Tag Archives: creative exercises

Reach Out and Touch Something: Tuesday Tryouts

7:19 a.m. –Atlanta

listening to Gumboots with Paul Simon

Hello, all. I hope everyone is well, as we head into the particularly crazy month. Whether you do Christmas, or not, it’s hard to not be affected by it in some way. My inclination this year is to head for the hills and find a nice cave [no, I have not started ordering… I guess I need to get on the stick].


rusted chair

Today is an image prompt. I am sending you to one of my Pinterest boards. One of the senses that is often overlooked in writing is the sense of touch. I know it’s an area I want to work on as I am a tactile person [hands in my pocket when we go into a museum is a must]. As I looked over the board yesterday, I realised that every image is mostly tactile — how I know is when my fingertips feel an object’s surface, as I look at it. The coloured pencils? I want to touch their pointy ends. The C-clamp? Cold, iron, slightly rusty.

rusty, peeling door

rusty, peeling door

The challenge is to let one of these images spark a poem. Let your fingertips talk to you. As you look over these two images, run mental fingertips over their surfaces.

Possible modus operandi is to, as you look over the board, select a few you like and jot notes on each. Does a specific memory surface? Does the image remind you of something? Does the tactile sensation itself remind you of something? You do not have to have the image anywhere in the poem. Once the poem takes off, you can forget the original image, or you can make the image a focus.

The real challenge: incorporate texture into your poem in the way of imagery and, also, in the way of word choice. Words have texture. Joseph’s exercise, this week, is about the effect of a word’s sound. That sound is what gives a word texture. Not sure about that? Let me list a few words and as you read each, what texture do you assign it because of how it sounds?

Kyrgyzstan [prickly, right?]

So, pick an image, or two, or as many as you wish, and see what happens. Let us know which image sparked the poem. It’s always fun to see. If you have your own tactile photograph which you want to use, go for it. I look forward to reading the results.

I shall see you Friday for the roundup; and next Tuesday for a prompt about your road less traveled.

Happy writing, everyone.



Posted by on 04/12/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


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The Event Poem: Tuesday Tryout

8:03a.m. — Atlanta

How appropriate. My cloud player is playing The Rascals singing It’s a Beautiful Morning. Hopefully it’s a beautiful some part of your day.

As I looked at the warm-up prompt a couple of days ago, I realised that maybe it’s more of a heat-up prompt. If you are expecting something gentle… ah well. Remember, as always, if you come up with a rough draft, or even a list, and you don’t want to publish it on your blog, because it’s too unfinished, then post it in comments, here. This is a working site and we are all constantly working on drafts. However, for you speedy ones, publish away on your blogs!

Today’s exercise has the virtue of being a form, without having been admitted to the increasingly lengthening list of forms. Further virtues: no rhyme scheme, no syllable count, no metre. Sound good? The form is taken from poet Ron Padgett [part of whose poem I use below, as an example] and is referred to as an Event Poem.

Your job is to make up new, creative, even fantastic, uses for something.

A) Look around you, or look around your mind, and choose something, to start. Maybe you chose a sunflower, a wine glass, a pillow… Whatever you choose, list four or five previously unthought of uses for it. Begin each use with an imperative — an active verb– as if you are listing directions for someone, as to its possible use.

by giniger

Pineapple (Ron Padgett)

1. Cut the leaves of a pineapple, use it as a soccer ball to kick into a goal.
2. Hollow out the pineapple, fill it with pebbles, shake it like a maraca and create reggae music.
3. Pluck out ten leaves, polish them, and wear them as fingernails to a Halloween party.
4. Cut out five of the little round lozenges on the pineapple skin and sew them on your jacket as buttons.
5. Peel the skins off 100 pineapples and glue them to the floor as tiles.

B) Add a couple of lines about how your chosen thing looks. Remember to begin each line with an imperative.

6. Look at the pineapple. It looks like the torch of the Statue of Liberty.
7. Stare at the pineapple. Do you see the face of the monster?

C) Bring in other sensory details. Add a line or two about how the thing feels, or smells, or sounds. Continue beginning each line with an imperative verb.

8. Touch the pineapple. It feels like a suede sneaker on the foot of a very large child.

D) Now you can play. You have your material. Add to it. Subtract from it. Yank lines. Rearrange them. Place them in any order you think sounds, or feels right. Leave the numbers, or not.

If any of you are panicking, as I panicked, because this is all about metaphor, I am here to tell you that you can do this [the wild and wacky version], but you don’t have to. Below is a draft of the first event poem I tried to write [over the summer]. You will notice that there is nothing wild and wacky. This led me to the conclusion that what we pick for this type of poem is important. My second event poem was more successful in the wild and wacky arena: I chose chinchillas. [I have submitted it, or that would be here as an example.]

Draft of an event poem ala Ron Padgett:

by MartinLaBar

Things To do With a Stone

Pick up a stone to use as a paperweight.
Dip the stone in water and watch the colours relume.
Look close at the stone and notice the veining that carries its story.
Hold the stone flat and tickle it across the water’s surface.
Stare at the stone until it speaks its beauty to you.
Polish the stone until it becomes a jewel.
Place the stone close to your nostrils; smell the sun’s warmth.
Rub the stone with your fingers; feel its blood pulse.

So go to it. I look forward to reading fresh and original uses for things, whether straightforward, or wild and crazy. Enjoy.

I shall see you Thursday for Your Serendipity; Friday, for the roundup; and next Tuesday for an image.

Happy writing, everyone.



Posted by on 21/08/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Protected: Poem in Response to The Sunday Whirl

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Posted by on 02/06/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Late Response to The Sunday Whirl

The week is practically over! My apologies to those who will be confused by this appearing first in their inboxes and not looking like Tuesday Tryouts. That’s further down in your inbox!

The wordle this week is from my own list. I didn’t know if that would be a problem for me. Nope. I rather enjoy the draft [which Ginsberg holds is a dangerous state]. Thank you for the wordle, Brenda!

The Wisdom of Age and Silence

Once, they had scraped the barnacles from her mouth,
burnished what stayed rooted to her tongue
rough, flinty — brittle as she aged,
like a chalk cliff crumbling.

When life became a blur
she kept her tongue in a cocoon, austere,
no longer drenched in fervent youth.

Be sure, if you haven’t visited The Whirl, that you visit, to try or, to read what others have done.


Posted by on 29/05/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Self Is: Tuesday Tryouts

8:11 a.m. — Atlanta

Hello! I just spent an hour writing a discourse on self and realised that there was no way I could then ask you to attempt a prompt. Too many things I am asking you to think about and consider. Also, that would make the post the longest I have ever written. Instead, I will give you an opening prompt focused on self and what you think it is, in the abstract, rather than personal. On Thursday, no announcements, but, instead, the discourse.

Good, I feel better. I was worrying about length and your poor brains. The following is a collection of statements about self. They range from the philosophical to the provocative. Choose one and jot notes on, or freewrite, your agreement, or disagreement, with the attitude taken. Or, link several.  Remembering that form = content, decide on the format that suits the point of view you are advocating and write a poem. You may refer to the statement[s], but, in most cases, it would intrude. You are using them as a springboard.

I know that I exist; the question is, what is this ‘I’ that I know? (Descartes, 1641) Or,
I think, therefore I am. (Descartes)

The soul, so far as we can conceive it, is nothing but a system or train of different perceptions. (Hume, 1739)

What was I before I came to self-consciousness?… I did not exist at all, for I was not an I. The I exists only insofar as it is conscious of itself… The self posits itself, and by virtue of this mere self-assertion it exists. (Fichte, 1794–5)

The ‘Self’’… , when carefully examined, is found to consist mainly of… peculiar motions in the head or between the head and throat. (James, 1890)

The ego continuously constitutes itself as existing. (Husserl, 1929)

Any fixed categorization of the Self is a big goof. (Ginsberg, 1963)

The self which is reflexively referred to is synthesized in that very act of reflexive self-reference. (Nozick, 1981)

The self… is a mythical entity… It is a philosophical muddle to allow the space which differentiates ‘my self’ from ‘myself’ to generate the illusion of a mysterious entity distinct from… the human being. (Kenny, 1988)

A self… is… an abstraction… , [a] center of narrative gravity. (Dennett, 1991)

My body is an object all right, but my self jolly well is not! (Farrell, 1996)

An actor’s instrument is the self. [[Joan Juliet Buck]

The easiest person to deceive is one’s own self. [Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton (1803–1873) The Disowned. Chap. xlii.]

“When Thales was asked what was difficult, he said, ‘To know one’s self.’ And what was easy, ‘To advise another.’” [Diogenes Laërtius (fl. early 3d cent.) Thales. ix.]

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou can not then be false to any man.
[William Shakespeare (1564–1616) Hamlet Act i. Sc. 3.]

To cure jealousy is to see it for what it is, a dissatisfaction with self, an impossible claim that one should be at once Rose Bowl princess, medieval scholar, Saint Joan, Milly Theale, Temple Drake, Eleanor of Aquitaine, one’s sister and a stranger in a pink hat seen once and admired on the corner of 55th and Madison—as well as oneself, mysteriously improved. [Joan Didion “Jealousy: Is It a Curable Illness?” Vogue Jun 61]

People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something that one finds. It is something that one creates. [Thomas Szasz The Second Sin Doubleday 73]

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one’s work seriously and taking one’s self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. [Margot Fonteyn Margot Fonteyn Knopf 76]

Wait for those unguarded moments. Relax the mood and, like the child dropping off to sleep, the subject often reveals his truest self. [‘Barbara Walters On interviewing,’ Christian Science Monitor 10 Dec 79]

[There is a need] to discover that we are capable of solitary joy and having experienced it, know that we have touched the core of self. [Barbara Lazear Ascher Playing after Dark Doubleday 86]

The tension between “yes” and “no,” between “I can” and “I cannot,” makes us feel that, in so many instances, human life is an interminable debate with one’s self. [Anatole Broyard NY Times 13 Jan 76]

It is true that the poet does not directly address his neighbors; but he does address a great congress of persons who dwell at the back of his mind, a congress of all those who have taught him and whom he has admired; they constitute his ideal audience and his better self. [Richard Wilbur, ‘Accepting National Book Award,’ NY Herald Tribune 24 Mar 57]

To “know thyself” must mean to know the malignancy of one’s own instincts and to know, as well, one’s power to deflect it. [Dr Karl A Menninger Vogue Jun 61]

Come back and post a link to your poem. I suspect these will be fun to read. Have fun with what you write and how you write it.

I shall see you Thursday for a discourse; Friday for the roundup of prompts; and next Tuesday is an image prompt.

Happy writing, everyone.


Posted by on 22/05/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Poem in Response to Wordle #49

Happy weekend!

I am a trifle early posting my response to Brenda’s wordle for the week, but it occurs to me occasionally, that it doesn’t matter when I post a poem response; it only matters that I link it when the host blog is up and running.

Process: Part of my process is always the way I copy the words down, that is, their order. I start herding and separating. Once my columns were in place, this time, I zeroed in on joy, jotted the word requires, and acid, jotted the word grief. Often, that is all that is required to be off to the races. This time, I played for a while with joy, wrote a series of questions for myself, looked up joy’s meaning and etymology, copied several quotes down… then, I was off to the races.


A chemist’s acumen gauges grief’s
acid juices, sprinkled with a measured
hand, for it can strip away all
knowledge of joy.

Joy is a supple, subtle craft, requiring
an alchemist’s tender touch, for its
warm oil can sweep away all
knowledge of grief.

We must be touched by acid
grief to know the balm of joy.

I will see you over at The Sunday Whirl [the wordle won’t be up for a few hours yet]. Reading poetry is a nice way to spend a Sunday.


Posted by on 24/03/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Poem in Response to Wordle #44

Hello all. I hope wonderful Sundays are being had. I almost didn’t have a response. I forgot to copy the words when I got them, which starts my process. I’m not thrilled… but I am here.

pulled for revision

See you on my rounds, or yours.


Posted by on 19/02/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Response to Wordle #39

We were given a lovely group of words from Thoreau’s Walden, by Barbara of Briarcat. Remember to head back to The Sunday Whirl to read what others came up with.

Seasons Reel:
Advance and Retire

Spring lies
dormant beneath
the surface.

With skinny twigs
thrust upward, trees
contemplate the crisp
winter day, reel
in the chilly breeze.

Geese stand, walk
along a broad spit
of land, contemplate
the chill, still
depths of the pond.

The spectacle of spring
approaches with
resolution, dances
a reel with vain winter
until it is left kneeling.

Skinny twigs thrust
sunward, dotted
with green buds.

Notes: I must write more on short trips. This one came while on the Metro from Buckhead to the airport, to pick up our daughter. I redrafted at home and had fun playing with repeating words, not necessarily in the same form, or with the same meaning.



Posted by on 15/01/2012 in poetry


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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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We Write Poems # 85: Response

Window Panes

Coyote says, Read the window,
reflections are false images,
windows don’t fuss about truth —
Pause, and think about that.

(her mass is small,
her soul is ill-fitting,
a tattoo trapped in skin,
drawn lines bent to fit)

The window slams shut,
faces at the window, enigmatic;
faces large and small
high in the air, an illusion

imprinted in the window,
a feeling of disparity. Ghosts
seen only in small snatches
their faces are indistinct.

Throw yourself, not knowing
who you’ll be on the other side.
Pause, and think about that.
Pause, and think about that.

Process notes: Almost immediately on reading the prompt, I knew this was how I wanted to revisit the image, through the words of the others who wrote poems last week. I wanted to write a cento, partly because I love writing centos and partly to say thank you, not only to those who posted last week, but to all the writers in the group where I have found a place.

After the first draft, I knew I needed something that allowed for the disparity among stanzas. Thus, the title. Each stanza is a pane in a larger window, or a pane taken from different windows, as in an apartment building. I felt with that as the title, the stanzas work together.

For their lines, my humble thanks:
Neil Reid of Bearly Audible
Don Harbour of Donald Harbour Poetry
Nicole of Raven’s Wing Poetry
Barb aka Briarcat [I tried to find the blog’s name]
Joseph Harker of Naming Constellations
Elizabeth Crawford of Soul’s Music
Wayne Pitchko of Poga Poetry
annell of annellannell
Nan at Jade Page Press
ViV at Vivinfrance’s Blog
Pamela at wordsandthoughtspjs
Sharon at The Poet Treehouse
miskmask at Alphabet Soup du Jour

My apologies for the lack of links. My bookmarks are back in Atlanta. I shall add them when I return home. Meanwhile, if anyone wants to read the results of today’s prompt, or last week’s which led to it, be sure to go to We Write Poems.


Posted by on 21/12/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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