In storytelling and in writing, point of view or perspective can turn the story around, on its head, going a different direction. Picture book author, Jon Scieskza, illustrated this masterfully when he wrote The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, by A. Wolf, as told by Jon Scieskza. If you are not familiar with the book, Alexander T. Wolf proclaims his innocence from his jail cell.
A fun storytelling “game” is to take a familiar story and retell it from the point of view of a minor character. A few summers ago in the graduate level storytelling class I teach for University of Denver’s Library and Information Sciences Department, one group of students retold Cinderella from the point of view of the step-mother. They had great fun with the assignment and the class enjoyed a top-notch off-the-cuff performance.
So when Lynda La Rocca gave the Shavano Poets’ Society gave us the following assignment: “Point of View: Turn It Upside Down,” I thought ,”What fun!”
I searched for a poem which I could turn upside down by writing from a different perspective and finally settled upon “Warning” by Jenny Joseph. You may not recognize the title, but many of you know something about the poem. It spawned the Red Hat Societies. Here it is in its entirety.
©By Jenny Joseph
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
|My Closet - lots of purple!|
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and a pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and the read papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
I am at a stage in my life where I am realizing there were lots of questions I should have asked my mother before she left this earthly plane. Questions I now know some of the answers to through experience, sometimes the hardest way to learn, sometimes the only way to learn. My daughter is about the age I was when I should have started asking questions. I’ve also been reading Women in Middlehood:Halfway Up the Mountain by Jane Treat and Nancy Geha. So the poem I wrote is from a younger woman to her mother.
©Julie Moss, 2015
When you are an old woman wearing purple
With a red hat which doesn’t match, and doesn’t suit you,
I shall be entering the Forest of Middleood
That place where I am sure, but not sure
Climbing toward Wisdom --- the Wisdom you already have gained.
When you act like you are crazy
I shall sigh and shake my head just like everybody else,
But I envy your freedom to run through the rain clad in your slippers
While picking flowers from their gardens.
When you are Wise and I am sure but not sure
I shall ask questions --- of you.
Questions I may not know how to ask, but to which you know the answers.
Questions about the Forest of Middlehood
About the Cairns you left for me to follow.
Questions you wish you had asked, and now desire to answer.
If you answer my questions, I can practice a little
Before suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
Here's another blog, Meanderings along the Narrow Way, I found while looking for pictures.