Category Archives: Summer

Poem Tryouts: We Read Poems, Too

7:18 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to the sound of the computer fan [I, too, will be glad to get back to my music]

Hello, all. Halfway through the summer, I hope we are all surviving. I thought you might like something a little different, this week. I want you to consider some of your favourite poems by other people. They can be contemporary, or classic(al), the poets alive, or dead. Pick the one that you love enough to share with other people and post it for us to read.

For those who are saying, ‘But, I want to write something,’ you can write a mirror poem to the one you are sharing, or a response poem. Or, talk about what it is you love about the poem. My favourites move around, but there are a few that stay, such as Coleridge’s Kubla Khan, which I love purely for the sound. I always read it aloud. Then there is James Wright’s:

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s
Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
asleep on the black trunk,
blowing like a leaf in green shadows.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
the cowbells follow one another
into the distance of the afternoon.
To my right, In a field of sunlight between pines,
two droppings of last year’s horses
blaze up in golden stones.
I lean back, as evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for a home.
I have wasted my life.

The poem is about as summery as imagery gets [no, that is not a requirement]. I love the feel of the poem, as I read it. So, start thinking and let us have your favourites, to while away a pleasant afternoon.

I have hopes of getting to last week’s poems, but no guarantees that I can comment. I shall endeavour. Meanwhile, I shall see you next Tuesday when we will investigate forms. That’s right, I said forms. Now stop groaning. I’ll give you a couple of places to look. The Academy of American Poets gives a list with a brief definition. You can pick a couple and Google them; or, Robert Lee Brewer, of Writer’s Digest, has a list and if you click on the link, you will be taken to a ‘how to’ page. Oh, and you must pick a form you have not tried.

Happy reading and writing, everyone.


Posted by on 15/07/2014 in exercises, poetry, Summer


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Poem Tryouts: Sensory Words

6:50 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to the water running while Skip shaves

Hello all. We’re almost halfway through summer. Welcome to the new people whose names I have been seeing. Come the end of August, I’ll have a brief post with the hows and whys and wherefores of Wordgathering. Meanwhile, follow along; Join in even! Try a poem.

Before we get started, a note from Irene Toh of  Red Wolf Journal: Red Wolf has published two collections of poetry in a PDF format, Having Taken Vows, by Christopher Hileman, and Duet, by Christopher Hileman and Irene Toh. Head over for the links to download the collections.

Today’s prompt is short and sweet. Don’t look at the calendar. It will only confuse you. The topic has changed three times. The exercise is a pinch hitter, that came about at midnight, as I read a Nero Wolfe mystery, while trying to fall asleep.

You are looking for a word that affects your senses strongly, any time you read it, or hear it, so strongly that you feel it physically. My word is coffee. and it affects me more at night [when, of course, I don’t have a cup]. The feeling I get, on reading, or hearing [on television], the word is such that I have to restrain myself from getting up and making a cup. I can even smell it.

Once you have the word, you may write an ode to the topic; or, you can write about the whys of the feelings aroused on reading/hearing your word; or, you can play [I don’t know — that’s up to you]. Your objective is to have your readers feel some of what you feel. Use sensory details.

See you next Tuesday when we are back with the summer calendar and what I call ‘a day of rest’ [this does not mean nothing]. Check it out, as you might want to look around.

Happy writing, everyone.


Posted by on 08/07/2014 in exercises, poetry, Summer


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Poem Tryouts: Let’s Oulipo

10:07 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to the sound of my laptop overheating

Hello. I’m a little late, this time because I had to wait for enough functioning brain cells to gather in one mass. Today, I want us to oulipo [Didn’t know it was a verb, did you? During my month long romp with oulipian forms during National Poetry Month, several of us delighted in using the word oulipo in every way we could.].

‘Founded in 1960 by French mathematician Francois de Lionnais and writer Raymond Queneau, Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle (OULIPO), or Workshop of Potential Literature, investigates the possibilities of verse written under a system of structural constraints’.

Several of you have played with a couple of the more well-known forms, such as the Snowball and N+7. If you know and like an Oulipo form, feel free to go with that, but if you want to hurl yourself into the unknown, I’m giving you the link to April. That gets you to April 30 and you can scroll back through the month looking at each prompt. For once, you will even have an example poem.

Oulipo is a type of found poetry. My source, during April, was the newspaper. You may use any written material you wish. Some of the forms lend themselves better to specific types of writing. You will need to play. You may also need to adapt.

For those who don’t have time to scroll through thirty days [!], I am giving you links to my favourites and you can choose from among those — or do more than one. It’s addictive.

1] Lipogram: Not easy, but great fun. Ended up one of my favourites and one I remember.

2] Definitional: This was the first where I strayed from the prompt and redefined the form for myself.

3] Univocalism: Fun. I liked this constraint.

4] Never thought I’d be saying this — Sonnet: I went from despair to euphoria on this one. I chose the ultra-modern form, once I knew it existed and loved writing the poem. You can try this, or one of the classic sonnet forms.

5] And, the Irrational Sonnet: Much more sonnet like but with stanza breaks that I found work better for me, than the traditional. I thoroughly enjoyed working this.

6] Lescurean Permutations: This one tickled me, possibly because I had good source material.

When you visit April, you will find the prompts, a brief comment or two, and my poem in response. All words are from another source. People approach the source material differently. Some cherry pick words, but that doesn’t work for me. I collect phrases and sometimes split them, if they are long. Of course, remove words that don’t work; change tenses and point of view and gender, for consistency; and place line breaks where the poem needs them.  PLAY.

I shall see you next Tuesday, not for the postponed prompt on sleeping/dreaming poets [I like the collection I have sitting on my other computer, so that’s waiting until post-summer, now.] Tuesday will be an unknown. Well, yes, I know.

Happy writing, all.

P.S. Check Wikipedia for some history, if you wish.


Posted by on 01/07/2014 in exercises, poetry, Summer


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Poem Tryouts: Poets Dreaming

1:23 p.m. — San Antonio

listening to the rustle of paper, as Skip unpacks another box of stuff from mom’s that I can’t live without

Aieee! WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT’S TUESDAY? The uppercase is to replicate what I actually said and which I cannot say here, when I realised, in the middle of unpacking boxes, that today might be Tuesday. Hello, everyone.

As I was noodling around coming up with the summer prompts, I came across a number of images of poets sleeping or dreaming. Long pause. Margo can be heard using language she does not usually use. There is a faint echo in the blogosphere.

So. My dropbox has decided to stop syncing; thus the images are sitting on my other computer, the one in Atlanta. Needing a couple of weeks to regroup, I will throw a curveball and we will all shift gears to the prompt for week 6: What does summer mean to you?

List all the things that summer means to you or for you. Pick one to focus on or, if you spot a thread, more. Don’t forget sensory details so we also feel what you feel, understand what summer means to you.

You can also find an image that shows what summer means and write a poem that parallels or embodies the image.

My apologies if I am not terribly lucid. My mind is mush. I shall see you next Tuesday for some oulipo-ing.

Happy writing, everyone.

P.S. Barb C.? Are you there? I need that photo of Rehoboth. I need an escape!


Posted by on 24/06/2014 in exercises, poetry, Summer


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Poem Tryouts: A Single Image

7:00 a.m. — somewhere in the air between SF and SA

listening to the click of keys as my husband slays in WOW

Hello, all. I have been enjoying the poems that have been translated and wish I had the time to comment. Hopefully, once we are settled for our month in San Antonio, I can go back and reread and comment.

My mother is safely in SA in a guest apartment [with the same floor plan as the one she will have] waiting for her furniture, and us, to arrive. At this end, my two brothers and I were all together for the first time in twenty-five years. We have vowed to never let THAT happen again. The flat is packed out and there is just enough left that Skip and I are camping out. It’s rather fun until we go into the kitchen to microwave something and the microwave is no longer there.

This week is a lovely, easy prompt. Truly. Find a single image and stare at it. What is it you want to convey to your audience about the image? Convey it in a Japanese short form poem, such as a tanaga, renga, tanka, haiku or… there are others out there. Remember that it is not about the syllables.

These are small bites. Feel free to write on several images, each with its own conveyance.

I shall see you next Tuesday, for the next summer prompt.

Happy writing, all.


Posted by on 17/06/2014 in exercises, poetry, Summer


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Poem Tryouts: Translate It


listening to a bird on a branch of the live oak outside mom’s porch — neither of us sound awake

Hello everyone. This will be the first week of summer for most of you with kids. For most of the rest of us, it’s a hot day. Like last week’s prompt — which brought forth a slew of poems, so go read if you haven’t — this is a simple prompt: find a poem in a language other than English and translate it into English.[ I didn’t say the exercise is simple, just the prompt.]

This can be a hair-pulling exercise but it is also fun, a lot like a treasure hunt, and it is valuable in what it teaches us about the importance of word choice. In translating someone’s poem, we take on the role of being that poet’s voice, that poet’s speaker’s voice.

First, find a poem. You can choose one in a language you feel some knowledge of, or one in a language totally foreign to you [Korean poems work a treat]. Working line by line is probably the most workable way, to start. Babelfish, Google Translate, and Reverso are just three places that you can use to help.

Make a rough and ready translation. If you know what the intent of the poem is start revising, which can mean changing the line breaks, choosing different words, or phrasing, even altering the punctuation, so that the English translation is the other poem. If you aren’t sure, leave it and come back to it; in essence, the poem is yours [in trust] and you need to see it that way once you are revising.

A fun possibility is for two of you to get in touch and choose the same poem, then completely independent of each other, do the exercise and post.

Be sure to credit the original. Have fun with this. If it seems overwhelming, choose something very short. Play

I shall see you next Tuesday. This week you really may not hear from me. The move is on.

Happy writing, all.


Posted by on 10/06/2014 in exercises, poetry, Summer


Poem Tryouts: Finish It

7:00 a.m. — Walnut Creek

listening to the dryer

Hello, everyone. I have arrived at my mother’s in California. We spent much of today going through drawers and closets sorting, in one room. She has collected a lot of stuff, a lot of tiny stuff. We’ll move to another room tomorrow. I have two thoughts already: Don’t get old and throw everything out. Now.

Our first summer prompt is an easy one but should be fun. Finish an unfinished poem.

That’s it. Bye. No? You want at least a semblance of chat, as long as I am here? Okay. Think about your notebooks/ computer files and go back to the oldest ones. Glance through your poem drafts and note the ones you never got back to, although you meant to. Or, the ones that just were not working but you really would have liked them to. The ones where you only managed a couple of lines and the brain said ‘Enh’. Or, go back to a poem you began this year and were interrupted/distracted from finishing and you forgot about it. Now’s your chance.

Finish an unfinished poem. You will feel great satisfaction. Then post it and bring us the link so we can see what you had left undone and have now completed.

I shall see you again next Tuesday, same time, same place.

Happy writing, everyone.


Posted by on 03/06/2014 in exercises, poetry, Summer


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