Have you used a picture, social media post, work of art, or cartoon as inspiration for a story or poem?
For those playing the home game, that’s not the question word for word, I know, but I wanted to mess with the phrasing. Why? Because I can. No one can stop me!
I’M MAD WITH POWER!
So it’s Day 14 of the #PNIWritingChallenge, friends, and the question is legit. Do you remember when we were talking about my least favorite part of English class and I went off on a diatribe about Institutional Creativity?
Yeah, me either, but apparently I did.
Back when the dinosaurs still roamed the earth – and I have no opinion on how many thousands, nay, hundreds of thousands of years have gone by since, I just know it was a long ass time ago. Using it because it makes me chuckle – I had a Creative Writing class.
One of our assignments was to take a photo or something from a magazine – we didn’t have smart phones, or any phones, in class back then. See? Dinosaurs – and write a poem or short story about it.
This teacher had a poster up for an airline. It didn’t look like an official airline poster to me. It had clouds, with a sun shooting golden beams of light, and “Lufthansa” across the bottom in a pretty font.
Looking back at the whole experience, I should have asked the teacher what the point was in hanging it if using it was going to be marked against me. Or even just the point in hanging it since we weren’t in Germany at the time – as far as I know.
Yes, it seems odd that I would remember this after so many millennia has gone by, but I stared at that thing all day, every day for two different years/classes. I had the same teacher for one of my English Lit classes at one point, and she assigned me the same front row seat for both classes. Front row and to my left, her right. It was near a window but that wasn’t what I looked at as I dreamed of not having to be in school at that exact moment in time.
I spent way too much time on Google trying to find the original image. I’m sure it’s lost to the ages and, if not, maybe it should be. Once again it is Sunday and I have football to watch.
I thought the word “Lufthansa” (rhymes with Sansa from GoT) was beautiful. It has the soft sounds humans find easy on the ears. Even not knowing it was an airline, it evoked feelings of freedom and, to me at the time, freedom sounded like a beautiful thing.
Freedom from what? High school problems, apparently.
I took my word and I wrote my poem, because I was in a poetry phase at the time. If I may say so myself, it was quite pretty, and strong.
I wrote it as an ode – Lufthansa being the unattainable (symbolic) woman, and the author (symbolic suitor) desperate for a taste of that sweet, sweet loving. I mean freedom. When addressing Lufthansa, the words were soft. When addressing life without Lufthansa, the words were hard, with lots of K sounds and T’s. Ticket is a hard word, for example, whereas Lufthansa is soft.
I was proud of my poem. Very. I took a word completely associated with something not fun (airline travel) and turned it into a love-fest. I got an A, which is fine, but it’s the one and only comment the teacher wrote on my paper that sticks with me.
“This is a German airline, did you mean to write about them?”
In the parlance of today’s youth, smack my damn head.
I had to justify the poem in front of class. And, dammit, I did. I can already hear the smart-ass, whiny 14 year old that I was.
“The assignment was to take something we wouldn’t write about normally, a picture or something, and make our readers feel something. I did that. Regardless of whether or not it is an airline, I made it prettier. So nyah nyah nyah.”
To this day I have a problem with that teacher’s comment. If a teacher is going to assign a writing piece like that, perhaps they shouldn’t bash the inspiration.
I don’t know, maybe she was trying to bring me back down to Earth in my writing. Maybe she had a point, and maybe, just maybe, she treated me not quite as well as everyone else because she had an issue with my brother two years before.
My first day of class with her she had asked if he was my brother. I hesitated and said yes, but with pride. Her response? “Am I going to have problems with you, too?”
My brother was a bit of an ass back then, I know this and he knows this, but there are two sides to every story. That woman gave him detention for eating a cookie at a poetry presentation after school. Cookies meant for the guests, I suppose, but whatever.
Way to assume the little sister who is blatantly nerdy is going to be just like the jock-type brother.
I’m not bitter at all, I swear.
Moral of the story, between the teacher asking the brother thing, and then an A but questioning something I obviously did on purpose because surely I didn’t mean to write about an airline – and what kind of creative writing teacher doesn’t get symbolism??? – … it left a weird psychology with me. I took the critique as having done something wrong, and I didn’t.
So, yes, I have taken a photo or poster or something and written poetry based on it. It did not end well for me, though I thought it was fantastic. Now it leaves a bad taste in my mouth to take other people’s work and base mine off of it, even if it’s artwork, and I find that offensive. Teachers should know better.
One of the women I grew up with had a shoebox of all of my poetry from back then. I don’t know if she still does, but it might be time to ask about it. I found a folder of report cards and stories and poetry from elementary and middle school not that long ago. I had a detective story about a woman named, get this, Cherry Bomb. Lord help me.
Now that I’m older, am I willing to try that exercise again? Maybe, if it should come up in one of our writing challenges.
Enjoy the day, all! My Lions are taking on the Texans, at Houston. Four game win streak would make my Halloween something special. My Companion’s team is facing Seattle at home (New Orleans). I’m not going to make a call on that one as I was wrong last week. And our secondary team? They’re taking on San Diego, an old school rivalry. It should be a good week for games.