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.

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).


Courtesy of www.deshow.net
Courtesy of http://www.deshow.net

Becoming more experimental in my old age… This is a writing exercise, a sort of prose poem based on free association with certain words or concepts. Very rough, but it was fun to do. I’m linking it to the Open Link Night at dVerse Poets Pub – join us for drinks, fun, good humour and lots of great (and very varied) poetry.

Wingspan: endless.

Eyesight: acute.

Disposition: heartless.

Victims: too numerous to mention.

Wanted in several countries as symbol of boldness, greatness, goal-orientation.  A menace to one’s enemies, totemic of clear-sightedness.

But, locking your gaze onto a distant target, what might you be missing in the quiet corners, the nooks of your eyes?

Sudden swoop of power, then a lifetime of solitude on some bald crag of unnamed rock. Pecking at unwanted liver of a chap who never understood just why he was being punished.

Give me the magpie any day. Distracted, thieving, but always on the lookout for ideas, objects, friends.  A life of peripheral vision.


Untethered or Not – Writing Poetry in Class

In one of the poetry workshops I attended at the Geneva Writers Conference, we were encouraged to allow our minds to amble aimlessly like a camel, to allow words to come to us. Here is my result (on a topic which is obviously becoming a bit of an obsession with me). I am linking it to dVerse Poets’ much-loved and always interesting Open Link Night, which should be starting this evening (European time).

The straitjackets of corporates I seek to embellish

with jewel-coloured scarves.

The coffin-planks of business jargon I scrape on emery boards

to soften with a smile.

Within the gnarl of strategic progression I untangle

a few words that buzz

– raw and angry – Swiss army knives shredding my pocket

they clamour for rebirth

shimmering Morganas, outside and beside their utilitarian desert.

I undress them

watch them shiver

hear them groan and misbehave.

Done with coaxing I am cruel.

Beseech no more I point the way.

Take no prisoners, gloves are off.

Photo credit: Newsjournal/Kelly Jordan
Photo credit: Newsjournal/Kelly Jordan

Yet their world of cloned rabbits have leeched me out of colour.

Discipline is my undoing.

My words jump through endless monochrome hoops

how they conform

how they confirm

docility is taking over the circus.

Writing Exercise

This was a 5 minute writing exercise that I was set in a writing group, based on a photo prompt.  I’ve been unable to find this picture again, so you will have to take my word for it: it was a beautiful black-and-white photograph of a Cuban woman in white traditional dress, smoking a cigar, looking out of the window.  She is flashing an insolent smile straight at the camera.  Some makeshift flowerpots are teetering precariously on her windowsill.

The thyme is doing well this year.  Grown all over, in a hurry like a virgin about to be married, all ready to jump into the nearest pot.  Majoram, now that was a tricky one, hasn’t sprung the smallest green shoot. Rowdy waste of time. But who said aloe vera would never make it in a tin? Just bore’em and stuff’em, I always say.  Look at it now: it’s tall, it’s spiky, it sucks up my smoke like a greedy suitor.

Speaking of suitors, it’s nearly time for him to pass by again for the day.  He can’t keep away.  He thinks he’s so irresistable in his shuffling walk-by, with his fancy hat, his spit-polished shoes, his thin moustache. I’m sure he can dance and gaze into my eyes for days.  All he needs is a little feeding, watering, to grow into the man he could become. Do me proud, like my plants, every day.

This time there will be a pause in his shuffle.  This time he will look up. And learn to linger.