Practice for Writing Poetry Help
Practice for Writing Poetry
Writing poetry does take a certain frame of mind—one in which we realize that small things hold great emotional meaning. To write poems, we have to trust that the everyday objects we notice and remember will help us identify, examine and release our feelings.
The following exercises are meant to help you find topics for poems and see how well you can do when you write without worrying about how what you are writing will work out. Many poets exclaim that their poems are smarter than they are. The words will show you the way, and using the craft of poetry, you will discover and release meaningful observations and responses to being alive.
List Ordinary Objects to Find Poems
In a well-known poem, "Things to Do Around a Lookout," poet and naturalist Gary Snyder lists things he could do while working for the forest service as a lookout for forest fires. He spent a lot of time alone in small, isolated quarters, and his poem details life there by way of listing actions he could take and objects he could use: airing out musty forest service sleeping bags, bathing in snow melt, reading the star book and the rock book, brewing Lapsang Souchong tea, and putting salt out for the ptarmigan are among my favorites from the list.
Many poems are lists. Allen Ginsberg's literature-changing poem "Howl" (www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=179381) is a list of the sad and terrifying things he had seen in the people around him. English poet Christopher Smart wrote list poems in the seventeenth century. Here is an excerpt about the poet's cat from is work "Jubilate Agno":
- For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.
- For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
- For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.
- For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
- For fifthly he washes himself.
- For sixthly he rolls upon wash.
- For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
- For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
- For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
- For tenthly he goes in quest of food..
As an exercise, listing gives the poet practice using exact names and characteristics. The only trick is figuring out a list that interests you. Here are some lighthearted list ideas to get you started without worrying what you will write about:
Here is an example from Raul Gallardo, who used this exercise to generate poems. He sent his list of songs and what he thinks of when he listens to them, and I made comments. Reading through the list and my responses will help you see where you can find poems in what you have listed:
7 or More Songs You Know and What They Make You Think of in Your Life: People, Places, and Events
"Don't Panic," Cold Play—via andrea in Milan is not exactly the place you want to start screaming at everybody but that is what i wanted to do when i felt i needed fresh air and i became mute. i put my headphones on hoping to disappear from the world and that is exactly what this song helped me achieve.
"Sing," travis—Friday afternoon, it's dusk and i'm on the highway going back from work. i miss my exit and i don't care. i keep on going. i could only stop the car when the disc finished.
"Colorblind," Counting Crows—it is a classic; every time i listen, it acquires new meaning. First it was the song from the movie everybody talked about and i wasn't able to watch: Cruel Intentions. the only song from hearing over and over that i went to the piano and got it right the first time. a couple of years ago i ended up feeling like Sebastian.
"Wonderwall," Oasis—We are on a school bus of my only dance in the seventh grade[sic]; all night I looked for her. I barely spoke English and I will never know if her name was Fey or Fade or something similar. We only danced for one song. Somebody turned on the radio and that song appeared, nobody knew who this new guy was. The first time I ever danced so close to a girl.
"Dime que no," Ricardo Arjona—The proper translation could be reject my date or say no to me. It's another classic that used to be a great song and then became a true story and she did end up going out with me. When I told her what that song had meant for me, she almost cried and now it's also one of her favorites
Challenge yourself to write a list a day. Keep your lists in a journal, a box, or on your computer. Read your lists from time to time to remind yourself that you have a unique way of experiencing the world.
When you go back and read what you listed and explained, I believe you'll see poems in there and be able to identify the emotion of several of them. Then you can select just the right images and compress the language.
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