Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Game #8 - A Year In A Minute.

More than half a year has passed.  The last words of Walt Whitman are still moving like characters in someone else's dream.  Time is sensory, not so much an illusion, as a partial illumination, a window showing us just a thin slice of all that is outside.  The way eyes are constructed to detect only a sliver of the known spectrum, and even less of the unknown.  The way the dying ear drum detects only the voices that move along its private wires.  We may fill in the empty space with ghosts.  Take a minute - no more, no less - and write some words about the past year.  Let that be your poem. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Game #7 - Poem About A Poem

It's interesting to me to consider the ways in which poems make reference to other poems.  If we read whatever poetry we read, looking for these relationships, the frequency of their appearance is notable.  From casual literary allusion, to allegory of biblical proportion; from subtle melodic shifts that echo familiar songs, to the appearance of Osiris or some other archetype at your screen door on a sunny morning while you're trying to read something postmodern...poetry seeps like a smoke through the mesh.

It is difficult to imagine a poem that stands on its own, with no support - or influence - from some other poetry.  The support might come from as near as within the poet's own work, or as far as a time on the other end of history, in a town on the other end of the world.    Each new poem is permeated by the history of poetry, and the poets wander cartoon construction sites, dropping from beam to beam of the shifting forms and architectures, with their own surprise their only punctuation.

The poet might write a poem that references his own work in any number of ways.  Select a poem that you've written, and write another poem about that poem.  The new poem might be a recounting of the experience of writing the initial poem, or it might be an analysis of the initial poem from a previously unconsidered perspective.  It might be a set of additional notes, afterthoughts, or an alternate history (reimagining the poem as written by someone other than the poet, for example).

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Game #6 - National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month.
Write a poem about how you plan
to observe the long holiday.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Game #5 - In A Book of Paintings

Please use a book for this game,
though it may require of trip to a library or bookstore.

Just as the reproduction of a painting in a book
is no substitute for the painting itself,
the image of a painting on the screen
of a computer monitor is substitute
for neither the image in the art book nor the painting itself.

Because I am concerned with books as entities
(and because the painting may be a metaphor for the poem),
for the purposes of this game, a book should be used,
and not a visit to an art museum or art gallery.

In a book of paintings, find a painting that you like
but with which you were previously unfamiliar.
Use the title of that painting for the title of your poem.
Write an 8 line poem, with 8-syllables per line.
Your poem may or may not reference the painting

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Game #4 - Imaginary Travels to Secret States

Without mentioning the state by name, and without using any details that would identify the state to the average reader, write a poem about an imaginary trip to a U.S. state that you have never visited. 

If you choose Texas for example, you may not specifically mention the Alamo in your poem.  However, you could mention Roman Catholic mission/fortress compounds of the 19th century (not specifically the Alamo), the Gulf of Mexico (not limited to Texas) or your Aunt Mary (presumably unknown to the average reader) from Houston (though you may not mention Houston itself).

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Game #3 - Where Songs Occur

In as random a fashion as you like, find a song and listen to it.  You can select a song from the last 10 songs in your itunes play history, or if you listen to records you could go to your crates and pull something out that you haven't listened to in a long time.  If you are driving, turn on the radio and find a station playing a style of music that you usually don't listen to.  Then turn off the road to write your poem.

Keep these writing instructions in mind when listening.  

1.  When the song ends, write a  poem of between six and ten lines.

2.  Use a phrase or sentence from the song somewhere in your poem.  If the song has no lyrics use your imagination. 

3.  In a short phrase or sentence, summarize what you would consider to be a central theme/idea of the song.  This will be the title of your poem.

4.  Where were you when you listened to the song?  Include this physical (or non-physical) space somewhere in your poem.

5.  What physical (or non-physical) space did the song evoke for you?  Include this space somewhere in your poem.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Game #2 - Tampopo

Write a set of poems
that could act as recipe(s)
for an actual

dinner.  Poems must be
in haiku format.  Dinner
must be edible.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Game #1 - 1994

I found the following while going through some old notebooks.  While it is so old (and my memory so poor) that I can't provide many details of its origin, it was definitely inspired by writing exercises assigned by William Harrold in several writing workshops I took with him during the 1990s.  Those exercises involved sometimes complex scavenger hunts for words and imagery that forced elements from outside the poet's safety zone into his poems, and to some extent removed the poet from the center of his own poetry.  To some, this was un-nerving, and these exercises always met with mixed responses.  To me, the exercises opened up the windows of my poems and let breezes blow through them (along with the balloon horses and california condors that drifted in along with the fresh air).   Ideas I was first exposed to in those classes continue to reverberate in my writing years later.   So when I came across this poem recipe in an old spiral notebook dated 1994, it seemed like a good place to begin. 

Compose a 14 line poem using the following rules:

a.  Choose a movie title at random from a standard video guide.  This title will either appear in the poem, or somehow represent a theme or motif in the poem.

b.  The poem's first line should include the poet's name as an anagram (for example the first line of Jim's poem might be "Just imagining magenta, I think of the jacket").
c.  Include three of the following in the poem: one bird, one piece of fruit, one musical reference, and a reference to an event that occured in the year of the poet's birth.

d.  The title of the poem should include both a number and a color.

e.  The last line of the poem should end-rhyme with the first line.

f.   Find a quotation from a scientific text.  Use this quotation (and reference it) as an epigraph for the poem.


Welcome to the Last Words of Walt Whitman.  I plan to use this blog as a starting point for various writing exercises.  I hope others find it useful, and welcome any feedback.