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A Writing Exercise: Start from Language

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 :)


Leelee's picture

Wow - this is cool! I am

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!

'Harlem: A Dream Deferred' - Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
Like a syrupy sweet?

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