Sunday, October 21, 2007

Atmospheric Writing

Lately, perhaps with my focus on the need for fall atmosphere, I've been thinking about atmosphere in writing. Sometimes I look at the writing of others and learn little lessons, even if those writers happen to be far younger than I.

I don't recall that my writing was particularly good when I was in grade school, although I know I had a fairly large vocabulary, and that I loved to read. I'm not sure why I'm always surprised when children write well, since I see examples all the time. The latest is this poem my son wrote in his third grade class--an acrostic.


Grouchy goblin sitting in a coffin, waiting for its prey;
Howling creatures coming for me.
Owls gliding in the dark night sky.
Slimy locusts creeping up my oozing leg.
Trees broken and dead--makes a great place
for a witch's bed.

I thought this was pretty neat, but I'm sure that third grade teachers the world over could tell me that nine-year-olds are terrific writers. In any case, I love the fact that their teacher, Mrs. Fogarty, obviously told them to use imagery, and this piece comes alive with it.

One of my favorite poems from childhood was Alfred Noyes' THE HIGHWAYMAN. One of the best lines described the sky during the highwayman's midnight ride: "The moon was a ghostly galleon, tossed upon stormy seas." I think of lines like that every time I see the power of visual and sensory imagery. Sometimes I need to be reminded to weave it into my own work. :)


Anonymous said...

Very nice poem. Appropriately spooky and shivery. I especially like the oozing leg. Tell your son well done and it scared this Halloween lover! Kudos to you as well, Julia, for having nurtured this budding writer.

Julia Buckley said...

Thanks, Kay! You are very nurturing yourself. :)

Eric Mayer said...

Wow. I'm no sure I could have read that in 3rd grade let alone written it. Seriously.

For some reason, perhaps because I was exposed to it as a child before I could appreciate it, I always disliked "The Highwayman"! It is one of Mary's favorites!

Julia Buckley said...

It did horrify me as a child, Eric, especially because we had children's encyclopedias complete with artist's renderings, and the landlord's daughter was depicted tied to a chair with a gun against her chest, and I don't know if I imagined it, but I recall a picture with flowing blood, which made an impact on my impressionable soul. :)

Pam Quimby said...

I could never write like your 3rd grade son. wow! Maybe I could paint it though... hmmm, oozing leg.
Can't wait to collaborate next block!!

Julia Buckley said...

Hi, Pam!

I know, it will be fun!

Peter said...

Someone ought to give that kid a publishing deal. When I saw the title of your comment, I was going to post a paragraph from Peter Temple's Dead Point that I recently posted on my blog. No need for that now, thanks to your little haiku-spouting William Carlos Williams of a nine-year-old son.

What the heck, here's the Temple anyway:

“On a grey, whipped Wednesday in early winter, men in long coats came out and shot Renoir where he stood, noble, unbalanced, a foreleg hanging. In the terminating jolt of the bolt, many dreams died.”
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Julia Buckley said...

Thanks, Peter! I am really impressed by it, too.

But your excerpt--wow. I'll have to look up that author. So fresh and arresting.

Peter said...

I've written lots about Peter Temple, one of my big discoveries since I started my blog. I posted that excerpt as part of post about prose style, which may be appropriate to your discussion. Here's the post:
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"