Saturday, April 12, 2008

National Poitrey Month

April, for those who didn’t already know, is National Poetry Month. In honor of that fact, and also because I want my students to realize that they can do ANYTHING, I gave my second annual “Anybody can write a poem” lecture. Thanks and apologies to my friend Kate, who taught me this approach.

Open a book.
Find a sentence that’s about ten words long.

(I’ll use a sentence from Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent, the book we’re discussing in class right now. Below is the first thing that caught my eye when I randomly opened the book.)

I felt momentarily overwhelmed by a sense of healing and possibility

Now free associate and riff the first word in that sentence until you run out of thoughts. Then move on to the next. (You can skip articles & conjunctions if you want to.)

I - me, we, she, him, he, us, human, possibility, imagination, appeal, feeling, wow
Felt - gossamer, silk, wool, fabric, cotton, warm, thick, arts & crafts, glue, fading, kids, stockings
Momentarily - now, immediately, immediate, pink, vital, orange, life, necessary, picnic, tablecloth, ants, weird
Overwhelmed - too much, drowning, sinking, under pressure, inadequate, wrong, useless, stupid, not measuring up, worthless, unworthy
By - near, here, there, nearby, nearly, almost, maybe, possibility
Sense - intelligence, wit, notice, think, brain, perception, keen eye, humor
Healing - reiki, doctor, physician, wellness, health, whole, holistic, sunshine, vacation, beaches, rest, recuperate, recovery
Possibility - what if, maybe, imagine, could, might, may, spring, renewal, imagination, anything, limitless, wonder

Next, pick out those words from the list that catch your eye and strike your fancy. Use them as the prompt for a short poem about anything. (I’ve italicized my word choices here.)

The Possibility of String
Watch a child with a stick or a stone or a piece of string.
See how the simple object can become anything, anything at all.
A gun
A sword
A hoe
A pointer
A pencil
A puppet
A person
A hopscotch marker
A snake
A rope for tying up bad guys
The stem of a flower
A game
Anything, anything at all.
The possibilities for a piece of string (or a stick or a stone) are endless
In the mind of a child.
So where does it go, this sense that anything can happen?
How, when and why do we lose the wonder?
Do we kill it off to fit into the grown up world?
Or does it slip from our slackened fingers while we pay attention to something else,
Like a piece of string?

Post the sentence you used (and the source) along with your poem in the comments. You don’t need to include the word lists.



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