Today’s prompt is to make a “Personal Universal Deck,” and then to write a poem using it. The idea of the “Personal Universal Deck” originated with the poet and playwright Michael McClure, who gave the project of creating such decks to his students in a 1976 lecture at Naropa University. Basically, you will need 50 index cards or small pieces of paper, and on them, you will write 100 words (one on the front and one on the back of each card/paper) using the rules found here. The rules to make a personal deck are-
- The words exemplify past, present and (ideally) future, and must sound good together, even beautiful, reflecting good and bad sides.
- We can make up a word or two if we have feelings that current words can’t express.
- Use concrete words, root words, no plural words, reduce words to their most concrete, original, basic grammatical structure, and Use specific words, not categories. Beef instead of meat. Lily instead of flower.
- Divide 80 of the 100 words evenly among SIGHT, SOUND, TASTE, TOUCH AND SMELL, sixteen each.
- Use free association to determine the words.
- Use ten words of movement. Again, no “ing” words.
- One or two words will be parts of the body, our own or someone else’s.
- Include some words for personal heroes or SHEroes, places in the universe, invented words, times of night or day, symbolic signs like astrological signs, totemic animals, birds and plants and only one abstraction.
- Once the deck is ready, shuffle it a few times, select a card or two, and use them as the basis for a new poem.
My poem for today is – Moment of truth. My personal deck is below the poem. I found the entire exercise of making the deck a meditative experience. You can try it out even if you don’t intend writing poetry.
Break of dawn
the lace curtain’s drawn
French windows slid open- the sweet smell of grass
Music turned on- the sound of the bass
Yoga mat unfolded
Eyes closed, hands joined together-
Anjali mudra*, my mind I need to tether
The distant call of the cuckoo bird, the chirping of sparrows
“Be aware of every breath you take. Let go of your sorrows.”
The notes of the piano
Smoothens the grooves on my forehead – the harp and the cello
Sound of water, the sea-
“Now repeat the mantra,” Juliana** coos.“ I am exactly where I need to be.
Today is a beautiful day of opportunity.”
The morning breeze- I feel it on my eyelids
And my nape; I breathe; the scent of kids
Works like therapy; does magic for my soul
I don’t understand why it makes me feel whole
“You like my unwashed hair, Ma; Ew!” the little one shakes her head
“It smells like barbecue,” the older one retorts and heads to bed
“I am exactly where I need to be,” I hear the voice inside say
Head bent, gratitude, smiles, I open my eyes to a golden ray
Burning incense, bell ringing
Hands and legs unfold
P.S. The words in italics represent thoughts
*Anjali Mudra – when hands are joined together in a Namaste
**Juliana – the lady from Boho beautiful who does lovely meditation videos
Sight Sound Taste Touch Smell
Grass cuckoo Mango Satin gowns Lemongrass
Spider lilies sparrows choc cake Muslin Sandalwood
Blue skies scratching Cookies petals camphor
Fluffy clouds Piano Apples silk sheets burning leaves
Fallen leaves dried leaves Pickles moisturized skin jasmine
Sun’s rays Drum beats Tamarind pebble daughter’s head
Husband’s smile children’slaughter lamb chops marble Yardley
Daughter’s curls dad’s voice pak bread soft hair cinnamon
Wild flowers waves salt sun-dried clothes sea
Hills birdsong fresh air hot food eucalyptus
Valleys pop of the bottle wine ice-cold water coffee
Stone walls chocolate wrapper fried fish warm water barbecue
Creepers tearing paper kebabs throws wet mud
Fresh veges typewriter corn leather cut grass
Lit candles bells prawn chutney wool brown paper
Yellow rain liver hubby’s hands washed clothes
Movement – walk, glide, stride, jog, skate, waltz, exercise, yoga, meditate, stir
Parts of body – eyes, legs
Abstraction – honesty, courage, faith, empathy
Time of day – dawn Personal Heroes- patriots, fun, disciplined, hard work
Astrological sign – twins
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