I asked on facebook for some poetry writing exercises, since I have felt a little stale lately. It's quite amazing what a few random exercises thrown out can do. I'm pleased with some of the output, which might form the basis of a new slam poem sometime soon. It's certainly much better than the tripe I've been writing lately. I notice that I am quite heavy with both internal rhyme and chimes, that is, words that sound somewhat similar, but aren't actually rhymes. I like the sounds when read out loud.
1) Find a poem you love, start your own poem with the first line of that poem. When you're finished, throw away the first line.
Starting with Galway Kinnell's Blackberry Eating: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/blackberry-eating/
I feel the cold seep into my skin
the first signs that summer's fled
the light dying early in the dry, cool air
it's comforting in a way, but I can't say
the same for everyone, they're some who
hate the late days of summer, the dying
grasp of warmth, the claws of winter
scraping at the door you've closed
to keep in the heat, you'll soon meet
the fire in your stove, the deep pockets
of the armchair in the corner,
the love of a good book and
many reasons you want to stay indoors
my favourite bits: "late days of summer", "the claws of winter/scraping at the door", "the deep pockets of the armchair"
2) Write a poem from your latest grocery list:
Are you taking the pith from that mandarin
because it feels like you are, and I don't appreciate
the strips of mandarin peel that lay on the counter
when they should be in the compost bin
next to the browning carrots and the
thin onion skins and the twin broccoli stalks
turn away from my voice, put some cream
in your coffee and walk away, towards music
and heat in the other room, pretending that
you just want to eat cookies and read your book
when I know your truth, our truth
that you never wanted cream in your coffee
my favourite bits: "taking the pith" (that always makes me laugh), "compost bin" -> "thin onion skins and the twin broccoli stalks", the sounds just feel good here - lots of similar sounds in thin, onion, skin and twin, and "broccoli stalks" has a lovely cadence that I enjoy. I also really like "that you never wanted cream in your coffee", but don't quite get why. The whole 2nd stanza is packed with implied meaning, but without stating anything explicitly.
"truth" is on my grocery list. It's always the first item. I've never found it at the grocery store, but I keep looking, just in case.
3) Go to a café and write a little poem about someone you see there - imagine their life and troubles or joys and write them a little summin summin.
he's alone at his table
every other stable with
groups of two or three
he's not quite sad looking
but concerned, or discerning
why she didn't come home
at her usual time
Favourite bits: I like the implication here of what he's thinking about and all the many, many pieces of his life that are implied by him being concerned that his partner didn't come back at her usual time... it's probably nothing, but maybe it is... he doesn't know.
4) Start with a critical yet reasonable stance on something then, line-by-line, let your argument deteriorate into invective and hyperbole
They really shouldn't beat nuns in Syria
I mean, really - what have they ever done?
Well, I mean, except for the ones
Who were mean to kids in school, act
as stubborn as mules, who might not
understand the plight of the average,
and think that the church isn't
abusing children, you know - all of them
Really - they might deserve a beating
Not that I would support behaviour
of that sort, not for sure, well, I've never
been in that situation to know
I might, especially if they looked at me
wrong, or talked in some funny language
or, you know, acted like Catholic nuns
my favourite bits: I enjoy using "really" and "I mean", "you know", "well" etc... sometimes several times, to add a conversational sound to it. I also like the internal rhymes and near rhymes, "done"/"ones", "school"/"mules", "might"/"plight", "support"/"sort". Many of them came about naturally when I was writing, but some were added after a bit of revision...
5) Let your current location be an inspiration.
my mind is blank under my blanket
as I slouch on my couch
I blaze through what I'm browsing
nothing sticks, and my mind remains blank
under my blanket
as I slouch on my couch
Favourite bits: nothing - this one was just silly. I did like blank/blanket though.
6) Write a poem from the perspective of someone who is something you are not - (e.g.) blind, deaf, gay (or hetero)...
I chose someone who is deaf:
I feel the deep rumble of the cars going by
and see their bright surfaces flash
or the splash of rain from their frames
the silence comforts, the lack distorts
but silent, always silent
they say the waves crashing make a lovely sound
to me, they are always the whitest white
curving, laying, bowing down to the shore
pushing pebbles quietly, smoothing divots
equalizing, traumatizing the beaches
Favourite bits: I enjoyed implying deafness, i.e. "I feel the deep rumble", "they say the waves ... make a lovely sound". I think I went too far with "the silence" and "... silent, always silent"
7) How about a poem or prose poem in which you have to include 5 things: orange, a child in water, easterly breeze, a Stop sign, and an alarm!
there’s a child in water, screaming
the scream streams in through my ears
screech, stop, screech, stop, for a long time.
It’s splashing is violent, but silent
my alarm: screaming, as my eyes open
violent, NOT silent, a buzz that generates a groan
from my lips, my daily zen koan, daily irritant
sheets wet, the child’s water, keeping me cold
the first chore, steep steps from my door, dragging
feet, raggedly tracking my home into the real world,
pulling collar to collar bone as I meet the whirling easterly breeze
my car stutters at the stop sign and I find time
to scoff an orange, spraying my hands with juice
the orange scent mixes with the spruce-scented
air freshener, mixing into a surprisingly unpleasant odour.
Favourite bits: I enjoyed this one quite a lot - I have been playing the internal rhymes and chimes, "scream"/"screech", "stop"/"long", "violent"/"silent", "groan"/"koan"/"cold", "dragging"/"raggedly".
I do like "collar to collar bone" and the image it implies of steeling against the wind.
The dream of a child screaming being an alarm was a bit heavy I felt. Also, the blatantness of the child's water being sweat on the sheets feels a bit unnecessary. Maybe leave that out in revision. I also was a bit uneasy with "chore"/"door". Still, fun. There are lots of pieces of these things that I can use later.
I feel that I could improve my use of chimes and be more deliberate, and less obvious with rhymes - if they are natural, fine, but otherwise, they feel a bit forced and there's no point. At the moment, chimes are used nearly arbitrarily, simply for sound. I think I would like to pick and choose and imply more. I like the implied pieces quite a bit. I think if I continue to write regularly, there will be more and more of this that comes out.
Also, none of these used meter at all... I didn't think of meter even once while writing them. Line length and stanza length were deliberately (approximately) uniform, but nothing else. I was listening for the sounds more than anything.