Poem Tryouts: What’s in a Word?

10 Feb

7:45 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to E Ho’i I Ka Pili sung by Keali’i Reichel

Hello, all. How are you? Well, or as well as can be, I hope. Let’s play with a word. It has been a while, but it’s one of my favourite exercises. The words I choose are ones that come to me while I am reading, watching TV, playing video games, anything but purposely looking for an interesting word. The word will be in front of me and start a train of thought, or, by some remote mechanism triggered by what I am doing, it will pop into my head and start the train of thought. The words are always ones I know well, but that, when I head for the dictionary, make me think ‘Huh. I didn’t know that meaning’.

Today’s word, cast, before I even reached the dictionary, had produced this: cast on/cast off; acting cast; cast stones, a glance, pots, your lot, a fishing line, dice; forecast; typecast; broken arm, or leg, cast. To this I added cast, as in a shade of colour and a cast in the eye, both from a brief etymology entry. The OED tells us there are 42 distinct noun meanings… distinct… and 83 verbal ones, not to mention sub-definitions.

My favourite online dictionary, both for thoroughness and the way they structure the presentation of a word is, so that’s where I am sending you for your resource.

As with previous words we have played with, there are many ways you can go:

1] Don’t go to the dictionary but spend some time ruminating over the word; you might even freewrite your ruminations. Think about the denotations and connotations of the word cast, for you. Choose one, or a thread, around which to cast your poem (I couldn’t resist).

2] Go to the dictionary link I have given you. Cast your eyes (I know, I know, but it’s that kind of word) down the page. You will notice they have a fair number of the amount of meanings the OED mentions. Choose one, or two, that sparks an idea and go with it.

3] Scroll down further to the Thesaurus section. Wander through this richness and choose one of the meanings of cast, along with its several synonyms and write a poem using as many of the different words as you can — without the poem sounding silly. For example, using several of: dart, dash, fling, heave, hurl, hurtle, launch, pitch, shoot, shy, sling, throw, toss.

4] Similar to #3, make your way to the Thesaurus section and choose six to eight different synonym meanings and use them in a poem. This one is my particular favourite as an exercise. You might end up with a list like: stamp, hurtle, shape, contrive, stray, range, press. All of these are in the Thesaurus for cast.

5] Compose a poem remixed from words and phrases on the page.

6] Follow your own idea.

Have fun. I look forward to seeing how you play with this word. I’m heading back to the dictionary. I’ll see you Thursday for links and things; Friday for the week’s prompts roundup; and next Tuesday for another of my prompts.

Happy writing, everyone.


Posted by on 10/02/2015 in exercises, poetry, writing



45 responses to “Poem Tryouts: What’s in a Word?

  1. Pingback: A Long Cast of a Shot | Who Is Selma Siri
  2. Misky

    10/02/2015 at 11:03 am


    M x

    • margo roby

      11/02/2015 at 9:49 am

      Hello, there. Over in a minute.

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  4. whimsygizmo

    10/02/2015 at 12:34 pm

    This was a great boost of inspiration this morning, Margo. Thank you. 🙂

    • margo roby

      11/02/2015 at 9:50 am

      How lovely to see you, de. I’ll be at your place in a moment.

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  6. georgeplace2013

    10/02/2015 at 2:08 pm

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  8. Hannah Gosselin

    10/02/2015 at 2:21 pm

    Hello, Margo! I’m listening to the new Putumayo Presents Yoga Lounge…it’s lovely!

    Here’s my thoughts on, “cast.”

    Thank you, for all the suggestions…as always!! 🙂

    • Hannah Gosselin

      10/02/2015 at 3:15 pm

      Here’s another little one… :)!

    • margo roby

      11/02/2015 at 9:54 am

      I’ve just gone to my google shop and am listening to snippets of Putumayo Africa. I’ll check out yours as well! Thank you. I love finding new music.

      I’ll visit in a sec :-).

      • Hannah Gosselin

        11/02/2015 at 1:07 pm

        Oh good, Margo!! I thought you might go looking and I knew you’d enjoy! I love the Putumayo albums!

  9. Sasha A. Palmer

    10/02/2015 at 2:42 pm

    here’s my short “deep” thought 🙂 :

    Could I be called
    A coin, just a
    Speck in space,
    Tossed in time?

    • Misky

      10/02/2015 at 4:23 pm

      I love the way this rolls off my tongue, Sasha. 🙂

    • Hannah Gosselin

      10/02/2015 at 4:54 pm

      Love this…the expansiveness of space placed next to the speck and coin! Well done, Sasha!

    • whimsygizmo

      10/02/2015 at 5:02 pm

      Sasha, my favorite is the possible double play in “Tossed in time?” Tossed just in time/tossed through time. Love this.

    • purplepeninportland

      10/02/2015 at 11:41 pm

      Well done, Sasha! I love ‘speck in space.’

    • margo roby

      11/02/2015 at 9:56 am

      We like ‘deep’ ;-). Clever because content and form work with each other. I love when that happens.

      • Sasha A. Palmer

        11/02/2015 at 10:18 am

        Thank you, Margo. I just realized I didn’t quite manage the double acrostic – the last letters in the lines are supposed to spell the same word as the first, right? Well..maybe it’s the new form – hidden, or subtle acrostic 🙂

        • margo roby

          11/02/2015 at 10:21 am

          Subtle works. You can make it even more so by not capitalising the first letters except for C. That might take it into hidden territory.

          • Sasha A. Palmer

            11/02/2015 at 12:02 pm

            Did it on my blog – like the way it looks, better without the capitals. Thank you, Margo.

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  12. Misky

    10/02/2015 at 5:56 pm

    M xx

  13. Sasha A. Palmer

    10/02/2015 at 5:57 pm

    Misky, Hannah, De – thank you very much!

  14. purplepeninportland

    10/02/2015 at 11:40 pm

    Mine is up at:

  15. b_y

    11/02/2015 at 9:20 am

    That reminded me of an old poem that needs revision. I think it was originally a wordle response, which might account for its trying to do too much. I’ve recast it into a form that necessitates some simplification. I don’t love it, though.

    Plaster Form 

    If I cast my world in plaster,
    freezing chaos
    into a still,
    white negative

    do grooves left by crumbs and cat hairs
    become stressed words,
    and dead Bic pens–
    regular lines?

    Left is right. Is unfinished, done?
    What would make my
    limp words harden
    into poems?

    • margo roby

      11/02/2015 at 9:57 am

      You put it up so you can use ‘recast’. I know.

      • b_y

        11/02/2015 at 3:15 pm


    • rosross

      13/02/2015 at 4:28 am

      Clever, profound, powerful.

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  17. Misky

    11/02/2015 at 10:58 am

    I don’t know why this came across so angry…. I’ve no reason to be.

    • margo roby

      11/02/2015 at 11:00 am

      And yet…

  18. Luanne

    11/02/2015 at 10:46 pm

    Loved this post! My daughter is an actor and talks a lot about getting cast–always hopeful!

    • margo roby

      12/02/2015 at 7:21 am

      Thank you, Luanne! I know what your daughter goes through. I was part of an acting troupe in Jakarta, when we lived there. Good luck to your daughter.

  19. julespaige

    12/02/2015 at 8:33 am

    I was more or lest down for the count yesterday (hopefully 24 hour nasty). Much better today.
    Even grands are staying at home again with Mommy who was ‘caught’.

    So… I didn’t follow any rules and only have a slight connection to my haibun…. but anchors can be cast… Maybe once I catch up on house chores I might (after another nap attempt to cast my way into this prompt) : for now:

    • margo roby

      12/02/2015 at 8:46 am

      Jules, I hope you are on the mend. The fact that you cast around for a couple of ways to use cast in your comment, tells me you are much better.

      • julespaige

        12/02/2015 at 9:14 am

        There’s only so much time…

        the sundial casts it’s shadow,
        but only when the weather is fair.
        Then are we allowed to cast
        our vision there to see time
        slowly slip away…

        I didn’t bother with a clock much at all yesterday… slept most of the day away.

        • rosross

          13/02/2015 at 4:26 am

          Well wrought. 🙂

    • rosross

      13/02/2015 at 4:27 am

      Rest, get well.

  20. barbcrary

    12/02/2015 at 5:35 pm

    I am starting to worry about April, given this foray into found poetry. Overthinking is not a good trait for the budding poet.

  21. rosross

    13/02/2015 at 3:43 am

    I am not sure I have it right but it is an offering.

  22. markwindham

    14/02/2015 at 7:33 pm

    well…’cast’ haunted me all week…I had a couple of lines right off that I liked, then nothing, then another line that worked…then nothing else. Then, happy coincidence, I noticed all lines were basically the same, so forced them into a form-kinda-thingy and called it done. Could turn into part of something else later…also, I am thinking of changing my blog title to ‘ellipses’…

    • margo roby

      15/02/2015 at 10:59 am

      That’s the reason I pulled my original prompt. Once I started thinking on ‘cast’ I was sunk.

      I love Ellipses — grin. Serious? If so, check the meaning of the word and consider connotations. Yes, yes, I did just look it up…


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