Ian McMillan’s ‘Strolls’
Every day, the poet Ian McMillan does a tweet of what he sees on his ‘strolls’.
This is the one from August 29 2022:
Early stroll. Summer is loosening its hold. The mating call of a passing motorbike. A flower grows through a crack in the pavement. A police car paints the street blue. Silent choirs of windows with closed curtains.
If you’re a young person looking at this, you might want to just try and imitate what Ian is doing here: painting pictures and sounds, with words. All you need to do, is go out, take a look, have a listen and write down what you see and hear.
You might want to pick up from some of what Ian is doing here:
It’s written in short sentences, some don’t have verbs in them. There are very few adjectives and probably no adverbs. There are no conjunctions and no other ‘connecting’ words like, ‘later’ or ‘furthermore’ and the like. Almost everything in the tweet is what Ian sees or hears. There are examples of figurative language: metaphors and personification as with ‘loosening its hold’,’mating call’ (motorbikes don’t have mating calls!), ‘paints’ and ‘choirs of windows’.
He also does what I call ‘impossible writing: pulling together images that can’t really happen in real life, like a police car painting, or windows being ‘silent choirs’. It’s a great thing to experiment with in order to convey what things are like, or their ‘essence’ if you prefer.
Finally, this way of writing expresses feelings without telling us what the feeling is! Summer is coming to an end…the motorbike is on its own, looking for something. The flower is on its own. The police car is on its own and it creates the colour blue. Blue is the colour of feeling blue! The choirs are ‘silent’ and the windows are closed. Isn’t that amazing that there’s all that feeling without any ‘feeling words’ and the whole thing is fewer than 40 words anyway?
For young people and teachers:
It’s probably an example of a ‘prose poem’ coming from the school of ‘Imagism’. That puts it in a category, if we’re looking for categories. If you’re looking for other poets who write like that, there is the Penguin book of ‘Imagist Poetry’ that is a great resource. The French writer Baudelaire was a poet who was one of the people who helped kick off this style of writing. If you’re looking for a book about prose poetry, there’s one by Jane Monson called ‘British Prose Poetry’. (I wrote a chapter in it!)
I hope you have a go at this way of writing, and enjoy doing it. If you want to see more examples, go to Ian McMillan’s twitter feed. He writes one every day. Fantastic!