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prompt 172 breaking through

August 29, 2013

There’s a small Pacific coastal town on the southern lip of Monterey Bay. Fog is a frequent resident. A religious campsite become more permanent, summer tent sites become ginger wood, become the newest tourist attraction, and now in the 1930’s a growing fleet of boats consume the life of the bay, eagerly trading that flesh and bone for simple cash. There’s really only one scent pervading the town – sardines, cooked and dried for fertilizer in the hot dry grass croplands close at hand. It’s not a pleasant reek.
By some chance of navigation three men have gathered in this place, this galvanizing moment of change. John Steinbeck who’d written one failed novel but was incubating writing skills that would gestate later into The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden. Joseph Campbell, known as Joe, who was already exploring the philosophy of heroes and mythology. And a man, Ed Ricketts, a marine biologist who would come to write a Stanford University Press bestseller, giving life before anyone really knew the concepts of ecosystems as he observed and learned from the tidepools around Pacific Grove. These men in their unconventional manner were looking to understand what was yet unknown, what spark it was that existed from those teeming tidepools, reaching directly to the heavens of stars above. They were neither so all polite or quiet of deed in their pursuit of understanding.

      Then one day they found what Ed later called the key to the whole problem. John Steinbeck’s wife, Carol, discovered it while innocuously reading a poem by Robinson Jeffers called Roan Stallion. Poem in hand, she stormed into the Pacific Grove house and interrupted the three friend’s discussion, commanding, “Listen to this.”

              Humanity is the start of the race
              Humanity is the mold to break away from
              Humanity is … the crust to break through,
              [the coal to break into fire… ]

      For Ed, John, and Joe, this passage … told them that what they were seeking was a way to break though the crust of humanity and experience life’s intensity beyond its normal boundaries.
      from The Death & Life of Monterey Bay, Stephen R. Palumbi and Carolyn Sotka

For our prompt this week, please take that seed from Jeffers poem and write from where that begins for you. I don’t want to even suggest a compass direction, any particular mode of poem. That’s the discovery I wish for you – to find and to have.
Maybe imagine yourself sitting in that room, hearing this for the first time. What do you think and feel? What’s the crust, what’s outside, what next? Now you imagine, you go play. The universe is yours to say.

  1. August 29, 2013 5:26 am

    No doubt I’ll have further thoughts, but this is my first response

  2. August 29, 2013 9:01 am

    Just a tad cynical but this is where my mind went today.

    • August 30, 2013 1:19 am

      I wouldn’t say cynical, not really. but thanks for playing along, encouraging my odd sense of poem prompts!

      and that quote, that’s a stout beer to think about. ~neil

      (sorry, but trouble responding on your blog)

      • August 30, 2013 11:54 am

        Sorry about the blog… I love the quote. Lots to chew on.

  3. August 29, 2013 11:42 pm

    I like “the universe is yours to say”, Neil.

    response here

  4. August 30, 2013 11:39 am

    Hi, Neil. Here’s mine.

  5. aprille permalink
    August 31, 2013 2:41 am

    Long may we be allowed to enjoy your “odd sense of poem prompts”.
    They are amazingly enticing. Not to say addictive.
    My contribution is HERE

  6. September 1, 2013 4:57 pm

    I played. I wrote… and made ‘fire’.

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