EXERCISE BASKET [Anyone can add to this]

toniclark
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Joined: May 5th, 2006, 6:47 pm

October 27th, 2009, 3:13 pm #1

Repository of Writing Exercises -- excluding themed calls from journals.


This Topic serves as a repository of current contests, themes, challenges, and exercises that we can draw on to spark poems. Anyone is free to browse here and use any of the ideas. We'll also select 7 a week to serve as daily prompts for those who would like to use them. It's lots of fun when several people are addressing the same theme!

Anyone is also free to contribute new items (using "Add Reply") and we encourage you to do so. The more ideas, the better.
Last edited by toniclark on October 27th, 2009, 3:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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toniclark
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October 27th, 2009, 3:14 pm #2

The current issue of Poets & Writers (Jan/Feb 2009) carries an article by Kim Addonizio called "First Thought,
Worst Thought." The point is that when you set out to write something, your first thought isn't necessarily the best. I have found this to be true in writing both fiction and poetry. What comes first to mind is likely to be something you've heard before -- most often already a cliché. You have to generate multiple responses or scenarios to get past those familiar images or metaphors. But still, it's important to get those first thoughts down because they help you generate new material

Addonizio discusses characteristics of good poems -- qualities that she responds to as a reader and tries to achieve as a poet: surprise, music, sufficient thought, syntax, parts that contribute to a whole, mystery. And she concludes with some exercises to get poems started.

1. American sentences. Allan Ginsberg invented the "American Sentence," influenced by haiku. This is one sentence of 17 syllables that capture one sharply observed moment. (e.g., "Put on my tie in a taxi, short of breath, rushing to meditate.") Addonizio suggests writing a few of these as warm-up exercises at the beginning of any writing session. It's akin to playing musical scales at the piano. And sometimes, you can make poems out of them.

2. Start with a line from someone else. For instance, you can just copy out a line and start writing from there. Let it lead you to a poem of your own. Or you can change one word in the line. Or you can substitute different nouns and adjectives for the ones in the given line. This is an exercise I've used myself with great success.

I've used a variation of this quite often. I select someone else's first line and use the structure and syntax of the line. I have used the same line from a poem by Salli Shepherd and ended up with three decent poems. The first line of Shepherd's poem, "Letter to a Gardener" is "I understand now how bones can set to their own routines. . . ." I used this line to start three different poems. Later I edited a bit. The poems ended up with the following first lines:

        — I remember now how a hand can open,

        — I have finally figured out how you do your math-

        — I've heard how easily bones break,


Other suggestions from Addonizio are the following:

3. Start in the middle.

4. Start from memory.

5. Start from the next thing you see (fall in love with it).

6. Start from language (e.g., choose 50 favorite words and write a poem that uses them). There are all kinds of variations, different ways to come up with a set of words.

The article is adapted from Addonizio's forthcoming book, Ordinary Genius, due out in early 2009.


S: I see that Addonizio has been making good use of other people's first lines. Today, the January, 2009 issue of Poetry arrived. She has a poem in it called "The First Line is the Deepest," and it begins like this: "I have been one acquainted with the spatula."

PPS: Another technique I've used is a variation on bouts-rimes. Bouts-rimes, I think, started as an 18th century parlor game. A list of rhyming words was devised and players had to come up with a poem that used the words as end-rhymes. A more recent version that I've seen is sonnets written this way. For instance, take a Shakespeare sonnet (or something more contemporary, perhaps, to avoid thee and thou!) and write your own sonnet with the same end words. But I take it a step further and apply the same technique to nonrhyming poems. Just pick any poem you like -- or one that you don't like at all (sometimes works better). Use its end words to write your own poem.
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toniclark
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Joined: May 5th, 2006, 6:47 pm

October 27th, 2009, 3:15 pm #3

Write a poem of 20 or fewer lines that contains all of the following words: loon, watch, maize, corona, temporal.
 
Write a poem of 20 or fewer lines that contains all of the following words: trip, space, boxes, lavender, crossing.
 
Write a poem of 20 or fewer lines that contains all of the following words: drain, asterisk, sparse, ruby, lesson. 
 
Write a poem of 20 or fewer lines that contains all of the following words: pair, cave, fortune, switch, corner.)
 
Write a poem of 20 or fewer lines that contains all of the following words: balloon, portent, sparkle, whine, tea.
 
Write a poem of 20 or fewer lines that contains all of the following words: charm, black, coin, mumble, slogan.
 
Write a poem of 20 or fewer lines that contains all of the following words: children, sting, coat, bird, redolent.
 
Write a poem of 20 or fewer lines that contains all of the following words: slip, candy, bittersweet, spell, container.
 
Write a poem of 20 or fewer lines that contains all of the following words: menace, performer, digital, sporadic, climb.
 
Write a poem of 20 or fewer lines that contains all of the following words: shift, total, whine, whorl, spine.
 
Write a poem of 20 or fewer lines that contains all of the following words: trial snore precocious, element, dull.
 
Write a poem of 20 or fewer lines that contains all of the following words: transom, withdrawal, sunbeam, refrigerator, paint brush.
 
Write a poem of 20 or fewer lines that contains all of the following words: divorce, nursery rhymes, ashtray, switchboard, swimming.
 
Write a poem of 20 or fewer lines that contains all of the following words:  carnival, ladies, egg, pastilles, descant.
 
 
Last edited by toniclark on January 24th, 2010, 3:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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toniclark
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October 27th, 2009, 3:16 pm #4

Write a long title (quirky is good) and then write a poem to go with it. Here are some examples:

Billy Collins: "I Chop Some Parsley While Listening To Art Blakey's Version Of 'Three Blind Mice'"

Mary Oliver: "Walking to Oak-Head Pond and Thinking of the Ponds I Will Visit in the Next Days and Weeks"

Antonia Clark: "Why I Have Kept My Mother's Red High Heels Which Are Too Small for Me and Did Not Fit Her Either"
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toniclark
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October 27th, 2009, 3:17 pm #5

Ghazal," by James R. Whitley


-- "Ghazal of the Bright Body" by
Sarah J. Sloat








The online journal, 42opus loves ghazals. The editors say: "Ghazals are fun. So. We want to publish them. Lots of
them. Send us your ghazal." See the complete submission
guidelines.
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toniclark
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Joined: May 5th, 2006, 6:47 pm

October 27th, 2009, 3:17 pm #6

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Write a poem of 15 lines. The lines must end with the following words, in order: café, against, ozone, away, find, moments, imagine, suffering, end, wing, dome, bring, starveling, suddenly, home. (From a poem by Katha Pollitt. We'll tell you later. It might work better if you're not influenced by the content of the original.)  
 
Write a poem of 15 lines. The lines must end with the following words, in order: it, helmet, take, eats, dragging, slope, practical, way, optimal, convert, lives, lottery, wings, patience, things. (From a poem by Kay Ryan. We'll tell you later. It might work better if you're not influenced by the content of the original.)
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toniclark
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October 27th, 2009, 3:18 pm #7

Write 3 "American Sentences" in the style of Ginsberg. Then pick one to start a poem or incorporate all three. Each one should be a 17-syllable
sentence (more or less -- a little leeway here) that captures a sharply observed moment. Here are a couple of Ginsberg's to get the idea:


--- Four skinheads stand in the streetlight rain chatting under an umbrella.


--- Put on my tie in a taxi, short of breath, rushing to meditate.
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toniclark
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October 27th, 2009, 3:19 pm #8

Here are a couple of first lines from poems by Jayne Pupek:
 
-- "Faith is the paperbag I breathe into when air is scarce." (from "Census of Seagulls")

-- "Confusion is a hat filled with slips of paper." (from "Lunar Eclipse in Scorpio") 

There's a pattern here. [Abstract concept] is [concrete noun]. Try writing a few. Pick one and start a poem with it.
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toniclark
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Joined: May 5th, 2006, 6:47 pm

October 27th, 2009, 3:23 pm #9

Write a poem for which the title is a well-known proverb -- or a wacky twist on one.




Accidents will happen.


Still waters run deep.


A rolling pin gathers no moss.


One swallow doesn't make a summer.


Beauty is only skin deep.


Rome wasn't built in a day.


Easier said than done.


Haste makes waste.


No man is an island.


Every why has a wherefore.


Waste not, want not.


You are what you eat.


Loose lips sink ships.


It never rains but it pours.




and my mother's all-time fave:


All that glitters is not gold.
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toniclark
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October 27th, 2009, 3:24 pm #10

Last edited by toniclark on May 6th, 2015, 4:01 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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