Tag Archives: Cheryl Strayed

A Poem for Cheryl Strayed

As host of the recent “Writing, Truth, and Community” event featuring best selling author and creative writer Cheryl Strayed, I was blessed with the task of introducing Cheryl, who has by now, been introduced in so many fabulous and interesting ways by so many fabulous and interesting luminaries, that I was wondering what little old me could possibly add to the mix? So in my poet-like bewilderment and terror, I couldn’t think of what else to do except what I always do with such surges of emotion. Write a poem! She was so genuinely touched, that she mentioned how when she met Robert Redford, though he kissed her four times, he did NOT write her a poem. My life is now complete, I can die a happy fulfilled man!! The poem is copied below. Enjoy!

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Cheryl Strayed (after Wallace Stevens)

I

Among twenty snowy mountains
The only thing moving
Was the eye of a woman with a blue backpack
Called “monster”

II

She was of three minds
Like a tree with three branches
Of grief, of hope, of love

III

The woman whirled in the summer winds
A tiny speck of brilliance in the setting sun

IV

A woman and a mountain are one. A woman
And a mountain, and a grieving heart are one

V

I don’t know which to prefer, the beauty
of subtle thought, or the beauty of mountain dreams—
the woman weeping, or just after

VI

Charcoal clouds drifted across the tops of the sugar pines,
oh dear future sugar. . .the mountains frowned
her solitude thickening, the trail steepened

VII

Oh good people of the city
why do you imagine only golden words?
Do you not see how the blackbirds
nest in her trees, as in yours?

VIII

I know of noble songs, of grand ideas,
I know the woman with the blue backpack
is involved in what I know

IX

When the woman took flight
as now a bluebird might, it marked the beginning
of many endings

X

The sight of the woman
in the blue backpack with her heart full of
birds, full of words,
would make the mountains cry out
in understanding

XI

She walked the spine of California
on winged feet made of glass
on hammered feet of blood and pulp
the mystery and beauty eclipsing the fear
of an unknown. . .the pain of surrender

XII

The river is flowing
the woman must jump in

XIII

It was daytime all night long
from then on, the blackbirds in the night tree were
singing for her, a song abloom with the clarity of love

Great Writing Prompts. Thank you Cheryl Strayed!

On June 1, 2013 best-selling author of Wild, Tiny, Beautiful Things, and the novel Torch, Cheryl Strayed came to the Petaluma Sheraton for a day titled “Writing, Truth, & Community”–produced by yours truly and The Owl Press. This was the largest event we have put on and thanks to our volunteers, my assistant–Ali Degolia, and the Sheraton staff, things went very smoothly!! The event consisted of a full day writing workshop, craft talk, reading, and book signing! The feedback has been amazing! Thanks to all who filled out the survey, sent me an email or posted to Facebook! It was an extraordinary day, and Cheryl was charming, insightful, inspiring, funny, and extremely generous with her knowledge and experience.

Cheryl mentioned a number of writing prompts and promised to share them with the group! And so here they are! Enjoy! May you be inspired to be willing to “break your own heart” and go forth to “write like a motherfucker!!”

With gratitude and all best wishes, Albert (& Cheryl)
———–

Writing Prompts from Cheryl Strayed

(The “you” can be you or a fictional character)

Write about a time when you’d dressed inappropriately for the occasion.

Write a few pages in which you obsess over something meaningless.

Write about something/someone being born.

Write about something you can’t deny.

Write about what you have too much of.

Write about when you knew you were in trouble.

Write about something you don’t exactly remember.

What about what you used to know how to do.

Write a long apology.

Write about a secret being revealed.

Write about all the secrets that have been kept from you.

Write about a gift that was not well received.

Write a long thank you letter.

Write about something you are certain of.

Write about having no fun at all.

Write about when you knew something was over (or had begun).

Write about someone you forgot.

Write about a question you wished you’d asked.

Write about something that was too small/too big.

Write about what you’d planned to do.

Write about something that doesn’t get better.

For more writing tips, check out the upcoming online course Brilliant Writer: The Master Class for Successful Writers