NaPoMo QOTD This Is How You Write A Poem. Good Day and Good Luck.

"Be careful what you say to us now.
...If you speak
You cannot be delicate or sad or clever.
...You may speak only to our heart,"
 - Lines to a Poet by Josephine Jacobsen* (PoLau '71-'73)

Today is National Encourage a Young Writer Day. Jacobsen's advice is one of many poems to writers in the Anthology. Her poem, in its entirety, is the one that struck me the most, so I decided to share it with all of you. I'm celebrating today by not having a regular blog. Instead of you reading what I have to say (although everything I have to say is of great importance and you should read it. Probably more than once.) I'm going to share some of my favorite writing exercises from over the years. Go forth and be encouraged, writers!

#1: My former poetry professor, Dr. Melissa Morphew, has what we not-always-so-lovingly referred to as The Box. It's a little blue tupperware container with roughly a bajillion tiny slips of paper inside. She would bring it into class and have each student pick a certain number of words (usually 10 or 12) out of the box and write them down in the order they're drawn. Then we have to write a poem using those words. In that order. You don't have to have a magic word box, you can pick words from anywhere. Just 10 or 12 randomly chosen words to create a poem around.

#2: The incredibly popular 20 Little Poetry Projects. This one is pretty self explanatory. Start with the first project and finish with the last. My professor used this as an exercise to kickstart a poem in Intro to Poetry and I came out with a pretty good piece of work if I do say so myself. (I do. And Texas Association of Creative Writing Teachers agreed. I got 2nd place.)

#3: Another favorite of mine is to pick a color. Describe it in as much detail as you possibly can, but don't ever say the name of the color. The first time I did this was in creative writing in high school. It was a failure of epic proportions. I revisited it in college and chose the color of my favorite scarf. It is one of my favorite that I've written.

#4: Skeleton poem. Pick your favorite poem. Or your not favorite poem. Whatever. Take the verbs (or adjectives or any of one type of word) and write a poem using those words in that order.

#5:  Pick a word. (Longer ones are better for this) That's the title of your poem. Write a poem using only the letters in the word you chose for the title. This one killed my brain, but the poem I ended up with was a totally different style from what I usually write and it brought out something I didn't know I had in me.

Don't worry about it if the generation exercise doesn't work for you the first time. Not everything is gold. try a bunch until you find that spark. Just let the poem go where it needs to, don't feel constrained by the "rules" of the exercise. I think the best piece of advice Dr. Morphew ever gave our classes was "Sometimes your poem starts out on its way to church and ends up at the dog track."

*From The Poets Laureate Anthology, published by W.W. Norton in association with the Library of Congress. Poem copyright Josephine Jacobsen.


These are great posts, Jerusha! Keep 'em coming!
Jerusha said…
Yes ma'am! 20 (well, 17 now) comin' right up!

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