I wanted to share a poetry exercise I like to do with students who are intimidated by the idea of writing poetry, in case it might be useful to you, reader dear. Because it consists of writing fragments and then tumbling them together, and because it's like looking at your life through a bunch of tiny mirrors, I call is the Kaleidoscope. The instructions are as follows:
1. Get your notebook, or open a new document. (You'd think this would be evident, but I've seen people try to do this in their head.)
2. Write down the top five things on your mind in no more than a few phrases
The thing with Melanie
Money money money
Writing writing writing
Gut hanging over waist of pants
2. Write down five lines of dialogue you've either heard or said this week
"These tickets are no good for tonight, you were supposed to be here last night."
"Janice, can you take care of that?"
"Based on what happened yesterday I think we need to talk."
"I think the material is mostly there."
3. Write down five things you have in your bag, using two words per item.
4. Write down five "freeze frame" moments, little moments from the movie of your life, from the past month.
Hugging a woman I didn't want to hug
Biting my lower lip while watching reality TV
Nearly crying with hunger and frustration outside the store
Standing in tree pose while my oatmeal cools
Glaring at the empty page, which glares back at me
5. Write down five quotes, phrases, lines from songs, whatever jumps into your head as describing your life right now.
Fake it 'til you make it
"La vie en rose"
"Shut up, just shut up, shut up"
"I work this relationship 9 to 5, and I deserve overtime"
"I can't help it, that's the way that I am."
You now have eight minutes to reorganize these lists into stanzas. You can use a formula -- one from list A, one from list B, then from C, D, and E, then repeat -- or you can shuffle them according to any scheme you want. You can leave items out or rephrase them, or you can copy them exactly. If one of the above phrases seems like a good title or starting point, start there. As long as you write a poem, you can write anything you want -- obviously -- you don't need my permission to write a poem, and in case you do need it, you most certainly have it.
These tickets are no good for tonight, you were
supposed to be here last night. Pardonnez moi?
Nearly crying with hunger and frustration,
Faking it until I fake it some more; shut up
Just shut up, shut up. Based on what happened
Yesterday, I think we need to talk –
The thing with Melanie
Money, money, money
Broken lipstick, extra tissues
Janice, can you take care of that?
I work this relationship 9 to 5
Glaring at the empty page
Writing, writing, writing
Biting my own sugar-free lips
Great Expectations, various change
Hugging a woman I don’t want hugging me
Gut hanging over the waist of my pants
Standing in tree pose, la vie en rose…
I can’t help it!
That’s the way that I am.
So there it is! I didn't say it would be a great poem, I just said it would be a poem. For a great poem, you need at least fifteen more minutes.