Inspired by Los Angeles poet Haryette Mullen and her book Urban Tumbleweed, today a group of students and I took a tanka walk around the Metropolitan Learning Center building in NW Portland.
Each writer made notes about their exterior and interior landscape. Walking quietly and carrying a small piece of paper, we wrote down what we saw, heard, touched, smelled, thought, and felt as we moved through the building.
This is one of my favorite activities, because I love writing and I love walking. Last year, I took a tanka walk with students at Cleveland High School, and I was so inspired by their creativity that I decided to take the project with me into my own backyard.
In 2014, I participated in artist Daniela Molnar’s project Words in Place. I wrote a series of tanka based on my daily walks in Harney Park, a small city playground and soccer field near my house. I wanted to see if I could answer the question Mullen had when she began her own project: “What is natural about being human?” It’s an interesting question to contemplate, whether you’re walking and writing in Los Angeles or Portland or any other urban space.
Try it for yourself. Choose a walking route, small or large. Choose a time period– one week, one month, one year– and take a daily walk there, making notes. As you’re ready, sift through your notes to create a series of tanka that captures your sense of this place.
Visit this link to read the poems I wrote for the project: www.wordsinplace.org/melissa-reeser-poulin/tanka-and-list-poems/ Go here to learn more about Daniela Molnar’s work: www.danielamolnar.com Go here to read about Haryette Mullen and her book: www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/harryette-mullen