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prompt 149 write a shadow voice poem

March 28, 2013

little pencilWhat’s a shadow?
Peter Pan had one sewed to his feet.  When I was very young Peter meant living adventures fearlessly, being happy enough to fly!  Or like for many boys my age, being a cowboy with hat and holster, a role played for fun with an enthusiastic spirit.  And I remember when that feeling of play seemed dangerous, unacceptable, the target of ridicule.  When those qualities of being me were tucked away in a pocket, mostly unseen.  And mostly unfelt.
Carl Jung, the psychologist, suggested that about age seven we separate from then bury whatever parts of ourselves that don’t seem acceptable within our social environment.  Those parts set aside become our shadow.
Says Susan Wooldridge,  If we’re shy and withdrawn, it’s our shadow who’s doing flamenco dances on a tabletop. If we’re always doing good and being obedient teenagers, it’s our shadow who is sneaking out the window at night, coming back muddy in the dawn. If we’re rebellious, disobedient and procrastinating, it’s our shadow who’s on the honor roll.
My shadow still likes hats – some style or color not quite the ordinary. He’s more playful, spontaneous, not crossing every “t” or dotting every “i”. Even just writing this prompt I’ve had to throw out my first draft and start all over again. That draft was too thoughtful in every detail – making it hard to see the fun in this process now. Yea, I needed to listen better to his voice!
To be more fully who we are, it’s a good idea to invite our shadow to speak now and then. I discovered my shadow was closer than I’d thought. If you ever visited my poem blog, that’s my shadow as a child right there in the header complete with cowboy hat! I had that urge to include his image, however kept that distance of my adult posture of being so so thoughtful in all I usually do. I have really had to listen more to allow his voice room to speak. I’ve worn berets years before they were popular (oh wait, that hasn’t happened yet – but he likes them anyway). But now I’m working to let him more than peek out from time to time. My writing poems are where he comes out more than anywhere else, but I’ve got more allowing to do in letting his voice emerge.
My shadow is more directly honest about feelings than me.   Take me or leave me as I am, he says.  Me, when I put down a book I’m reading, it’s usually face down so as not to reveal more than needed.  My shadow is less guarded than me.
Here’s the practice we suggest.
Make a quiet place, sit down, close your eyes then ask your shadow to come out with you.  Your shadow may be uncomfortable at first, sad or weak, maybe frightened, or angry depending how deep and long she or he has been not given voice.  This will change as you allow time and opportunity for conversation and addressing his or her desires and needs.
Begin a conversation with your shadow.  Listen.  If you’re willing, invite her or him to become a part of your life.
Describe her or him.  Notice changes over time.
Ask what your shadow needs from you to become a positive influence in your life.
Where can you meet?  What would your shadow you to do together?
Make a date to continue this conversation.  How often?  Let your shadow say.
Write all this down.
Let your shadow write a poem.
There, that’s your prompt for this week.
PS.  Got a photo of yourself that more expresses who your shadow is?  Might be a child, or maybe not.  Might be in other clothes or posture than is usual for you.  We’d love to see.

Thanks to Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge for this prompt idea.


  1. March 28, 2013 2:28 am

    I have worked long and hard at finding my poetic voice, and now you’re asking me to find another, older (!) voice. I’ve made a few notes. Maybe it’ll see the light of day and maybe not – I was a strange child!

    • March 28, 2013 4:12 am

      Viv, my references here, these are mine personally. Just my examples to honestly share as thus far I’ve felt. However there’s nothing to say the age (or not) of another’s shadow voice. Besides, I’d suppose shadows too, they grow up. And how much light of day you allow, that’s of course up to you.

      And if you felt yourself some strange as a child, perhaps your shadow was not? I don’t know. Or how strange have I (me) been as an adult? Other than the polite surface I mean. And however the path kindly Viv, seems pleasing to me where you arrived!

      Poetic voice? Interesting. I’ve heard those I admire, tried to emulate, but something else always seems to come no matter what I think or try to do. And I’d expect, hope and pray that whatever voice is mine will continue to learn and grow.

      Have good times with this prompt, else no worries, let it go. Ever so!

      • March 28, 2013 4:25 am

        Thank you for your kind words, Neil. There have been shadow pictures hanging around on my computer for me to write Haiga, and a comedy element has come to mind, but I shall brood a bit longer for something a little deeper.

  2. April 3, 2013 12:32 am

    I geddit! Post your poem day post will go defunct and we post to the original prompt post anytime during the week.

    This is also my Napowrimo #2.

    O paper hearts

  3. April 3, 2013 12:51 am

    Yep! You’ve come to the right place! Put the links to your prompt poems right here. Easy huh?

  4. April 3, 2013 2:14 am

    I found this concept quite difficult, so I just looked for my opposite and wrote from there. Thanks for the prompt, Neil. 🙂

  5. April 3, 2013 2:19 am

    OK, my pennies are spent and no poem yet (not counting this prompt which kind of is my poem). But gotta say (and show) something for this prompt, no matter what, and so,

    cowboy shoes

  6. April 3, 2013 3:08 am

    Well, I think I have it. Something she would say if she were still around.

    • April 4, 2013 10:13 pm

      It does, it does! Speak for itself. Wonderful creative response. A definite “read”.

    • April 4, 2013 10:32 pm

      Poo. No Blogger comment for me. So here’s what I wanted to write…

      Oh yes, I love all of this poem! And the chatterbox is not only appropriate to what you say, but a wonderfully creative play within the poem. I smile, I tip my hat!

      Me, I hear just one voice so far as I hear. But this “gathering” of voices, very much feels whole, a whole from the union of all those bits. Oh, I love this poem more and more.

      And it sounds to me like shadows are nothing unknown to you. Here we get to listen in to old friends in conversation as it were, and those relationships, casual and familiar. And the humor here is so very very right. Spot on! And a big gold star for using the word penumbra!

      A very clever poem, yet its cleverness does not get in the way of the poem being itself.


      • April 5, 2013 5:52 am

        As I’ve done before…I’ve taken the liberty to copy and paste this
        I do hope to make it easier for WWP folks soon.

        Thank you for allowing me to have such fun.

      • April 6, 2013 3:02 am

        I was going to wait until prompt 150…but something else prompted the creation of the newly, yet promised new blog for my WWP/WP friends so:

        Seeing as WWP is a WP site it seems only fair to have a spot that you all can reach.

  7. April 3, 2013 1:06 pm

    Mine is up. Shadow Play

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