A Writing Exercise: Start from Language

m.d. leto
Posted September 19, 2010 from United States

I'm afraid to tag this for VOF since it is not an assignment, but I want to welcome all who are in my World Pulse community, who are a part of VOF, and anyone else who randomly views my journal, to participate.

I believe in communication and collaboration to facilitate change. I have taught workshops to communities of women here and to youth groups. I have worked with different populations ranging from adults with disabilities, queer youth and adults, to women in crisis or women simply learning to re-value their voices. One thing always resonantes, no matter the demographic - we all create differently. So, I invite you all to share yourselves and your cultures by participating in this brief writing exercise:

"Choose fifty favorite words, and write a poem using those words. Make your list and then write from it. You might also exchange word lists with someone else.

Now try mixing in a list of your favorite words with words from some other source - a cookbook, a textbook, a billboard ad. Then use those words as a springboard for more writing.

Another way to start from language: skim through a book of poetry and select random words that interest you, then use them to write," (Addonizio, Kim 2009 - from Ordinary Genius - A Guide for the Poet Within).

My word list:

withering rare blizzard gladiolas Prufrock amber pulse diving egnite forest androgyny solitude chomp gender hollowed tendrils plum canyon belly spine red pear savory branches bamboo oblong black widow betta dainty cinder block conduit web coffee honeysuckle rake nutmeg orchid hum exploiting disappointed common arugala schlep

You do not have to use all 50 words you come up with, but let them inspire you. Give yourself 10-20 minutes to create something out of your word list. There is no such thing as a perfect poem, a right poem, a wrong poem, a correct poem, an incorrect poem. Poetry is what happens when words connect to each other inside of us.

This is what I just came up with:


Another blizzard in the desert, rare they say to see white blankets falling across the eyes of amber street lights

no, I do not sit in the forest watching but on the porch where tendrils of webs collect in-between the pillars and black widows stumble out like dainty ballerinas – their red bellies like an x over their hearts showing me where to aim. Snow filling the hollowed out canyon bellies of West Fork, taking the maple smell from ponderosas killing the orange blossoms which never suspected this kind of weather in July. In the oven, an oblong glass pan that was my mother’s – all I have left now - and her recipe for baked red pears over arugula,

I remember her honeysuckle smell picking orchids to stick behind my ears while I kicked off a Sunday dress and wore my brother’s trousers

I laugh at the memory, a hearty ha! All the orchards are dying, I haven’t the strength to even rinse the bamboo half-alive in the betta’s bowl.

I drink nutmeg coffee at midnight stay awake until the snow stops humming to withering gladiolas atop the mantle, trying to bring anything back to life

I stop to feel my pulse, remember I am alive, reach for Elliot off the bookshelf and cry while reading of Alfred J. Prufrock, wishing I was beside him eating peaches listening to mermaids singing instead of watching branches grow heavy, then snap, this freak weather some call a blessing, is enough to make my spine crack.

Even if it doesn't make sense, even if it isn't all true, what a sweet way to spend 20 minutes :)

Comments 1

  • Leelee
    Sep 19, 2010
    Sep 19, 2010

    Wow - this is cool! I am about to go to bed so my brain isn't going to be up for this now but I will definitely give this a try ... thanks for sharing!

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