Pippa asked me if I help her on how to get her students to write poems in the moment of exploration of the land, with the immediacy of seeing one's face reflected on a water surface—puddle, stream, lake—rather than with a removed, abstracted, reflective writing exercise in the classroom, or as homework, at some later time.
I said to her that most of the poetry in my recent books—Casemate Poems (Collected) (Chaudiere Books, 2011) and Prison Songs and Storefront Poetry (Ekstasis Editions, 2010)—was written in public artist residencies, on the spot, mostly with a manual typewriter, with the immediacy of an artist–journalist, or an explorer–scientist writing fieldnotes in my journals later sourced, as in from the book that doesn’t close (Broken Jaw Press, 2008). I said that I wrote about how I write situational poetry in the afterword to my out-of-print Casemate poems (Widows & Orphans, 2004).
What came to mind as a possible tool, or device, for me to examine on how to write a "how-to write a place poem" is Yoko Ono's instruction poems in Grapefruit, first published in 1964. I just happened to witness a not-scheduled performance of her "Cut Piece" in the lobby of the Crowne Plaza Lord Beaverbrook Hotel, by a group of fellow Ceative Essentials conference participants. I knew "Cut piece" from its inclusion in the play The Yoko Ono Project: with instruction poems, music and other texts by Yoko Ono by Jean Yoon, that my Broken Jaw Press published in 2002. [It turns out that I am wrong in my assumption that this performance is unscheduled. The Creative Essentials conference program reveals to me, five months later, that it is a scheduled arts-based research performance by Maria Ezcurra, titled “Strip(p)ed”.]
Later that day I attended a paper presentation by Maria Ezcurra, a grad student at Concordia, who discussed "Cut piece" and the work of two other women artists in the context of her own textile artworks. Maria didn't know of Jean Yoon's play.
Here are two attempts by me to write an instructional "place poem":
write your senses
write your emotions
step away from the poem
place poem 2
stop where you are
where are you?
write where you are