Tuesday Tryouts: Hands on Poem

23 Aug

9:35 a.m. — Atlanta

Based on a Sharon Olds exercise tweaked by James Penha, further tweaked by me.

Hello everyone. I hope all are well. The exercise for this week is a lot of fun and is one I enjoy letting time lapse and repeating.

5 good nouns    5 good adjectives    5 good verbs    and by good, I mean strong and specific.

Do this first without consideration of the rest of the exercise. You may want to stop here and make your selection, before reading on. Not knowing, or not thinking about the subject of the exercise can lead to wonderful paths down which you might not have wandered.

Take a look at your right or left hand. Really look at it. List things you notice literally or figuratively. Think about where it has been . . . what it has touched . . . the wondrous and the awful . . . whom it has touched . . . the wondrous and the awful . . . for a moment or over and over again . . . how it has touched . . . in anger, love, passion, terror . . . what you hoped for it . . . what yet it might do.

If you find it helpful: draw it, sketch it and maybe label it in a way that reminds you of all your hand means to you. The first time I did the exercise I didn’t do this, but the second time, I did, and it led me in a different direction with the style. I drew my hand, both sides, as closely as I could to the reality, which allowed me to be even more cognizant of lines and shadows and irregularities and patterns. I labeled everything with similes and metaphors.

Write about your hand — a poem or a poetic statement that you then turn into a poem — this might be a good subject for a prose poem.

Include any or all or none of what you have been thinking/sketching . . . It may be about one moment or dozens, macro or micro.

But you want to try to include in the poem at least ten of the fifteen words you listed.

Having said that, if you are hit with a poetic brainstorm that doesn’t fit the exercise’s instructions, go with the brainstorm. The poem is always more important than the rules. You can come back and follow the rules another time. It occurs to me that the etheree might work nicely as a form [but would probably require throwing out some of the rules set forth], and so would an Italian sonnet. And, there is always free verse.

Remember, I am taking Thursday off, but have had suggestions from two readers for discussions, so will be back with the first, next Thursday, I hope. I will see you all Friday for the week’s roundup of prompts and next Tuesday for one more free form, before we tackle a more structured form.

If you have questions, ask; if you have suggestions for a topic, suggest; and, if you have a poem, post it so we can all read the results.

Happy writing everyone.


Posted by on 23/08/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


Tags: , , , , ,

23 responses to “Tuesday Tryouts: Hands on Poem

  1. 1storyeveryday

    23/08/2011 at 12:52 pm

    This is a great writing exercise! Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. wordsandthoughtspjs

    23/08/2011 at 10:39 pm

    Margo, I love this exercise, and give it a try in the next few days. Thanks.


  3. brenda w

    23/08/2011 at 11:49 pm

    Thanks for the prompt, Margo. It was fun. Here’s my initial word list:
    canoe, stiletto, grapheme, verb, sentry
    arthritic, enigmatic, stilted, elated, articulate
    bloom, commit, traipse, imprint, swagger

    Here are the words I used:
    canoe, grapheme, verb,
    bloom, commit, traipse, imprint, swagger
    ~~It’s funny that I used all of the verbs, and used one of the nouns, canoe, as a verb, too.

    It’s a bit naughty at the end.
    these hands

    • margo roby

      24/08/2011 at 8:05 am

      You used grapheme, Brenda? I can’t wait! And naughty is fun 😉


      • brenda w

        24/08/2011 at 9:40 am

        Thank you Margo. I thought I mentioned this in my post here last night–FYI I did the hand drawing and labeled everything. My first stanza came from the drawing. I will try this poem again after several months pass.

        I’d begun to feel a writering block, and this helped me push past it. I also posted the poem on dVerse open link night. I did it for two reasons….to get more readers, and to point some of them in your direction. This prompt really helped me, Margo While I know you tweaked it from somewhere, it’s your prompt that helped me out this week.


    • margo roby

      24/08/2011 at 9:52 am

      I have no idea where this will appear, Brenda, as reply was not an option for the comment! Writing this exercise a second time, knowing the subject is hands, is fun and tricky, as you need to try and block the subject when coming up with words. You could do a lucky dip.

      Thank you for the dverse mention. I need to get myself on there, but am, like you, experiencing a block. I couldn’t even get my brain to respond to your wordle! And I liked the words! I am glad I got you through and suspect one of your wordles will do the same for me.


  4. margo roby

    24/08/2011 at 8:03 am

    Oops, Pamela? 🙂 Can’t wait to see the poem. I love this exercise.


  5. vivinfrance

    24/08/2011 at 6:36 pm

    I’m glad I’m not the only one whose poetry writing is going through a gludgy spot. My first poem to your prompt is here:

    • margo roby

      26/08/2011 at 12:01 pm

      Love the word gludgy, Viv. There seem to be several of us in that spot. Must be an end of summer syndrome.


  6. Mike Patrick

    24/08/2011 at 7:01 pm

    I followed your instructions explicitly, then scrapped the whole thing and just wrote.

    • margo roby

      26/08/2011 at 12:02 pm

      Of course you did, Mike. I have come to expect nothing less. And look at what was born.


  7. vivinfrance

    25/08/2011 at 3:58 am

    and my second, nothing at all about hands and everything about my daft choice of words:

  8. b_y

    25/08/2011 at 12:06 pm

    A little late, but better than never.

  9. Irene

    26/08/2011 at 4:19 am

    Here’s my tryout..interesting prompt Margo.

    hands on poem

  10. Teri

    26/08/2011 at 10:40 am

    Well I am later than everyone… no surprise there- Good thing you are so nice… I have just googled adjectives- how is that for a start???

    • margo roby

      26/08/2011 at 12:04 pm

      Googling adjectives is good, Teri. Listen, I was so late with a We Write Poems response that I snuck it in under a different prompt!


      PS And there are some regulars who still haven’t posted.

  11. Teri

    26/08/2011 at 11:19 am

    And here is my addition-


    xo teri

  12. pamelasayers

    27/08/2011 at 1:35 am

    Margo, it is late on Friday night, but I have managed to write to the prompt. Some of my inspiration came from your prompt over at “We Write Poems”, and the recent hurricane heading up toward my family. Thanks for being here.


    With My Hands I Will Hold Up Your Walls

    • margo roby

      29/08/2011 at 11:18 am

      Pamela! Good to see you. I was afraid you wouldn’t appear this week and given my disappearance that would have been a long stretch without a poem. Am going over to read it now. I have family in the hurricane’s path, as well. So far, they seem to miraculously have been on the edges. I hope yours are alright.



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