Poetic Exercises to Loosen the Joints

One of the most useful lessons I learnt on the writing retreat was to use all sorts of ridiculous rules and constraints to exercise the poetic brain. It’s like using an elastic band to exercise your muscles, making them stretch just a little further than they might normally do. Here are some examples:

Quick Riddle

Flashes of remembrance
your friendly pings
your bossy tone
sole guide and friend on country lanes
until you die

(Mobile phone)

Cinquain – 2-4-6-8-2 syllable lines

It’s May.
Nests are feathered,
Twiglets picked, earth clods primed,
with hasty visitors in mind.
Cuckoo!

Measure
Careful trickle
Weighing, counting, tasting…
Beat and simmer, don’t stir and pour…
Too late!

Invent a list of ten words and give them to the next person to write a short text with it (a poem, prose, textbook, whatever the words inspire).  Here is my text, see if you can spot the made-up words.

The plupracy had already decided to sputify all private property. First, they demoked the fusils (Mairstone, 2082: pp.15-16), but, when this took far longer than expected, they had to add propylate to the mix. The late-Nematic propylate, however, was full of brimstone (Johnson, 2011; Rheinhart, 2059), so the olzeous metaphycitate they had in their makeshift laboratories exploded. The sputified masses tried to caffer, but it was too late. Contemporary eye-witnesses agree that the instare was complete and irrevocable (Mairstone, 2082: pg. 562).

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9 thoughts on “Poetic Exercises to Loosen the Joints”

    1. That’s often cited as a favourite word, isn’t it? Along with ‘serendipity’ or ‘rotund’ or ‘mellifluous’ – makes me wonder if there is a secret hankering for being a Romance language amongst English speakers…

      1. I love it. Describes a scrambled, disconcerted brain beautifully. I think you’re right. My partner tells me there’s a fat, extrovert Italian in him longing to get out

      2. “Mellifluous” is a wonderful word. Your post has me thinking some exercises are in order.

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