Ontario Creative Writing Workshop Collaborative Poem

Written as an exquisite corpse during the first workshop session, Spring 2012

Authors: Marie Griffiths, Florelei Lueb, Linda Rhodes, Heather Dubois, Bill McConnell, Victoria Waddle; Workshop Leader: Cati Porter



Sprinklings of an Inside-Out Beach Tea Party

He sat on a sofa in the sand, his saxophone
leaning sadly against his leg. I am walking out

at low tide at Chapin Beach & the breakers
are half a mile away; stepping over clam shells

I can smell the salt air & hear the call of gulls
overhead. The air conditioner couldn’t quite

cool the room, leaving a hint of mugginess,
like the air in the veterinarian’s office the day

I had to give my dog the needle. Shining,
smooth and polished, the titan’s spoon reflects

scribbling patrons in its concave bowl, scooping up
their delicious thoughts. Sitting at the maple

dining table, covered with a fifty-year-old linen
tablecloth, she waited until her grandmother

appeared with the tray holding a silver sugar bowl
full of cubes, silver tongs, pink napkins, a fine

china teapot, and matching cups. Really? It is
another emergency? You mean to tell me that

the contract you signed three months ago
and the other technical studies you’ve had written,

yet again didn’t clue you in to tell me you needed
an air study before the week you need it finished?

The first object I saw when I walked in the room
was the iron backed chair, scroll-worked into

fanciful curlicues. I hear the chinking
of silverware as Sandra scoops up two fistfuls

of spoons and forks out of the sink, and I smile.


Background: This was a fun workshop exercise in which I wrote a random selection of words/phrases on the backs of large sheets of paper; each author was asked to use that word/phrase to write a line of poetry. We were seated in the cafe at the Ovitt Family Community Library in Ontario, California. Many of the sounds & images were drawn, either deliberately or subconsciously, from our surroundings.

After everyone had finished writing, I collected the sheets and read them in order around the table, and, strangely, they all fit together, with an implied narrative and surreal setting. While the participants were initially skeptical that an exercise like this could produce something readable, everyone was surprised by the clarity & cohesiveness of the finished product.

— Cati Porter