Poetry Tow Truck 8: Channel Surfing 2- Stripped

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

Rubber Gloves

Movie projector – reel to reel

crossed sabers

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.


11 thoughts on “Poetry Tow Truck 8: Channel Surfing 2- Stripped

  1. There’s nothing in the background of the TV here in Christchurch except broken buildings.
    It’s a great prompt though, I may try it when things settle down – thanks for all the prompts you offer.

    • Perhaps it is a commentary on American culture that there are 500 channels of things to watch for a prompt like this! Don’t worry – next week won’t have anything to do with television!

  2. Ummm… yes. We don’t have 500 channels, but we have quite a few, and they are pretty much all showing the same thing 24/7
    (Actually, after a few days some are beginning to get back to normal programming).

  3. Pingback: Poetry Freeforall: Pick One, Then Another | Margo Roby: Wordgathering

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