How to CREATE a POEM from your JOURNAL Entries…Writing Assignment #21 (A)
Turn a Journal Entry into a Poem
by Lynda McKinney Lambert
PART A of Writing Assignment #21
There will be two parts to this assignment.
Writers often discover treasures for writing poems and other literary pieces when they look back into history. They seek out additional insight and information on something they think is interesting. You may want to try this method, too.
This way of working inspired some of my best pieces. I keep travel journals on my trips. I make sketches and write short notes as I record my experiences. My travel journals become the raw material I looked back into long after I returned home. I find exciting new revelations. Keeping a travel journal makes your trip memorable long after it is over.
My example: Writing in Mirabell Garden
The famous Mirabell Garden (Salzburg, Austria) was a place I visited during my summers of teaching in Austria. I inhaled the fragrance of fully blooming roses in a formal garden. I thought about how I would remember this place as I began to write about my experiences in my travel journal.
I wrote some quick notes about the palace – it’s location in the center of Salzburg and the fascinating Archbishop Wolf Dietrich who commissioned the building of the palace for his mistress, Salome Alt. I imagined their children frolicking in the palace and in the gardens. I used a pen to make a few line drawings of various aspects of the architecture, the gardens, and the fortress on the mountain.
Later, I looked into some historical notes on this intriguing story. The people who had lived in this magnificent palace became so real to me. I began to imagine their lives in a personal way. This story did not have a happy ending. The Archbishop eventually made so many political enemies that he was eventually arrested and imprisoned in the fortress dungeon where he spent the remaining years of his life. He died in prison in the fortress, high above the city, overlooking his palace. His mistress, Salome Alt, fled with their children to Wels, another city where they were safe.
You can do a little scribble drawing, take some quick photos, or jot descriptive notes in a journal. Later, when there is more time to think it over, use those thoughts and images when you craft a poem. It only takes a few visual or text notations to awaken memories.
Turning Journal Notes into a Poem:
Explore the HISTORY:
Consider the history of the place and the people who inhabited it.
Write down some historical notes on location as you are visiting a place. That is the best way to begin. Later, when you are back home you can do some additional research to gain even more information to set the stage for the historical context.
Example from my journal:
Mirabell Palace, sits like a jewel in the heart of Salzburg, Austria. It was originally called Altenau, built in 1606 by the Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau as a home for his mistress Salome’ Alt and their children. The famous Mirabell Gardens surround the palace. Fischer von Erlach designed them . On the grounds are stone sculptures on the massive pillars at each side of the gates as you enter the palace grounds. They are depictions of mythological heroes. In other places you can find sculptures such as unicorns, a Pegasus fountain, gloriously blooming flowers spilling from large urns and a magical rose garden all enclosed by local wrought ironwork.
The stone urns sit atop the stone pillars that surround the lush gardens. Each urn seems like it is literally spewing glorious flowers like a waterfall they are bursting forth from the urns. I sit and make pencil sketches of the urns. Each one is different from the others; each a different design.
Wolf spent the final six years of his life imprisoned in Hohensalzburg Fortress which overlooks picturesque Salzburg. The fortress prison was his destiny as he was held prisoner until his death in 1612.”
Look over your notes and think about bringing something to life from this place and the people who lived there. What do you think they might have been like?
When I walked through the mansion, sat in the gardens, I thought of the love that a man had for a woman and the children they had together. Because Wolf was a powerful Prince Archbishop, marriage was not permitted for them Yet, Salome’ was clearly his mistress. She bore thirteen children to Wolf who deisgned Mirabell Palace for Salome’ and the children.
I learned that Wolf spent the final 6 years of his life in prison. I thought of what might have been going through his mind in the prison dungeon as he remembered his beautiful mistress and their children. Did he know he would never see them again?
In my imagination, Wolf smuggled love notes to Salome’ during those six years of imprisonment. The focus I chose to write about was the imaginary love notes he sent to her. Back in my studio, I hand-crafted an Artist’s book from hand made papers I bought at a specialty paper shoop in Salzburg. On each page of the book, I wrote one of the Haiku verses I created in this series. I fashioned red and blue roses made from thin paper all through the book to illustrate the rose garden, the inspiration for my poems.
My poem developed as a series of tiny “love notes” from Wolf to Salome’ – Here is what developed, in the poem “Salome’s Garden.”
I chose to write each “note” using the ancient Japanese Haiku form because this type of poem is often used to express love. Below, you can read the poem I developed from journal notes, my memories, imagination and history.
Example from my journal:
(Haiku notes from Wolf to Salome. smuggled from prison)
If we could measure
The length of our time on earth
Before we began the journey
I would have hoped
for golden days alone,
in the garden
Pegasus can fly
When waxed begonias bloom in
Is our garden lush?
Yellow marigolds touched by
Morning’s cool damp mist?
Do our marble stairs
Come to life during the night
When the putti dance?
The orangerie waits
Near the end of the garden
Hidden, out of view.
The scent of roses
Permeated my cell tonight
Just before twilight.
“Salome and Wolf”
We danced down pink marble stairs
Hot candles flickered.
Lions guard our steps
To the secret garden path
Where the dwarfs carouse.
Created putti who frolic
On pink marble crests.
I miss your soft touch
Long to be near you at the
End of my journey
You are my crown jewel
In the snow that melts away
Everything I touch.
When our garden fades
Icy frost covers windows
I will remember you.
Our children will dance
In gardens we created