The second chapter of Tania Runyan’s book “How to Write a Poem,” titled “Color It In: Imagery,” opens with the beginning lines from Billy Collins’ poem “introduction to poetry”:
I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide
Tania Runyan asks us to re-examine our use lazy use of adjectives. She quotes from an essay titled “Three Quick Studies of the Image” by Tony Hoagland:
“In the way that a noun is more solid than a verb or an adjective, the image anchors a poem, holds it in place. And mind of a reader almost always latches onto an image more strongly than an idea.”
Then Runyan provides two poems as examples, except one is not an actual poem—it’s lifted from a travel site. My favorite part of the chapter is when she provides sentences from rest stop brochures and asks us to rewrite them with an eye toward poetry.
Here is my second draft of the poem. My first was so bad—I literally just added line breaks to the freewriting. I was not particularly in a poem-y mood and couldn’t think of anything else to do. This second draft, based on this chapter, is going for more imagery. My title, taken from Runyan’s prompt, has never changed.
Roadside Oddity (#2)
There’s nothing odd
about a short white cross beside a Texas highway
although this cross
is not nestled in some Dead Man’s Curve.
This cross–not white but brown,
entwined grapevines–just past mile marker 95
rising out of pasture
so flat you can see the earth curve.
“Careful, there could be snakes,”
he says, but there’s no water in what is
literally a dry county.
“How can you crash when there’s nothing to run into?”
I ask. He shrugs.
Tire tracks lead nowhere.
“Do not cross” says the words on the yellow tape.
We cross prairie grass, bleached white
by drought, stare at the empty cross under a vast white sky
wind knocks us to our knees.