What are the most significant moments, people, and places in your life so far? What happened to you so far in your life that has left a distinct mark, or created a major memory or continued to you affect you in small or large ways?
1. Look through the questions and statements below. Answer as many as you can with short answers -- just enough so that it makes sense when you come back to in a few minutes.
Take about 10 minutes to do this.
2. Now choose 3-5 of the answers you wrote in the first part -- the ones that sparked a lot of significance or emotional resonance with you.
Take about 20 minutes to freewrite about the items you chose.
Write down as many details as you can think of / remember. Try to add as many concrete details that use your five senses as possible. You don’t have to share these freewrites, but try to include details that fill in gaps for anyone reading it that wasn’t there or doesn’t know what is in your head.
These freewrites don't have to turn into a poem, but the details might provide some rich details that will inform your poetry.
You are going to create some strange metaphors. and similes.
Brainstorm a list of abstract concepts (e.g. justice, racism, wisdom, compassion) or emotions (e.g. love, hate, jealousy, despair, grief, happiness).
Brainstorm a second list of concrete nouns or proper nouns (garage, dog, moonlight, engine, etc.)
Take a word from each list and put together with one of these two phrases:
Metaphors: [abstract concept} is a [concrete noun}
Similes: [abstract concept] is like a [concrete noun]
Take some risks and make the comparison as unexpected as possible.
Example: justice and rusted out old car
Add an additional line to your phrase that elaborates or explains the metaphor or simile.
Love is like a hurricane. It hits you unexpectedly. You are lulled by the calm at the center of it. Then you are devastated when it leaves.
Loneliness is a a rickety old green chair in a a corner of a dark room. Everyone knows it is there collecting dust. No one thinks of taking it out in the sunlight to fix it up, give it new life.
If you want to create a poem out of one of your metaphors or similes, try using a list poem format or try using an extended metaphor where you expand on your initial idea into a full story.
Here are two example poems:
Heart by Dorianne Laux,
Broken Promises by David Kirby
Write a poem where the each line starts with a new letter of the alphabet, from A-Z or whatever number of letters you want to include.
Examples: A Poem for S. by Jessica Greenbaum & Alphabet Street by Randall Mann & Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian Rezervation by Natalie Diaz
Write a poem where the letter on the left side spell out a word, or phrase.
Examples: A Boat, Beneath a Sunny Sky by Lewis Carroll & An Acrostic by Edgar Allan Poe
Start with a story
24 word Poem
Write a poem that tells a story in exactly 24 words. Then rewrite it using just 12 of the words. Then just 6. Try to keep the essential meaning of the poem, but see how it changes with fewer words, and possibly, slightly different shades of meaning.
Cross Out Poem
Think of a story about something that has happened in your life. Freewrite for about 10 minutes where you put as many details as you can remember.
When you are done, cross out as many unnecessary words as you can. You should end up with just the essential strong words and details. Shape it into a poem.
American Sentences are a poetry form created by the poet Allen Ginsberg. It is kind of like the American version of Haiku poems.
The challenge is to write an observation or story or scene in one sentence that is exactly 17 syllables.
Here are some examples by Ginsberg:
This is an idea from a book called The Open Door. The exercise is written by a poet named Michael McGriff.
This is a timed exercise, so open the clock app on your phone or your web browser and set it up for the times listed below. It is important to stick to the time limits, so you don’t overthink it.
List 1: Important Objects
Make a list of at least fifty objects that are important to you.
These don’t have to sound special or “poetic.” They just have to be important to you.
Be as specific as possible with your list. There are no right or wrong objects to include.
If you have more than fifty, then even better.
List 2: Memories
Make a second list for the memories associated with the objects.
List the first twenty memories that you associate with the objects on your list.
List 3: Details
Select two or memories from second list.
For each memory, make a list of as many sensory details as you can think of.
Remember, a sensory detail is a detail that pertains to how something looks, feels, tastes, sounds, or smells.
This exercise may lead to new poems. Or it may not.
The important thing is that you are processing some material that will be more available when you are writing.
Feel free to repeat this exercise or expand on the items in your first two lists you didn't write about this time.