Prompt for May 22 – Virtual Barat House

A Bird’s Eye View

Consider anything difficult you may be writing—or avoiding writing, whether fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. Distance yourself and look at it from a completely different perspective; free yourself, for a moment, from the gravity of your difficulty. Try writing it from a bird’s eye view.

Use the prompt to inspire your work in any form (poetry or prose; fiction of any genre; creative nonfiction, essay, or memoir).

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Deeper dive into the prompt

Five hundred million birds arc the sky over the hills of Beit Jala every year. They move by ancient ancestry: hoopoes, thrushes, flycatchers, warblers, cuckoos . . . It is the world’s second busiest migratory superhighway: at least four hundred different species of birds torrent through, riding different levels in the sky . . . Every year a new landscape appears underneath: Israeli settlements, Palestinian apartment blocks, rooftop gardens, barracks, barriers, bypass roads.

Colum McCann, Apeirogon

Colum McCann’s Apeirogon deals with intimate aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian standoff along the West Bank. There is very little upon which any two people may agree about this particular political and human situation, except that it is very difficult to talk (or write) about.

McCann balances the extreme vulnerability and hurt of the book’s main characters against a literal bird’s eye view of the region, loosely following the migration of birds.

Protip from Lynda Barry: Spiral Your Way In

Before I begin writing, I set a timer for two minutes and I draw a slow, tight spiral and I let my mind’s eye drift to scenes . . . I just draw the spiral and drift. I set the timer again and make a list of any of those scenes and any other scenes that come to me. I look for scenes I can picture like snapshots. Things I was doing, places I went, where and what and who.

Lynda Barry, “Month’s Mind: Pandemic Diary Project” in The New York Times, Sunday, May 3, 2020
Illustration from Syllabus by Lynda Barry