A few weeks ago, a local club invited me to speak on blogging, writing, and my own poetry journey. This was not a writer’s group, per se. And while they were avid readers and could easily be called lifelong learners (the whole point of having guest speakers, I understand, is not just to share in ample servings of the world’s most amazing pumpkin spice cheesecake, but to help the group explore something new), most of group would not consider themselves “writers.”
Yet, they asked me to guide them in a writing exercise of sorts.
While I pondered possibilities of dessert that might be on the menu that evening, I scratched my head over what sort of writing exercise that might be. As luck and good recipes would have it, I had recently downloaded a new e-book of poetry prompts (one of the many advantages of associating with a website and community committed to the best in poetry and poetic things). I asked the author if there might be a prompt in the book that would particularly suitable for a group of nonwriters, and while she said nothing about cheesecake, she did point me in the direction of a simple, nonthreatening writing prompt.
In fact, it doesn’t really even require writing (unless you count copying words from a book to a page).
In Chapter 2 of Inspired: 8 Ways to Write Poems You Can Love, you’ll find this simple prompt:
What is poetry? Some people think that making poems is as simple as breaking prose into lines. You can try this right now. Open any book and copy a few sentences, breaking them into lines as you copy. Does the prose seem any more “poetic”? It might. After all, you’ve added the “music” of multiple pauses.
To see how this might work, an hour before the meeting I pulled Adam Gopnik’s The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food off my stack, and thanks to Gopnik’s lyric prose, quickly found sentences that worked perfectly for the exercise.
of the cooking vessel–
the Dutch oven
the Tibetan kiln
the Inuit ice oven
seems to be over.
We have tried too many
other modish pots
and know that like Elvis’s
and Michael Jackson’s chimps,
after their hour is done
they will live out
their years forgotten
they’ll end up
on the floor of the closet
alongside the fondue forks
and the spice grinder
and the George Foreman grill.
I brought along a stash of books and passed them around the group, encouraging them all to give it a try. And try they did, mostly. A couple found themselves engrossed in the book in their hands instead of breaking a sentence into lines (lifelong learners, remember?), but soon enough we were sharing this prose-turned-poetry with one another until the lyrical call of pumpkin spice from the kitchen became too much.
Are you looking for a way to put a little pumpkin spice into your poetic efforts? Inspired by L.L. Barkat offers a great collection of prompts as simple as the above all the way to helping you write form poetry. There are eight sections, including Catalog poems, What is Poetry, Why Poetry, Sonnets, Resolutions, Sestinas, Villanelles, and By Heart. (Yes, this delightful book can help you write a sestina.) No matter what you choose–the catalog or the cheesecake–you’ll be writing poems you can love, and having fun along the way.
The ebook is available on Kindle for just $2.99.
Photo by Moyan Brenn, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Post by LW Lindquist.
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Megan Willome says
So, was it a cookbook? I’ve owned a few that would lend themselves well to this exercise.
And this morning, I was listening to “Cooking with Paula McIntyre” from BBC Radio Ulster, and she was cracking me up with her love of turnips. It got downright evangelical.
Will Willingham says
Not a cookbook, no. But it’s about food and the table and … I’m not sure what all because it’s still on my to-be-read stack. I can let you know when I get to it. 😉
A cookbook would break out nicely this way. And would perhaps be a good use of the gazillions I have that don’t seem to inspire me to actually cook…
Elizabeth Wynne Marshall says
So I am off to order this on my Kindle…NOW. But would much prefer to have a copy I can hold in my hands. Tactile senses add to the experience. The cold metal Kindle is still trying to win over my heart. I am so excited to get into this book and tackle some poem to the mat… or have them wrestle me down. Never know which it is.