Poem Tryouts: A Show of Hands

02 Jul

8:00 a.m. — Walnut Creek

watching the Tour de France

Hello all. I was afraid for a moment I wouldn’t even be able to post Tuesdays. My mother lives in an Internet black hole. I apologise to those who have posted and not received comments from me. I hope, once things settle here (i.e. my in-laws go home — they and my husband are visiting to spend a couple of days in wine country; and my husband heads off for the next part of his summer), that I can get the internet on for long enough to catch up.

Adapted from Sharon Olds’ hand exercise.

First, before even reading further, write down:

5 good nouns    5 good adjectives/adverbs     5 good verbs

By good, I mean specific. Not abstract nouns, but shelf, grass, wheel. Not wooly adjectives/adverbs that say nothing, but specifics that add to the image. Not wonderful, but alabaster; not ugly, but wrinkled and leathery; not tiny, but as small as a mouse. Not verbs of being, but active verbs. Not is, but stands, not was there, but lay on the table. Get the picture? Specifics.

Take a look at your right/left hand. Really look at it. 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. I did the primary school thing of tracing around my hand and writing poetic lines at different points (from the step below): the base of the thumb, a scar on a finger, a knuckle. The lines don’t necessarily have to connect, but can. I rather liked the effect.

Write about your hand—a poem or a poetic statement.

Mapping the Hand

Blue streams meander from spiny ridges
through rounded hillocks
run out in threadlike tributaries
then hide in folds
creased like lizard skin,
desert dunes whorled and shadowy,
caravan routes that fade
into trackless wastes
then disappear
like Livingston
whose map
only Stanley could read.

published in A Long Story Short, 2004

Include any or all or none of what you have been thinking/ sketching… It may be about ONE moment or DOZENS. You can see from my hand poem that I went for imagery rather than story.

BUT you MUST (MUST I tell you :-)) include in the poem at least twelve of the fifteen words you listed. GO.

Meanwhile, I am off to Napa for a couple of days. I shall toast you all. I hope to see you again next Tuesday for a prompt on the sense of touch, which follows nicely on this one, doesn’t it?

Happy writing.


Posted by on 02/07/2013 in exercises, poetry, writing


Tags: , ,

8 responses to “Poem Tryouts: A Show of Hands

  1. barbara_

    02/07/2013 at 2:42 pm

    Have fun, Margo, but know that you are missed.

  2. Hannah Gosselin

    02/07/2013 at 7:35 pm

    Yes, I second Barbara’s sentiments, Margo. Warm smiles to you!

  3. purplepeninportland

    03/07/2013 at 6:03 pm

    Have fun, Margo. I really liked this prompt.

  4. Yousei Hime

    05/07/2013 at 12:44 pm


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