Monday, February 4, 2008

Marching (100x15)

One hundred words a day. That should be easy, right? Well, yeah, sometimes. Some days the words just line themselves up and come marching out from under your fingers like so many loyal soldiers marching merrily off to win honor for the king. Some days they are more like recalcitrant children, hiding out, grudging their participation, wary of being drawn into something they don’t think is going to be all that much fun. And some days, like today, they just show up uninvited and lounge about, burping and scratching themselves as they try to decide what they will do tomorrow.

Process Reflection: The topic for today was "victory," and I've got to admit I only engaged it glancingly. Those marching soldiers owe what minimal existential status they can claim to the presence of that word in my consciousness, as do, to a slightly lesser degree, the other characters who showed up to do, however reluctantly, their metaphorical duty within the framework of the task at hand.

Another way of looking at it: my students have a standing assignment to hand in to me once a cycle (we schedule classes over a six-day cycle) a piece of writing, a “Cycle Paper,” which represents an hour’s worth of work. Topic is up to them. Form is up to them. It can be a single self-contained piece, several short pieces, or a continuation of a longer piece that they might choose to work on over several weeks or months. The first few weeks the students generally have no problem. Then, about a month into the semester, inevitably start getting pieces of writing whose subject is something along the lines of “My Cycle Paper About How I Couldn’t Think of Anything to Write for My Cycle Paper.”

Which is, of course, a creative response which is well within the rules of the game, but gets old fast. Which is why I tell them they only get one of those a semester. I’m into day 15 of the thirty-day hundred-word-a-day cycle, and I’m cashing in my voucher.

By way of compensation for those of you who might have visited this site in the hopes of finding something more worth reading, I’ll share, by way of compensation for your time, this artful little poem by Robert Francis. I’ve been thinking about trying something like this for one of these pieces, in that I’ve always admired what he manages to get done in a short space (50 words including the title). But this is a poem that I can tell took him a hell of a lot longer than an hour to put together.

Silent Poem

backroad leafmold stonewall chipmunk
underbrush grapevine woodchuck shadblow

woodsmoke cowbarn honeysuckle woodpile
sawhorse bucksaw outhouse wellsweep

backdoor flagstone bulkhead buttermilk
candlestick ragrug firedog brownbread

hilltop outcrop cowbell buttercup
whetstone thunderstorm pitchfork steeplebush

gristmill millstone cornmeal waterwheel
watercress buckwheat firefly jewelweed

gravestone groundpine windbreak bedrock
weathercock snowfall starlight cockcrow

(Picture Credits:,

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