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Category Archives: exercises

exercises and prompts I have written to encourage poetry

Poem Tryouts:

7:00 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to Skip scrolling through his FB wall (it’s too early for music, people)

Hello, all. I’m in the throes of Christmas stuff, although much is on hold until our daughter arrives next week, so she can participate. But various things with lights are up and if I have Christmas lights on in the house, I am happy. Ready for an image? Last week’s worked so well with no accompanying possible directions from me, that I think we’ll try it again this week.

by Vladimir Kush

by Vladimir Kush

Remember that you can ignore the central image and pick one small detail to spark a poem and the image as a painting does not have to be mentioned.

Next week we will take off — yes, you too. The following week, depends. So I will see you either the last week of 2015 or the first week of 2016. To those who celebrate the season, have a merry one; for those who don’t, the good news is you can be merry, too, just for different reasons.

Happy writing, everyone.

 
24 Comments

Posted by on 15/12/2015 in exercises, poetry

 

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Poem Tryouts: Unzipped

9:01 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to With Your Love sung by Jefferson Starship

Hello, all. I think I made a rash statement to the effect I would post a picture and keep mum, leaving all possibilities to you. Do you know how hard that is?!

street art unzipped

I found this on Pinterest without title or artist, for which I apologise. Let’s see what you do with it (this is killing me). I will say that whatever results, the image is your spark and doesn’t have to be a part of the poem; or, you can focus on one part of the image and ignore the rest.

I will see you Thursday for links and things and next Tuesday for yet another image prompt, one where I can go back to directing.

Happy writing all.

 
43 Comments

Posted by on 08/12/2015 in exercises, poems, poetry

 

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Poem Tryouts: Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

8:51 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to Good King Wenceslas sung by some choir

Hello, all. I’ve been having far too much fun with my two advent calendars and NORAD’s Santa tracker and it’s only December 1st. We did not have an image during November and December is a rather hysterical month, so I may give images every week. We’ll see how it goes.

by Mary Cassatt

by Mary Cassatt

This image caught my eye as I was looking through my collection. You may stop reading right now and write your poem, or read further, first.

So, why does this give me pause? I read a print newspaper and Skip reads his news online. I tried online once and realised I missed too much serendipitous news because I chose amongst the headlines presented. With a print newspaper, I see everything and with an article right there, when I pause to glance, my eye starts reading down the column or picks up on a paragraph. I read so much more than I do online. Besides, I like turning pages, the sound of the paper, the smell of newsprint (not that the ink smells as it used to), the context of the whole.

Do you get your news in swaths or slices? How do you go about it? You can write directly to this image or follow what my own meanderings may have begun. If you follow my path, you can write about how you found out a specific piece of news, or you can write about how you get your news, in general. Go where your mind takes you.

I will see you Thursday for links and next Tuesday for another image.

Happy writing, all.

 
21 Comments

Posted by on 01/12/2015 in exercises, poetry

 

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Poem Tryouts: Eat This

7:47 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to Sink the Bismarck sung by Johnny Horton

Hello, all. I almost forgot, I am so busily running errands through my head. My brother and his wife arrive this evening. However, you before sheets and towels.

Every year, during NaNoWriMo, I talk about the importance of eating for character development. Then I try to do a variation on what is basically: ‘Describe a scene where…’. So, let me talk a minute on the subject. It is not easy to show a character’s personality without a string of adjectives. The easiest way is through actions and interactions. One of the best of these is a scene where the character is eating, either alone, or with someone, or at a party. Think about it a moment. Think of different meals and what someone might learn about you were they to watch your approach to eating. Think of other people you know and how they eat and what you learn. Heck, go sit at a coffeehouse and watch people. What judgments do you make based on how they eat and drink?

As Skip and I were just in New Orleans, and I was thinking about this prompt, I noticed the differences in the way we approach food and drink. If you were with us when we hit Felix’s Oyster House, and you ordered a half-dozen of these briny delicacies, what would we have seen? Do you jab a fork into the oyster, dunk it in sauce and move it to your mouth before it falls? Or do you pour sauce on the oyster, lift the shell to your mouth and slurp? When drinking a Bloody Mary at Maspero’s, where they believe in a varied assortment of condiments, do you ignore the toothpicked vegetables until your drink is done or do you eat them first, one by one, before your first sip? When eating beignets at Cafe du Monde, do you try to remove as much powdered sugar as possible, before taking a bite of the hot and crispy pastry, or do you bring the heaping whole to your mouth, powdered sugar be damned (along with your face and clothes}.

You get my point. NaNoWriMo-ers, you know what to do. Poets, pick a scene you remember, or envision, of a single person eating. Don’t tell us what the scene depicts about the speaker, or character, but allow us to know through your description. The scene can be a part of a larger story or the sole focus. First, or third person. You can even wait until Thanksgiving, if you are celebrating, and see if there is a likely candidate for your poem.

I’m giving us Thursday off and I will see you next Tuesday for an image prompt (which this would have been in the normal course of things).

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours whether you celebrate or not. Happy writing, all.

 
9 Comments

Posted by on 24/11/2015 in exercises, poetry, writing

 

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Tuesday Tryouts: The Modes

8:32 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to Hanohano ‘O Maui sung by Keali’i Reichel

Hello, everyone. We have lovely autumn weather (for San Antonio). I’m in a long sleeved shirt, three layers, and my wooly socks. Yay! With coffee in hand let us peruse. Today’s exercise is adapted from Jack Penha’s adaptation of Richard Jackson’s “five easy pieces” from The Practice of Poetry.

  • Think of people you know well. – for the sake of the exercise, you need to have someone you can easily visualise. Pick someone.
  • Imagine a place where you can picture the person. This does not have to be a place the person has been.

Whether you are a NaNoWriMo-er or poet, we are going to write five sentences taking us through the four modes of writing: description, narration, reverie, and dialogue.

1. Describe the person’s hand or hands in one sentence.

Description takes place in no time; i.e. time stands still for description. So do not let that hand or those hands move. You can describe what they look like or how they are poised or where they lie. But time in description does not move.

2. Narrate something she does with her hands, in one sentence.

Narration takes place over time. That’s what distinguishes it from description. So let time move. Describe the person eating a crab, or shaving, or tending to a plant.

3. Reverie takes place in the mind of a character or a narrator.

Your person is thinking of something that, although he may not know it, is a symbol for something he experienced in the past. Or something he dreams of experiencing in the future. In one sentence, write about the metaphor in the person’s mind–without telling us what it stands for. Indeed, you do not even need to know what it stands for.

4. These next two are examples of dialogue—the rhetorical mode of drama.

a. (probably relevant to numbers two and three above,) Write the question you would love to ask this person. Just the question—as a sentence. Not, I would love to ask. Just the question. As if it were in quotation marks.

b. The person looks up or toward you, notices you there, gives an answer that suggests she didn’t entirely hear or understand your question. One sentence.

NaNos, you can stop there or expand on what you started. Poets, find the poem in your sentences. Feel free to make changes—small or radical—that seem to make it a better poem. Feel free to leave out bits.

I don’t usually show examples, but this exercise might cause furrowed brows, so here’s my take:

1] Her hands are translucent with age, her skin leafy to the touch.

2] Spidery fingers poke the earth around the bottom of the plant.

3] Once a deep purple, now faded to pale blue, veins like spikes of delphinium.

4] It’s cold; are you coming in?

The weather has changed; I must prepare the bonsai.

The poem:

Her Hands

Spider fingers
poke the earth
around the bonsai’s base.

Once a deep purple,
now faded
to pale blue,
veins like spikes
of delphinium,

hands translucent with age,
her skin leafy to the touch.

Go forth and write and I will see you again, Thursday for links and then, my friends, not for a week. My husband, having decided we need a break, booked us into a hotel in New Orleans. Who am I to argue?

Happy writing, all.

 
32 Comments

Posted by on 10/11/2015 in exercises, poetry

 

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Poem Tryouts: Turn, Turn, Turn

8:O6 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to a medley of The Scottish Fight Song and Amazing Grace — I found it so uplifting to watch the video of this being played that the heck with the prompt, here’s a link, go watch and listen

Okay, okay and a prompt, but I’m going to take breaks to go back and watch the cellist. Hi, everyone. Settling in NaNoWriMo-ers? Have your plan in hand? For those new to Wordgathering, in the past year, I spend November talking to the novel writers. Sometimes I will have a prompt they can work on within their novel; sometimes I will discuss things to keep in mind. I always have a suggestion for the poets.

Some of you will be leaping in for the first time. Several of you have been participating for years. A few of you will be using the time to revise a novel in hand. No matter which, somewhere in your brain you’ll need to be conscious of the structure of the whole, and within the whole, each chapter. The same goes for poetry, but unless we are writing epics, we have a much smaller area within which to work and only one turn to consider. For both, there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. The key component is the turn, the moment when the story stops moving forward, but instead heads to a resolution.

In a novel, there are many mini-turns because there are sub-plots. If you are panicking about the novel as a whole, focus on the sub-plots. As in poetry, the first draft is getting stuff down on paper. It’s not writing until the revision happens (except for one or two people who have a gift — we aren’t sure we are speaking to them). For today, be conscious of the forward movement of your narrative, and thinking of where the several plots will eventually turn, in particular, the main plotline.

Poets, write a poem where the turn is particularly obvious. The best form for this is the sonnet, which sets up the problem in the first eight lines, and then comments on the problem as a way of resolution (not, necessarily solution), in the final sestet. Don’t panic. I’m not asking you to write a sonnet, although you certainly may. But, be more conscious of laying out an observation, or a problem, of where the poem turns and how you reach the end.

If you need something more specific by way of a spark, check Quickly’s House of Curiosities.

I shall see you Thursday for links and such; and Tuesday for another of my prompts.

Happy writing, everyone.

 
25 Comments

Posted by on 03/11/2015 in exercises, poetry, writing

 

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Poem Tryouts: If You Could

8:09 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to Yellow River sung by Christie (I’ve always loved this song but didn’t know the group singing it, or that they are British)

Hello, everyone. Ready for an image, or two? I came across one, recently, that I immediately fell in love with, then stumbled on one that offers a contrast in perspective. Hang on, while I get them up.

cube setting

by Gustavo Fernandes

Say we live in a time where you can order your own pillar of setting. What would you choose to have depicted in your pillar?

Or, if you want to feel cosier about it, how about a jar you can place on a shelf.

scene in a jar

What is in your jar?

As always, you can approach this in any way your mind takes you. You can be literal, you can be figurative, you can link to something your brain tosses up. You can use both images, or one. You do not have to mention the images from which your poem arises, but you may. I look forward to seeing what happens.

I will see you Thursday for links and Tuesday for a prose based prompt. It’s NaNoWriMo time.

Happy writing, all.

 
44 Comments

Posted by on 27/10/2015 in exercises, poetry

 

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