March 22 – A Listening Date with Myself

March 22, 2023

Last week, Susan Thomsen who blogs at Chicken Spaghetti, wrote a Poetry Friday post with a prompt that might be fun for Slicers, too. Her post, “Street Guide” is a  guide for writing what she calls street poetry. She explains, “Street poems are what I call the found-language poems I’ve put together from lines I’ve overheard. They come from not only the street but also restaurants, museums, theaters, subways, etc.”

I took time this week to take myself on a date to listen. I took my notebook (the one Jone MacCulloch gave me for a Poetry Friday poem exchange) and a favorite pen and went to town. I tried to take Susan’s suggestion about “unblocking” for this activity: “In cities we are used to blocking out what is not necessary for us to know getting from Point A to Point B, but unblocking is the first step to listening for lines.” As I went through my morning, I realized how unusual it is to unblock and purposefully listen to what is going on around me.

First, I went to my favorite shop and had a $8 $9! masala chai latte. (The price went up, but it is almost worth it! They make it with oat milk on the stove top. Can you see the steam coming out of the cup in the photo? It’s a 16-ounce cup and lasts a long time, staying so hot and delicious.) Then I went to a favorite thrift shop, where I found one serving dish that is going into my to-be-refinished gift pile. Next, I headed to the public library, where I checked out some vegan cookbooks and bought some Friends of the Library book sale books. Finally, I finished at Aldi to get a few groceries.

This morning I transcribed what I wrote in my notebook into a Google Document. The complete transcript is here. Then I took that document, made a copy, deleted commentary and many of the lines. I didn’t change the order or location of where I heard these words. All in all, unblocking and listening was a fun activity, which I will try again. Here is my poem composed entirely of things I heard in Yucca Valley, California, on March 20, 2023:

I – At the café
It’ll be out in a bit.
Do you want water?
Yeah, you got it.
♫ You can call me Queen Bee
It was interesting
♫ I shake it off, And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake
The next day
♫ Lightning strikes every time she moved
No, I’m not
Sugar is over there.
We’ll see.
As C. used to say
I’m trying to keep up
♫ I just can’t refuse it, like the way you do this
Can I have another…oh, never mind.
♫ I heard that you’ve settled down
Hey, how are you?
Awesome, man.
And someone sat on it? Oh, my god.
Yeah, I had some.

II – At the thrift shop
Yeah, they’re kind of hard to find.
They go fast
Ok, I do have my glasses.
Yo, dog
I have something for you
Thank you.
You’re welcome, you’re so welcome.
It came from my heart.
Can you get me some more?
It has to be the right stuff
I don’t know if you like it,
but I like it.
I think we should get it.
It’s beautiful.
I think you two are in cahoots.
Is that in your way?
I put it over there.

III – At the library
Oh, we don’t take checks.
You can pay for it at the kiosk.
Is it #6? I said, is it #6?
Everyone else’s computer is still working.
It says #6 is offline, but #7 is on.
You have the keys
No, you do
You can take those out to the van
Look at this
Is that a spaceship?
Are you kidding?
Yes, I am. Yes, I am kidding.
Can you tell me how long you will be?
I can’t log on to #14.
Does it think I am still logged into #6?
I need to do some work.
N, did you put paper in the book drop?

IV – At Aldi
Do you have a quarter?
I do, but thanks for asking.
So, I’ll get salami,
and what’s the other one?
Pep? pep? Pepperoni!
Gelato. Gelato, fun.
Oh, I thought those apples were on sale.
I’m sorry.
Don’t worry about me.
I’m in no hurry,
the curse of being retired.

Lyrics footnotes (the music was the main thing I could hear at the café, thus so many lyrics made it into my street poem)

1 “Royals” by Lorde
2 “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift
3 “This is What You Came For” by Calvin Harris
4 “Don’t Stop the Music” by Rhianna
5 “Someone Like You” by Adele

I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for all of March. Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

14 thoughts on “March 22 – A Listening Date with Myself

  1. Denise, I am a notorious over-listener. I think I’ve assumed every teacher is. In nearly every class for years a student will tell some other student not to say what they didn’t want me to hear. of course, I always overheard those remarks. Anyway, I like this activity, and I think the library conversation might work well in an essay about the role of librarians w/ these conversation snippets used as support,

  2. Love these found language poems. I call them eaves dropping. I love doing this – some of my best poems were composed this way. This idea frees the poet to pay attention to what is around her and find the essential, the necessary, the new. Wonderful!

  3. Fascinating. I too enjoy listening to what people say in a public place. 😊 Next time I will make a note. Thank you.

  4. So different – I’m impressed with how you even remembered all the things that were said. Did you write them down immediately on a piece of paper? record them? well done!!

  5. This reminds me of Nic Stone’s assembly. She told my students you need 3 things to be a writer – read lots, write lots and eaves drop lots! Thanks for first explaining your steps and then sharing your found poem!! #retirementtime

  6. Denise, what a fantastic way to create poetry and to really listen. I love the tips here about how to do this. I cannot wait to try it out. Gosh, your poem is sooooooo incredibly fun! I absolutely adore it. I’m so glad I finally go the chance to log in today:)

  7. Denise, thank you for sharing this poetry idea. It is new to me – and sounds like a lot of fun. Very meditative, I think, requiring you to be present in the conversations around you and not in your own head…quietly listening to the world. Very enjoyable poem!

  8. Denise, I would have a blast doing this – both the collecting and writing. I would love to do this at botanical garden, Starbucks, and the nail salon. I am going to plan a morning for this. I love the poetry that came out of your listening.

  9. What a fantastically creative jaunt! I love all the rhythms of life you captured here, Denise.

  10. Thanks for the inspiration! I love when authors’s dialogue is spot on! This found poetry invites you into your day like a radio station tuning.

  11. Love these found poems! I love to find poetry at school by listening – but I don’t know why I haven’t tried it many other places! Love your piece about it and the poems.

  12. Denise, I compile lines in a Google Doc, too. Last week I bought myself some new reporters’ notebooks to write on the run. It takes too long on my phone!

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