Tag Archives: imagery

Surrealist Imagery Poem: Tuesday Tryouts

7:33 a.m. — Atlanta

Here we are in our brand new year and the jet lag [west to east is murder] had me still up at midnight, watching CSI: N.Y. and David Tutera and his wedding show…it was late. There wasn’t much on. As I sat thinking pleasurably about writing the first TT of the year and trying to feel sleepy, the thought slipped through my mind that there are fifty-one more weeks. That would be fifty-one more prompts. Good grief! I banished the thought hastily while planning to find more images, quickly.

I hope you all are well. I had planned to take it easy on you, until I saw the flurry of poems, comments and general all-round ready to go-ness in the past couple of days. So, no mercy. Alright, maybe a little. Let’s play.

In comments on one of her poems, Irene, of Lost in Translation, and I thought doing something with surrealism might be fun. Back in the twilight days of Wordgathering, when I had only a couple of followers, and noone posting poems yet, I offered an exercise based on the Surrealists, as a type of list poem. I am updating the post for today’s prompt. I would love to see what you do with this.

I want you to focus on the Surrealists’ use of imagery, which bordered on the absurd, but to them was a truth.

Some of the images below are James Penha’s* and some mine. Read through this list of  images of the kind the Surrealists enjoy:

a sink full of Brussels sprouts
a dripping faucet
a young girl sings a song in the attic
the sound of someone swallowing
a wall made out of fur
the smell of wet dog hair
a bell ringing once every ________
a knife covered with sugar
cobwebs breaking across a face
a scorpion inside a head of lettuce
a doctor with a head that looks like a cabbage
a voice shouting, “One more time for our dead friends!”
a voice whispering
the sound of cotton wool being pulled apart
a boy watching static on television
a mother and child sharing a cigar
a hairless dog
a ball rolling down a hallway
a girl who has no tongue trying to speak
an upside-down tree
a black lake

In the next 12 minutes, make up as many of your own surrealistic images as you can, to add to this list. If you have difficulty, look at some surrealist paintings which to you may look wacky, but to the artists represented a truth about what they depicted. Look closely. Look again. Jot down what you see.

Why practice surreal imagery? Because it is fun. More importantly, if you, like I, have difficulty letting go of convention and the real, this is good practice.

You can go one of a couple of ways. Select a series of images from the now expanded list that seem to you to work together in a surrealistic way and create a poem. Or, choose one image to place within a poem, or to spark a poem.

Here’s my stab at a series of images:

A Walk Through the Park

Mickey Mouse in the nude
walks a balloon dog
along a red river
uphill to a black lake
and an upside down tree
where an egg hatches
a mushroom and cheese omelette
with hash browns on the side
of a pink tiled wall
behind which a young girl sings
“We’re off to see the Wizard”.

Can I do something with the poem? No, but the exercise forces me to be unconventional with imagery and I need that, so take up your pens, pencils, and keyboards and let’s see what Surrealism does for you.

I shall see you Thursday for Thoughts, and Friday for the roundup of this week’s prompts.

Happy writing everyone.

*The exercise is one  originally given by my friend and former colleague, Jack Penha [writing name James Penha, poet, and publisher of The New Verse News]


Posted by on 03/01/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Tympani, Tambourines, and Toots: Tuesday Tryouts

8:53 a.m. — Atlanta

Whew! That was close. I had started in on genealogy and once that happens I don’t lift my head for several hours. Hello all! In a continuation of stress-free prompts, let’s try a musical prompt.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to be musical, and, if you like this exercise, you can use it anytime you are feeling sluggish with your writing. This accesses a different part of our brains, or our brains think it does, and happily respond. I first tried this a year ago, when going through the different senses, on Tuesday Tryouts.

The only rule: no words [in the music]. You don’t want someone else’s words suggesting a story to you. I recommend pieces roughly four minutes long;  if you have a longer piece, set a timer, or if you have been grabbed by inspiration, write on. This is a slightly different take on a freewrite. Like freewriting, you are not worrying about form, or grammar, or sense. You may find a story as you write. I often write scenes my mind sees when listening to a piece, but if what you get is a collection of lines, or images, that’s wonderful. More resources for your pool.

Ideally, don’t mention the music. That’s your spark. But, if you read ViV’s and go to Yousei’s link and read hers you will see a second option.

Below, I have included links to a couple of pieces, to get you started. Get your pen and paper ready. Start the music and start writing. Do not stop. What do you hear, see, smell, taste, feel in the music? If you need to keep writing after the music stops, do so. In your music choices, try for different tempos and types.

And, no looking at the accompanying videos. You don’t want someone else’s images, before you have a chance to form your own. Click on link, write.

Vienna Horns

Fur Elise — Beethoven

Vivaldi Four Seasons — Winter

Brandenburg Concertos — Bach 

Remember to post a link to your poem, or to leave the poem itself in comments, if you have no place to publish the poem. Revisit and read other poems. The greatest fun I have is reading the diversity of responses to the same prompt.

I shall see you Friday for the prompt roundup, and Tuesday for another visual prompt. Yep! I am keeping things easy-going for now.

Happy writing, all.


Posted by on 15/11/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Poem in Response to We Write Poems

We Write Poems, and Yousei Hime, asked us to write a poem about scent, or that uses scent. Choose an abstraction and write a poem (of whatever form pleases you), Yousei says, that builds scent into your chosen concept.


laid out on a plate lemon slices of self
emotions stripped leaving a still life of lemons
a bite from a lemon meringue pie
a lemon sour acid bath



Notes: This is one of those times that many of you have experienced, when the poem came unbidden [and pretty quickly on the heels of reading the prompt].

I was tossing concepts around in my head and loss stuck. Once it stuck, lemons came immediately, as did the lines of the poem. My contribution was the order of the lines. Not using punctuation wasn’t even my choice. You all know I am the punctuation queen, so you know that decision wasn’t mine. But the part of the brain from which many poems appear, said, No punctuation…and maybe, no title.

The interesting thing about lemons is that I wrote with the scent in mind and realised only later that so much of the imagery will evoke the taste of lemons. I like that, having the scent be subtle and this taste being more on the surface.

I will see you over at We Write Poems, reading others poems.


Posted by on 28/09/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Tuesday Tryouts: A Poem on Then and Now

7:52 a.m. — Atlanta

Hello! I hope all is well with you. One half of us is looking forward to an approaching Autumn, and the other half to an approaching Spring. What lovely times of year for a writer to look forward to. But, then, so is winter. Summer = vacation.

Yes, I was going to introduce you to a form, but on researching, I discovered there is a fair amount that goes into explaining how this form works. It’s not that the form is so difficult, but rather, that explaining it is. Give me another week to absorb what I am reading.

This week, instead, focuses on place. Place is a topic no poet can ignore, and I will write more about it in one of the Thursday Thoughts. We have had several prompts, in the past few months, on place and on memory. I’m going to ask you to combine the two.

A couple of weeks ago, I spent ten days in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. It is one of my favourite places in the world, because I spent concentrated amounts of time there, growing up. Every third year of my twenty years growing up, in Hong Kong, we went on a six month vacation. One of the places we always went, and where we spent a month each time, was Rehoboth Beach.

Because the visit was long and repeated, my memories are indelible: the boardwalk, salt water taffy, sand dunes, shelling, Coin Beach, the WWII watch towers, Funland, the shell shop, Pop [who came around selling fresh vegetables], our housekeeper Mary [who brought scrapple for us children], Rehoboth Avenue [the Main Street], and the porch at 6 Park, where everyone gathered during the day and evening.

I see each of these things, not just as an image, but as a running scene, a movie short, complete with sensory details. This trip, as I walked down Rehoboth Avenue, and along the Boardwalk, while I saw much that has changed, I saw many things still in place from fifty years ago. As I saw my childhood coming back to me in short scenes, I thought: there is a poem here.

I want you to list specific [you want micro like a pond, or a beach, or an ice cream shop, not macro, like a town] places you were in, or visited, in your childhood, that have left strong memories. These places need to be ones you have visited recently and can draw a strong picture of in your mind, then and now. You can use photographs to help, after you have tried your mind on its own. Choose one of the places to work with.

Reach for the childhood memory first, so the newer one does not blanket details. Let the place you have chosen inhabit your mind. Remember what it looked like, what it smelled like, the sounds you heard, things you touched, tastes maybe. Jot all the sensory details you can remember down [if you aren’t sure about one, write it down anyway].

Now freewrite what you remember happening there when you visited. Write about how you felt when these things happened. And, while nostalgia often implies happy, your memories might be of something traumatic, or fearful, or you might have had an epiphany. These memories do not have to be in any kind of order. You might choose details from three different visits, when you come to write a poem.

When you have mined your memory for everything it has of the old days, bring yourself back to the present. Take a break to clear your mind.

Follow the same procedure, for what your place is like now, jotting down sensory details, what happened when you visited, how you felt.

Once you have everything jotted down, write a poem about the place in the past, or write a poem about the place now, or write a poem which includes both. Make sure to include some of the sensory details you have listed.

We have been given several forms in the past weeks. Before writing your poem, check to see if conveying the experience is suited to a form, or to free verse.

I shall see you Friday for the roundup of prompts; and next Tuesday for the form, which I will have conquered.  Thursday Thoughts is now an as needed post. If I think of something I want to write about, or you send me a topic you wish me to write about, we will have a Thursday Thoughts.

Happy writing!


Posted by on 27/09/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Tuesday Tryouts: Picture to Poem

10:12 a.m. — Atlanta

Hello everyone. My, I have missed you. If you have hung in there, waiting for my reappearance, thank you.

A wonky computer + a malaise + traveling + a time lag = a longer than intended absence. So, let’s get right to an exercise. I will keep it simple, as I am easing my way back into computering.

This comes from something my daughter said when she talked with me last night. She was trying to get me out of the house and suggested a walk with a purpose. I know that over at We Write Poems, we are being asked to walk this week. My walk has a sightly different twist but, if you have not walked yet, the two can be combined, walkwise, if not poemwise.

I am setting us a time limit of forty minutes, give or take five. You might consider your route before you leave the house, or let your feet take you where they will. Carry with you a camera in whatever form you have one, or a paper and pencil on which you can sketch [no one will see it — don’t worry about whether or not you can draw. The sketch only needs to make sense to you.].

Here’s the tricky part: you may take only one photograph/ sketch one thing. Once that photograph, or sketch, is done, finish the walk, but no more pictures, or sketches. It will be surprisingly difficult, as you will immediately spot six things you want to record. No!

Like the walk, you can make the picture-taking serendipitous, or set out with a plan, such as, you are going to photograph something pink, or a sign, or an animal, or a flower. You may wish to jot down notes on sensory imagery, other than visual, you might not remember. But remember: once the picture is recorded, that’s it. No cheating! One thing you can do is to mark what you want to record and take the picture on you way home. This may save you seeing something else you want.

When you return home, upload the picture, or tidy up the sketch and decide what it is about what you have chosen you want to write about. It can be the whole picture, or you may notice one aspect you want to write about.

I have missed your poems almost as much as I have missed you, so do post what you write and leave a link, or post in comments. Remember, that you can post at any time. There is no late.

I am still easing, so I will give Thursday a miss, but do send me a topic if you have something you want me to discuss. That option is always open, especially as I’m not sure which direction to go in next with my Thursday Thoughts. I will see you Friday for a roundup of this week’s prompts; and Tuesday might be the next form — no panic. It’s a piece of cake.

I am so glad to be back among you. Happy writing.


Posted by on 16/08/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Prompt and Response to We Write Poems

pulled for revision


Posted by on 18/05/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Tuesday Tryouts: Ballads [Where the Money Is]

8:39 am — Atlanta

Hello everyone. I hope all is well after the weekend. My title is a little tongue-in-cheek but, when I told one of my colleagues, last year, that I was retiring to write poetry, he replied with great seriousness: “Write lyrics. That’s where the money is”. And, if you have a musical ear, the ballad is as close as you can get to lyrics.

Many of our favourite songs are ballads, especially in the folk and country genres. England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia and the United States, all have long histories of ballad writing both as poetry (Robert Burns and Walter de la Mare) and song (Gordon Lightfoot, Springsteen, The Beatles, today’s power rock ballads). If you watch American Idol, or any of the other competitions, you know many ballads are sung.

Ballads have a specified form, but from what I have seen with all the ballads I have read, it is a rare poet who follows the form strictly, so it is forgiving in nature. After all Rule Number One is break the rules.

Ballads started as narrative songs with a recurrent refrain. In literature they became narrative poems, often sentimental, tragic, comic, or historical, written in short stanzas, and full of sensory imagery. Think The Ballad of Casey Jones, or John and Yoko, or Davy Crockett.

The word comes from the Old French balade, a song accompanying a dance, from Late Latin ballāre, to dance.

A ballad is a composition written in metrical feet forming rhythmical lines. They are written in ballad stanzas or quatrains (four-line stanzas) of alternating lines of iambic (an unstressed followed by a stressed syllable) tetrameter (eight syllables) and iambic trimeter (six syllables), known as ballad meter. Usually, only the second and fourth line of a quatrain are rhymed (in the scheme a, b, c, b).

That looks and sounds scarier than it is. The brackets make it seem complicated. What you want is a topic. Choose a folk hero, or sentimental topic, say the loss of something. You can look to history for subject matter. Then write a four line stanza. Lines 1 and three have eight syllables and lines 2 and 4 have six. The iambic means every second syllable is stressed, as in the word “announce,” or the line “I eat my peas and honey with a knife”. If you go through, you will note every second syllable is stressed. Iambic is our natural speech pattern, in English.

The good news is that you can have different line lengths, different rhyme schemes, no rhyme scheme, a different stress pattern, so long as there is a discernible rhythm to the stanzas when read.

Here is an excerpt from “Barbara Allen,” a traditional ballad:

In Scarlet Town, where I was born,
There was a fair maid dwellin’
Made every youth cry well-a-day
Her name was Barbara Allen.

All in the merry month of May
When green buds they were swellin’,
Young Jeremy Grove on his deathbed lay
For love of Barbara Allen.

And, an excerpt from one of the most famous of the literary ballads “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” by Oscar Wilde:

He did not wear his scarlet coat,
For blood and wine are red,
And blood and wine were on his hands
When they found him with the dead,
The poor dead woman whom he loved,
And murdered in her bed.

He walked amongst the Trial Men
In a suit of shabby grey;
A cricket cap was on his head,
And his step seemed light and gay;
But I never saw a man who looked
So wistfully at the day.

Note that Wilde decided he wanted six lines rather than quatrains, but if you read it you will feel its rhythm. Once you have the rhythm in your bones, and I suggest looking up ballad texts if the idea of writing one intrigues you, you will find it surprisingly easy to reproduce. Try at least for a quatrain or two on more than one topic, because, if you decide ballads are not for you, the quatrains can serve as a resource for when we tackle pantoums. But you might surprise yourself: ballads can be addictive because of their rhythmic quality.

Have fun with this and post your results on your blog, or here in the comments, even if it’s a lone quatrain, but you know you nailed the rhythm.

Thursday, I promised you a break from no no words, so will be sharing with you some sites worth taking a look at; Friday will be our usual roundup, back to its normal listing, now that April is done; and next Tuesday, perhaps another form, perhaps a small break and a general exercise. We shall see, dear readers.

Meanwhile, share this with anyone you feel would enjoy it, by clicking on the buttons below. Happy writing, everyone.


Posted by on 03/05/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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