Admit it – the great grey beast of February has swallowed you whole (a phrase from Clive Barker’s wonderful fantasy Thief of Always). You are plopped in front of the television occasionally on these winter nights, so let’s take advantage.
The first Channel Surfing post asked you to look at color. This one is a little different. Most television programs (unless you watch exclusively nature channels) are focused on human/humanoid characters, so sometimes we are not as observant of the settings or backgrounds as we could be.
Choose a program and watch for at least five minutes. (Or go nuts. Watch the whole thing. ) Try to take your focus away from the people, and therefore away from their clothing, accessories, etc. that dominate a scene. Look into the background and write down what you see there, as many details as you can. Here is a list from an old episode of “How I Met Your Mother”:
Green-shaded executive lamp
Pebbled glass windows
Red swinging door with a brass porthole
neon bar sign
a shelf of upside down wine glasses
Law library shelves with color-blocked books
Brick wall – wrought iron light fixture
doctor’s office bulletin board with brochures
Jar of Cotton Balls
Movie projector – reel to reel
Wooden Barometer with a brass face
Green swinging kitchen door with brass push plate
One poem from this exercise was helped along by a painting at Referential Magazine, and it will appear there sometime in April. For now, the painting that inspired a poem about the two swinging doors is here.
For this post, I highlighted three different items that appeared in the background of the episode. Their contrasting styles yet similar purposes stood out to me. I focused on those three images to create this draft:
His Day in Three Lights
The green shade of the executive lamp
hurts his eyes, reminds him that this is
what she thinks a businessman should
have: this lawyerly lamp, so pretentious
and brassy, not fit for a small cubicle.
It glows a rectangle of disappointment.
At the bar, the red neon screams Bud
and he answers four or five times before
checking his watch. Shit. He downs a few
mints and grabs his coat to catch the train.
She will have dinner waiting, and she will
not like it if he is late, with yeasty breath.
He stands outside the front door, just
beyond the range of the motion detector
on the wrought-iron fixtures they chose
last summer for the porch. He watches
her in the window, and she turns to smile.
This, he thinks, is the only light that matters.
Sappy? Yes. But it got me writing. Isn’t that the idea? Give it a try.