance between showing and telling. As they say about good writing - "Show the reader don't tell them." Engage all the senses but don't tell them what you want them to sense. As writers, I think the tendency to rely on visuals is strong. Challenge that. Also, I know I am not drawn to read writing that preaches to me either. So I have to be vigilant in my tendency to do so.

Most important, have fun with this exercise. You might find that some of the poems you wrote will stand on their own without the image. Some rely on the image. Either way. It's okay. Sometimes writing isn't something to hold on to forever, but an opportunity to process a thought at that point in time. Some writing does end up withstanding the test of time. That's something to celebrate and keep at as a practice.

Took this photo of a sweet gum leaf on a sidewalk. At home, I wrote this haiku poem:

sweet gum starfish sweeps

across pounded limestone floor

ushering autumn

Feel free to write your own and share. Or share your experience with trying this exercise of taking photos on walks and then writing a response poem later.

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