Portrait and Punctum

Thursday, March 15, 2018

I have a new essay up on the Approaching Mystery feature of the Sick Pilgrim blog.  I curate Approaching Mystery and occasionally write for it.  If you have a brief essay of around 750 words that explores the mystery of the everyday, send it my way.  For a writing prompt based on the essay, see my next post below.

Here are some additional photographs to accompany my piece:

Write a vignette

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Here's an assignment similar to one I have given in my flash memoir courses.  The next online course starts Friday March 16th!  More information is here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/approaching-mystery-an-online-flash-memoir-course-tickets-42572637906

Assignment:  Take a picture of someone you know and like, a portrait.  (Or look at a portrait you already have.)  Now also write their portrait in one to four paragraphs.  The portrait that you write should revolve around what Roland Barthes called the punctum, the detail that snags your individual attention as a viewer, that has emotional resonance for you.

Here's an example of a "portrait" piece I wrote in the past, a prose poem about my cat (though I didn't originally write it about this image).


Before I have to put my cat to sleep, I dream that I wheel him outside for some sun.  He is a teenage boy with a degenerative disease, and his stomach is hurting, so I rub it for him.  But we are enjoying the day, the sun and the grass and how we belong to each other but are separate, too.  Tom Waits comes into the yard to do some landscaping.  He is wearing his hat and suspenders, his undershirt and old suit pants.  I say, “Hello, Tom Waits.”  Then Andy says, “Hello, Tom Waits.”  His voice comes out in a slightly strangled way because he is a boy with a degenerative disease and also a cat.  He is making a joke about how he can talk now and about how funny it all is.  Then we laugh, and I’m thinking about how funny Andy has always been.  We sit in the sun like ambassadors, like kids at a Kool-Aid stand. 

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