Welcome to
Transactions with Beauty.
Thanks for being here.
I hope that this is a space that inspires you to add something beautiful to the world. I truly believe that 
you are required to make something beautiful.

– Shawna



A Week of Prompts – Light

A Week of Prompts – Light

This is the fourth and last week of daily writing prompts. Today, the subject is light: kinds of light, what it falls upon, and what it means to notice light. 

cherry jelly

The Prompts 

1. Seasonal Light

Write a poem about the light of a particular season. Write about November light, or the light of any other season. Remember the light you experienced in summer, or in spring, when the light shone through the plum blossoms. Below is a poem by Franz Wright that you can use to inspire.

Beginning of November

by Franz Wright

The light is winter light.
You’ve already felt it
before you can open your eyes,
and now it’s too late
to prepare yourself
for this gray originless
sorrow that’s filling the room. It’s not winter. The light
is. The light is
winter light,
and you’re alone.
At last you get up:
and suddenly notice you’re holding
your body without the heart
to curse its lonely life, it’s suffering
from cold and from the winter
light that fills the room
like fear. And all at once you hug it tight,
the way you might hug
somebody you hate,
if he came to you in tears.

cherry jelly in the light

2. Light and Shadow

With light there is also shadow. Describe a moment of light in terms of darkness. Think about the shadow side of things. What did the shadow mean to the light? What type of balance was there? How were you pulled or swayed or drawn to both the shadow and the light? 


by Adam Zagajewski

Clear moments are so short,
There is much more darkness. More
ocean than terra firma. More
shadow than form.


3. Inner Light

Write about the experience of connecting with an inner light. Where were you? Describe the sensation itself, and what was going on in the room at the time. How long ago did it happen and how did it change you?

Was it Light

by Theodore Roethke

Was it light?
Was it light within?
Was it light within light?
Stillness becoming alive,
Yet still?

A lively understandable spirit
Once entertained you.
It will come again.
Be still.


When you come across an object or element in nature that seems to be lit from within, what does it stir in you? This next poem by Charles Wright shows what happens when we pay attention to the smallest things, a drop of pine sap, when they're backlit by the sun. 


High Country Spring

by Charles Wright

It's not so much the description, it's what you describe,
Green pox on the aspen limbs,
Lilac bud-bursts set to go off,
                                                suppuration of late May.

The world is a tiny object, a drop of pine sap,
Amber of robin's beak, like that, 
                                                     backlit by sunlight,
Pulling the glow deep inside.


4. The Light in Paintings

“A picture must possess a real power to generate light and for a long time now I’ve been conscious of expressing myself through light or rather in light.”

– Henri Matisse

Your prompt: many artists are famous for the particular light that is in their paintings. Take Vermeer, for example. Do you have a favourite painting? Write about the way the artist uses light in it. 


5. Any Patch of Sunlight

“Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight’ in the woods of our experience.”

– C.S. Lewis

Your prompt: describe a moment where you had a ‘Godlight’ experience. Was it in a forest? What did it reveal to you? 


6. A Time of Day

Notice the sun and how it's different at different times of the day. I love the poem below by Esther Morgan because it describes how the sun in the morning sort of rummages through her kitchen, and then inspires a memory of her grandmother at the end. 


This Morning

by Esther Morgan

I watched the sun moving round the kitchen,
an early spring sun that strengthened and weakened,
coming and going like an old mind.

I watched like one bedridden for a long time
on their first journey back into the world
who finds it enough to be going on with:

the way the sunlight brought each possession in turn
to its attention and made of it a small still life:

the iron frying pan gleaming on its hook like an ancient find,
the powdery green cheek of a bruised clementine.

Though more beautiful still was how the light moved on,
letting go each chair and coffee cup without regret

the way my grandmother, in her final year, received me:
neither surprised by my presence, nor distressed by my leaving,
content, though, while I was there.

yellow tea cup

7. Kinds of Light

A poem I wrote in my book Asking was inspired by this quotation by Sven Nykvist, and you can riff on it, too. 

"Light can be gentle, dangerous, dreamlike, bare, living, dead, misty, clear, hot, dark, violet, springlike, falling, straight, sensual, limited, poisonous, calm and soft."

– Sven Nykvist

My riff on this goes like this:

Light Can Be

by Shawna Lemay

And light can also be wintered, compassionate, worried, filled with birdsong and jasmine tea, sharp, worried, slight, revealing, watery, curious, blue.

Light can be mild, cutting, still, flickering unswerving, bewildering, slanted, easy, difficult, smudgy, foggy, soothing, divine, muscular, oblique, buttery, flimsy, relentless, unasked for, ordinary, inspiring, indefinite. 

Light can be nervous, intricate, filigreed, lemony, zen, fizzy, frenetic, bold, weak, soothing and light can be


The Sweetness and the Bitter

The Sweetness and the Bitter

To Have a Firm Persuasion in Our Work

To Have a Firm Persuasion in Our Work