Finding a Poem’s Geographical Location: Visual Mind-Mapping

Handmade book, with piece of bathing suit sewn on cover and

Tag-surfing one windy day, I stumbled on the headline: “How to Create Visuals When All You Have Is Words.”

It got me thinking about making my poetry more visual, and not necessarily by arranging the words in unique patterns on the pages – something I did in my Aquathoughts collection mostly written over a period of ten years from 1987-1997, and later made into handmade books.

As a poet I’ve tried to create pictures with words about:  scenes, physical sensations, even sounds – as with these lines taken from Hope written in 1989:

When he speaks I hear music,

Birds, blue feathered birds

Fly from his mouth, nestle settle round him…

Indeed, the first poem I ever wrote when I was a mere 10 years old was an attempt to recreate the tidal river I had lived on in Nova Scotia before moving, at the age of 9, to a logging village in Northern New Brunswick.

The LaHave River in front of our Nova Scotia home had offered a rocky shoreline, that when the tide was low, was covered with slippery, fawn-coloured seaweed and abundant tidal pools filled with mysterious life-forms left behind by the receding water.

I loved playing there. Popping the seaweed.  Dipping fingers in the tide-pools.   Examining empty shells and miniature crabs.

My poem called ‘C’ started off: “Down by the sea, that’s where I long to be…” and went on for a full page to describe both the tidal river itself and a 10-year old’s sentimental yearning to be back there.

Other of my poems try to make a physical experience visual.  As in this excerpt from Cycling with David about going for a cycle with a racer, and what happened when he gave me the experience of racing-speed on a bicycle

…the world melts

nature becomes liquid green

as the road beneath our wheels

spins into a fluid, grey river

As you explore this blog,you’ll find many of the poems about the Brighton-Hove seafront are an attempt to give the reader a visual experience. In an effort to bring those images to you, with some poems I’ve posted images of art work culled from the web, or my own photo archives, which seldom offers what I want!

But even thought Monet, or whomever, skilfully captured an image that resonates with the one I’ve tried to create with my words, I feel using their images is a cop-out. By not pushing myself to go the extra mile, to make my words a more complete sensory experience, I’m short-changing myself as an artist. I have a full range of digital media available to me, including audio, all of which can be used to create more complete poems.*(see comments)

So when I saw Dan Pieper’s How to Create Visuals When All You Have Are Words « Ideation & Its Geographic Location I pressed his page to save for later reading.

Dan talks about using a thesaurus to mind-map key words to come up with visuals for an advertising campaign. I teach language students to use a similar technique to help them retain new vocabulary. I’ve never thought of using it for poetry – until now.

When I visited Dan’s page and read his method and saw his visuals, a creative seed was planted. It’s still germinating. I’ll let you know when it sprouts.

Do you have any ideas or techniques you use to make your poetry more visual? Share your secrets?

4 thoughts on “Finding a Poem’s Geographical Location: Visual Mind-Mapping

Add yours

  1. Unlike my situation in 1987 when I wrote Techno Toys Blues, which almost 20 years later was recorded by Hungary’s Anima Sound System for their anti-global-corporate CD WeStrike and later released on Mole Records compilation CD Listening Pearls. On both Anima’s CD and Mole Records’, the song is re-titled as Technotoys Blues and credited to Anima Sound System which is really not very respectful of the boys, now is it? In any case, the thing is, I now have the technology I need to put out very modestly produced audio tracks and although this post has focused on visuals, I believe audio is just as important.

  2. Hi Alison,

    Thanks very much for the mention. I’m really glad you got something out of the exercise and I enjoyed reading your post.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Dan. I’ve been back to read more of your blog. Advertising may be a more commercial world than poetry, but a lot of what you say poets can use.

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