Monday, March 28, 2011

A Poetry Invention Exercise

Here's a little exercise I wrote up for my poetry students...

Especially when you have a specific story or message in mind, it’s easy to forget that good writing also has to contain some kind of rhythm and music complimenting some interesting leaps in imagination.

1) So for practice, begin by listing some 1 or 2 syllable words you like, then come up with words that have the same beginning and ending sounds in the reverse order. Examples: cedar and repose. Fort and tariff. Risk and killdeer. Russet and tier. Donkey and yield. Feel and leaf. Fumble and bluff.

2) Come up with a few words that have the same internal sounds but different connotations. Examples: gloom and boon. Glow and drone. Bastard and happy. Jewel and coup. Rigor and cigarette.

3) List a few nouns and join them with seemingly unrelated adjectives. Examples: naked sunrise, screaming whisper, cellophane skyscraper, paper temple, lonesome anthill, purple stoplight, raspberry wrath, plexiglas salvation, disjointed symphony, prehistoric tuxedo, oscillating freeze.

4) Now, take something from #3 and turn it into a simile describing a seemingly unrelated noun. Examples: the setting sun blinked like a purple stoplight, she was lonesome as an anthill, typewriters rang like a disjointed symphony, he wore the earth like a prehistoric tuxedo.

5) Come up with some two syllable words that have both syllables stressed. These words add extra punch to your sentence. Examples: Riptide, whirlwind, whitewash, spendthrift, whiplash, toothpaste, snowmelt, ragtag, cupcake, laptop, stonewall, slapdash.

Now, try weaving these together. With your words for #1, don’t just put them side by side. Put them a few words or even a whole line apart. This creates a subconscious feeling that your lines are connected by an internal rhythm. Don’t worry about literal meaning yet; you’re just trying to clear up your creative lens and hammer out some lines that have a sense of rhythm, music, and raw imagination.

1 comment:

  1. These are really good ideas. Maybe I'll give them a go sometime--if I ever write poetry again. Turns out that aside from blogging, I pretty much only write when I'm in school!