Latino Literature Macchu Picchu Section (abridged)
Section I. For each section start with a process that you are comfortable with that includes the following: read the section; get a sense of the theme or direction; find a line that you like; begin writing about your own life.
Section II. Go somewhere where you go everyday. Instead of asking everyday questions, ask new questions. Large questions, surprising questions. In writing this poem, you want to explore, search out questions and problems. Go new places. Neruda climbed to Macchu Picchu. He had to go up in order to go down. He had to leave his own home in order to find it. Explore.
Section III--Neruda says human beings are husked like so much corn. There's not one death, but many deaths. Everybody gets a daily ration of death.
Write about the little deaths. But don't just consider material death. Consider relationships that have died. Consider the bad things in our society that kill our spirit. Write about the things that hurt us everyday. And then, don't consider death all bad. The old dies so the new can be born. We give up destructive behaviors in order to create new ones.
Surprise yourself. Explore.
In Neruda’s poem, this is the shortest poem, but in yours, it may be the longest. Write it in three parts.
1. Write a first section talking about it, exploring it.
2. Get real specific. Write about the little deaths that specifically relate to you.
Say what hits you.
3. Be a voice for others. Sea voz para otros. After you tell your story, tell a story about muertes pequeñas that others live through, others who have no voice, others who have no pen or paper for weapons,
Section IV a.--Write a letter to death. Bring death down to size. Write about what death looks like in your world. What does death look like? What does Death say? Do?
This is real death. Who have you lost? Write about this loss.
Tell about this person’s life. Write about the loss. Remember the life.
Or, write about the greatest loss in your life. Maybe it was leaving your pueblo in Michoacán.
Describe the loss.
Describe the memory.
Remember the person or the place.
Section IV b. Sometimes in our journeys we lose the trail, or we get stuck. Estancado. No sabes para donde ir, para que hacer. This is ok. This will happen. Maybe you’ve had a time like this in your life.
Explore your memories of this time.
Describe where you were.
What are your memories? What happened? How did you get back to the trail?
Find a line in Neruda that can help you connect to this.
This is one way to write this section of the poem.
This is another section I combine with Section IV. Read and study it with
Section Section IV
Kick Death in the teeth.
After the loss is the memory.
What did you learn from the wound? How does the wound make you stronger?
Write three one line stanzas.
Section VI--Here Neruda writes to Macchu Picchu. You write to Pablo Neruda.
Here Neruda speaks to the challenge of going up Macchu Picchu. Here Neruda discovers the challenge to mankind. Write to your challenge. Face it head on. We all have many challenges before us. Identify one. Write to it.
How has Neruda changed from the young man who wrote the love poems to become the mature man who is writing Las Alturas de Macchu Picchu?
Tell Neruda how you are changing.
You are going up the mountain now. What is your mountain? What is it like making the climb?
Section VII--Here Neruda discovers in Macchu Picchu, something created and made by human beings that will last forever--a "permanence of stone and word."
Write a letter to whatever is permanent for you.
What makes you special?
Describe how you are more open? What possibilities do you see now, in you that you didn’t before?
Write this letter to something or someone like this: Always present, constant. It might be music. It might be a soccer ball. It might be religion. It might be your mother. Or a friend. Describe this constant thing, idea, person. Write to this thing or person, but write in such a way that an outside reader can see what you see.
Section VIII-- Carta de Amor—A Love Letter
Write a Love Letter to something you love, or someone you love. Describe your love. Be surprising. Don't write about feelings. Write about what you see and hear. Write about how your love makes the world new.
Tell a secret about living that you know, that you have learned.
Name a river somewhere in the world that you have crossed, or seen. What is it like crossing this river?
What do you want changed about this world?
What will you do to change the world?
Section VIII additional ideas/ examples
It's dangerous to cross rivers. River crossings change us forever.
Rivers are rivers. Rivers are more than rivers. To cross a river is to become a river. You are crossing a river into yourself. You are done swimming in the rivers of others. Now you are swimming in the river that is you. You are a river. Here is my poem, River Dreams, that comes from your class and my experience.
Make a list of important things in your life.
Make a list of ten adjectives.
Make a list of ten nouns.
Put them together in new ways like Neruda does:
"Thrones toppled by the vine."
Neruda loved surrealism. These are surrealistic images. They come from our dreams. They change things.
Everything is changed. Everything goes. It is a new world.
Section X-- Explore something in your life journey that you're curious about. You know some things, but not all things. Something's left unfinished, some doors are still unopened. Explore the mystery. Write directly to the mystery. Ask your questions.
Begin four lines by stating:
"I want to know...
"I want to know...
"I want to know...
"I want to know...
Begin four lines like this:
Talk directly to the mystery.
Don’t limit what you write about, but be aware of what your life is. The job of the writer is always to write about the life he’s living, or that she’s living. What is mysterious to you? In this life? Your life? From this point of view.
Section XI--Now that you've travelled this far, what have you learned? Write about what you see and what you don't see.
"I do not see...
Keep it specific. Keep it from your life. Describe.
Section XII-- A la Cima What is new? What is different? What does your new awareness tell you? Say it. Speak. Hable.
Name your power.
How have you been told that is yours to do?
At the top.
Some of us who have made the journey are incredibly joyful. Some of us are still in the heart of the struggle. But Macchu Picchu is a lugar sagrado, a sacred place. And being here, arriving at the summit, even in el medio de la lucha, sabemos que nuestras vidas son sagradas.
Making the journey changes the point of view. It doesn't mean la lucha is over. Maybe it means la lucha empieza, that the struggle begins. The difference is this, now that I see the sacred nature of me, of my life, I am able to bring more to the struggle.
I. Re-vision. Revisar. See again.
A. Problems in your rough drafts include:
General, abstract language.
Not enough study on Neruda’s Las Alturas de Macchu Picchu
Not taking your own life seriously enough.
Not knowing how to take risks in writing.
Not believing you can write what you see and hear.
Not believing that your life is a journey.
If you were telling your story, you wouldn’t have these problems.
B. If you were being real you would write more specifically, with more details.
If you write what you see and hear, you will write a realistic poem about your life that remembers where you have been, and tells your story.
Most of you need to revise/to change/to see again/to add to your 12 poems. I’m estimating most of you are at 50-60% of meeting my requirements. This is neither good or bad. It’s fact. It’s what I see when you show me your poems. It’s what I hear when you read them. You have lots of work to do.
What haven’t you written about? This is your story. These are your 12 poems. Find a way to tell your story, to say what you need to say.
Remember, carnales, y carnalas, your poem is not an essay, and it shouldn't look like one either. You're writing the story of your life! It's not a newspaper story. You're not writing this for a test score or a grade in the gradebook. You're doing this to save your life. You're doing this because you're a little bit payaso. You're writing a poem because you see the world un poco diferente que los otros. And your poem should look like a poem. It should not look like this. When you go out on Saturday night you don't look like this, and don't look like this in your poem, either. ¿Me intiendes?