Monday, August 2, 2010

What is Brown?

The following poem is taken from Hailstones and Halibut Bones - a book about colors - by Mary O'Neill. It looks long, but it reads quickly. I promise it's worth the time.

What is brown?

Brown is the color of a country road

Back of a turtle

Back of a toad.

Brown is cinnamon

And morning toast

And the good smell of

The Sunday roast.

Brown is the color of work

And the sound of a river,
Brown is bronze and a bow

And a quiver.

Brown is the house

On the edge of town

Where wind is tearing
The shingles down.

Brown is a freckle
Brown is a mole

Brown is the earth
When you dig a hole.
Brown is the hair

On many a head

Brown is chocolate

And gingerbread.

Brown is a feeling

You get inside

When wondering makes

Your mind grow wide.

Brown is a leather shoe

And a good glove -----

Brown is as comfortable

As love.
*sigh* I want to write like that. I want to take something as ordinary as brown and make it extraordinary. I want to see everyday things in deeply creative ways - "Brown is a feeling/You get inside/When wondering makes/Your mind grow wide."

If you want to feel your writing brain grow two sizes bigger, read Hailstones and Halibut Bones (the title comes from the color white). My favorite line comes from green: "Green is the fuzz/ That covers up /Where winter was." Wow. She refers to pink as the "little sister of red" and to purple as pink's great grandmother. She assigns every color a sound and a smell and a feeling, and it feels perfect - every. single. time.

I want to write like that.

What makes your writing brain feel like it's grown two sizes?


salarsenッ said...

Brilliant prose like that. Nice choice. When a writer takes an every day word like brown and makes me see it differently. Likey...

Jen said...

I've never heard of these color poems but I'm already in love and I love that she calls pink red's little sister. How special is that!

I must snag this book immediately. I could feel the passion and the strength behind the writing and that only makes me want more!

Mary Aalgaard said...

Poetry. Thanks for this one!

Candyland said...


Cleverly Inked said...

Beautiful..ordinary can be

Stephen Tremp said...

Coffee. Oh, and those brain growing pills I take.

Stephen Tremp

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Ooh love that poem. Sleep, and music help me in the brain growing for me :)

Solvang Sherrie said...

All these workshops here at SCBWI-LA. I hope that at some point I can internalize all the wonderful information I've gotten over the past few days.

Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist said...

I love thinking about colors and symbols and adjectives...figuring out new ways to use them, expand them, enrich them... This is why I can't wait for revision time! I feel like that is when I can focus on language at the micro level.

Jemi Fraser said...

Awesome - I have that book in my classroom poetry box - it's great.

Reading something new and fresh and unique grows my brain :)

Jennie Englund said...

Brown IS the earth! What a great, great color!

Diane said...

No wonder I love brown so much!!! :O)

Stephanie Thornton said...

Brown is chocolate and gingerbread.

And cinnamon and vanilla!

Bane of Anubis said...

Poetry's not normally my thing, but this one I like.

Heidi Willis said...

reading great writing makes great writers.

Tamika: said...

Loved this snippet Shannon! She made me see and taste brown~ wonderful!

I agree with Heidi~ reading great writing spurs me on.

Tahereh said...


another excellent post. brown is CHOCOLATE NOM NOMMMM


thanks, love!

storyqueen said...

I use this book with my students every year....the writing they come up with is just beautiful.


Lydia Kang said...

What lovely ways of personifying color. Great post!

Alexia561 said...

Wonderful poem! I love the color brown, as it's so warm and inviting. Thanks so much for sharing this!

Jackee said...

Beautiful! I want to write poetry like that too!

When I read Jane Austen, that's how my writing brain feels--like it's swelling with Knowledge.

Thanks for sharing, Shannon.

Jackee said...

Beautiful! I want to write poetry like that too!

When I read Jane Austen, that's how my writing brain feels--like it's swelling with Knowledge.

Thanks for sharing, Shannon.

Lori W. said...

Thanks for the reminder. I remember seeing/reading this book at my kids' school, but you made me want to see it again.

Patti Lacy said...

Oh, to write such a tight poem.

Oh. Oh. Oh.

Thank you, Shannon, I think!


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