Monday, November 24, 2008


October Raspberries

The morning wind sweeps
a chill off mountain peaks
that nips the raspberries disguised
under reddened leaves, as if trying
to hide from that final frost.
The smell of November wrangles
sharply with leaves not yet fallen,
as if Autumn is reluctant to begin
and these berries, edges burned
white from night’s brief winters
remember Indian Summer’s promise still
lingering in their stubborn persistence
as they continue to ripen on the vine.
The clusters feel like virgin’s breasts,
offering sweetness, teasing, yet
the red nipples firmly resist
the pinch of passionate fingers;
refuse to yield, and lay cold
as a witch’s teats in the hands.

Specificity is the Writer’s Friend. Details that are unique to the situation bring a poem to life. Specificity also works well in other writing.

The first line is not so specific. The second line gives the reader a feeling of the geographical location. The writer hints at a personal conflict over the change in weather by the fifth line, and this is reinforced in the eighth line. The language used suggest the raspberry vines and fruit express for the writer the resistance to oncoming winter. The raspberries (probably) don’t really have conflicts, but the specificity of description extends the metaphor.

Then the vines and berries are likened to virgin’s breasts, as if they are shyly resistant to being picked before they have a chance to mature, which further suggests the allusion to the season, and the coming of Halloween, with witches and cold weather. There is also a second meaning, that of dread of end of life. Even still, no conclusion is drawn here. That is up to the reader.

I would not have been able to write this poem if I remained indoors. I had to feel the berries to describe how they felt to my hands, and to discover the best words, and thought of this unique metaphor. This was one of the rare times that endless revisions were not required to finish.

Use sensory appeal, sight, sound, smell, touch, etc. Making poems specific and unique is best done by using words expressing many of the senses. This poem focuses on a small segment of time, although weather expected throughout the month is also suggested.

Writing Exercise: Write about a moment in time, noticing the physical attributes of something in the environment which stir up an emotion for you. Or start with the feeling and find something that expresses it.

Do not tell the reader how you feel. Instead, try to describe something outside of yourself as if it expresses your own emotions; feels your joy, sorrow, fear, etc. If you have trouble describing, approach it with all of your senses… how does it smell, feel, or sound? What words show the reader by implication, the emotion you are feeling?
October Raspberries. Photograph
From Writing Exercises (A-3)
Comments are welcomed.

All writing and images are the exclusive property of Ruth Zachary.

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