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Seeing Like A Poet
By Charles Ghigna
March, 2007, 11:59

Look for colour, size, shape, and texture. Allow your mind to roam freely.
Fine-tuning your ability to notice detail is one of the most important skills a writer can develop. Itís also lots of fun.

Every time you see something new, take a moment to really get to know the object with your eyes. Practice this technique on new things that you see. Take time to rediscover old, familiar objects and places. Look out the window and find something new. Take time to let your vision appreciate your discoveries. Look at the detail. Let your mind tell you what your eyes have found.
Try this technique on people. Try it on a loved one you may have taken for granted. Look at them. Really look at them as though you are seeing them for the first time. Look closely. Find something new about them that you have never seen before. Appreciate them with your eyes.
Look at nature. Study the sky, the trees, birds, and other animals. Open your eyes wide and take in the entire landscape. Slowly zoom in on one particular subject. Notice its detail. Describe it in your mind by simply listing what you see.
Give your eyes permission to be young and curious again. Look for things to behold, for things to bring into your new world of observation. Look up at the sky. Forget the cumulus, cirrus, and stratus. Search for the long-tailed dragons and sailing ships. Let the child in you wake up with fresh eyes each day.

Try these six steps:

  • LOOK. The first step in any kind of observation is to simply open your eyes and look.
  • SEE. Now pause and focus on the object, person, or scene.
  • NOTICE. Select one, specific area to study.
  • PONDER. Allow your mindís eye to enter into your vision.
  • STUDY. Explore all the minor detail of your subject.
  • BEHOLD. Allow your mind, your emotions and all your senses to begin making free associations, literal and abstract, with each aspect of your subject until the delicate essence of your subject is no longer simply a part of your observation, but a part of you.

Look for colour, size, shape, and texture. Try to feel the object with your eyes. Choose new vantage points from which to observe the familiar. Look for similarities and differences. Look for parallels and contradictions. Look from the inside out.
Play what-if games with your observations. What if it were larger or smaller? What if it were a different color, size, or shape? What if it were found someplace else? What else could it be other than what it first appears?
And finally, remember what the poet Paul Valery once wrote: "To see is to forget the name of the thing that one sees." Forget and behold.


Consider your mind the darkroom,
Consider your life the lens,
Consider your eye the camera
On whose focus the poem depends.

Read Charles Ghigna's poetry excerpt from Speaking In Tongues

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Charles Ghigna (Father Goose) is the author of more than thirty books of poetry for children and adults. His poems also appear in a variety of magazines from the New Yorker and Harper's to Cricket and Highlights for Children. For more information, please visit

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