Main Prompt

Looking, Listening

“I have a very simple definition of an artist: The artist is someone who pays attention and reports back. A good artist pays close attention and knows how to report back…we gradually learn that our looking and listening are coded by our own prejudices, that we interpret what we see though our own particular experiences.” – Filmmaker James Benning

The brilliant writer Rachel Kushner (Telex from Cuba, The Flamethrowers, The Mars Room) said that everyone knows something about the world that no one else knows. We all have souls and within those souls there is a particular wisdom for us to share. We can cultivate that wisdom by looking and listening closely, practicing the art of attention. Sometimes the surface of a place seems to promise boredom, so then it’s our job to watch and wait for the texture and change. And how quickly the weather changes these days.

Observing the real world is often best, but in the case of extreme weather, I think it’s far better to keep it contained to the screen. In the spirit of looking and listening, pick one or two of the extreme circumstances below, Lightning, Snow, Tornados, or Earthquake, and watch at least five to ten minutes of the video closely. Write down what feels most important to you in a list or as bullet points. You don’t have to describe the whole screen or catch everything, but be open and attentive enough to let something get a hook into you. The sounds or light or screen textures might remind you of something else. You might think about watching from the point of view of a character. Watch, wait, listen, feel, and maybe even find a meditative pleasure in the process.





Once you’ve made your list of what you’ve noticed, you’re free to take it anywhere. Go with your energy or a particular detail you’ve written down and develop it into a poem/flash/hybrid piece. If you’d like a little more guidance, consider the following idea:

Character Shapes the Storm: In a paragraph, describe one of the storms you’ve watched from the point of view of character who has just done something awful—committed murder, run over a cat, betrayed a friend, crashed a car. Then, write a paragraph describing the same storm from the point of view of a character who’s just had something wonderful happen—landed their dream job, gotten engaged, received a clean bill of health after a long illness. Develop either of these scenarios—the bad fortune or the good—or combine them. Or go somewhere else entirely! And you can always gain some momentum through reading. These following stories take very different approaches, yet the weather is central to them all (*please forgive me for including my own work—it’s just so on the nose of this topic):

And to warm up a little: “Hot Soup” by Parker Logan in Split Lip Magazine