Tag Archives: freewrite

Tuesday Tryouts: Poetic Counterpoints

9:59 a.m. — Atlanta

And it is now 10:51 and me without my second cup of coffee. Hello all. I had a draft of today’s blog written yesterday when my computer crashed. Did I have my notes saved? Let’s not go there. I thought I could do a fairly quick rewrite. Hah! An hour has gone by and, as all I have managed is to pull things onto the page but not yet coherent, I have made an executive decision: the form gets pushed off for another week. Oh, stop cheering. You know I’m going to get there.

So, for today. It is getting late [coffeeee….] and I will need a minute to duck into my files…okay, we have a winner: Counterpoint as a poetic exercise, an adaptation. I wrote a form of this when I was learning to write poetry in James Penha’s class. Adding to the fun of this exercise was that we crafted a visual way of presenting the poem. I shall leave that part out.

You are looking for contrasting but parallel elements, items, or themes.

List opposing pairs, such as:

sun / moon
cats / dogs
hopes / fears
sea / sky
sunny day / stormy day

You can pick small personal pairs: cooking supper / getting takeout; or, you can pick something on a world scale: freedom / oppression, which you can make personal, or keep it on a grander scale; you can choose two places.

When you have about ten pairs [remember: we are always building resource pools], choose the one that you want to play with. Start by freewriting for 5 to 10 minutes on each side of the counterpoint.

Go back over the freewrites, looking for the elements of a poem. Jot notes, add to, or cut, as needed. Try and expand the writing on each to roughly 100 words. That’s the reach. It will allow you more choices in how you present your counterpoint.

Look for a structure that allows you to present the polar aspects in a poem. The 100 words gives you enough to write full-fledged poetic monologues on each part of a pair [like a duel between two speakers, or one speaker torn in two]. As always, adapt the exercise to what you want to do. It might be just as fun to write a haiku on each side, or a limerick.

Do ask questions, if I have not been clear on a point [remember? no second cup of coffee, yet]. I shall see you Friday for the week’s roundup of prompts; and next Tuesday, fingers crossed, for the form.

Happy writing!


Posted by on 04/10/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Thursday Thoughts: Freeverse + Freewriting

9:57 a.m. — Walnut Creek

Hello, gang. We have a reader suggestion today, from Viv: a discussion of freewriting, to which I added free verse, as there are people who confuse the two.

First, let’s deal with free verse. It’s not free. What the people who coined the term meant was free of metre and end rhyme. Everything else that goes into writing a strong poem still comes into play and, because we have taken metre and end rhymes out, we have to be more conscious of where we break the lines and of internal rhyme. And, the poem still needs a rhythm that works. Hmmm. I’m beginning to think we should rename it. If you missed the post on free verse over at One Stop Poetry it’s well-worth visiting and reading. An excellent essay on free verse.

Freewriting is free of all constraints. It is a strategy that works for many people [not me…sigh] either as a kickstart or a restart. When I began my blog last year, I wrote about it. Here, updated, is what I said:

Almost any writer on writing will tell you: write write write do not stop write do not edit write do not stop write write write. The problem most of us have is that we have a self-censor sitting on one of our shoulders. This censor says That sounds silly. That’s not grammatical. What kind of syntax is that? Did you put a comma in there? Did you spell that long word correctly? What kind of image is that? It doesn’t make sense. Enough of that and you will talk yourself into not writing.

If your mind goes blank because you are trying so hard not to self-censor, or your mind just goes blank, don’t stop. Keep writing the last word you wrote over and over again. Your brain won’t like that and will kick back in. The surrealist writers believed that they had to reach a state beyond reality in order to find and write that which is true. What we call freewriting developed from them.

Ideally you want to write several pages without stopping. If you can do that you will find when you go back through that your mind and hand have taken you down many paths. You can choose one of the paths to follow knowingly, or choose words and phrases that speak to you and pull them out as a seed to a possible poem.

Rather than setting a time, I have found it easier to set yourself a number of pages. If you have never done this before, start with two pages and write. If it will help, pick a topic, but then don’t worry or panic if you notice that instead of writing about whales, you are writing about hot air balloons. Your brain made some kind of connection. Go with it. It may take you wondrous places.

Things not to worry about: grammar, spelling, sense, punctuation. That can all come later. Use what you are most comfortable with: computer, pen, pencil. Above all: if handwriting, do not stop the movement of your hand. Studies have found a direct correlation with the movement of the hand and creativity. Computer people, don’t panic. While the creative process works differently, these studies do not mean you have to change your modus operandi. When freewriting if you hit a stop point hit any key and keep it up until your brain starts again.

The object of freewriting is not to come up with a poem but to loosen the creative juices; if you get a poem from the process = bonus.

Remember: You need to write before you can write well. You need to have written something before you can worry about revision. You have to write before you can craft.

Let’s start with that and if you want me to address a specific aspect, ask. I can already see a couple of areas we can delve into further, but this post is long enough.

I will see you tomorrow for the week’s roundup of prompts; Tuesday for the next form; and next Thursday is open so far. If anyone has a suggestion, an idea they want me to discourse on, please let me know. Writing on reader generated topics has quickly become something I look forward to working on. Thank you, Viv, for this one.

Happy writing all.


Posted by on 14/07/2011 in poetry, writing


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Tuesday Tryouts: Something Old, Something New

9:50 a.m. — Walnut Creek

Hello, dear readers. I am a trifle late, but was hoping the fuzziness enveloping my brain would disappear. Woke up with a migraine and am now feeling quite lightheaded. As a result you get another week’s grace before I toss you in the deepend with the next form, because I need a fully working brain to explain it.

Short and sweet:

Jot down four lists: Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Try for at least six items per category. Remember that you can be metaphorical as well as literal. You can be as creative and imaginative and as out of the box as you would like.

Take one item from each list and use the four in a poem. Allow the four to suggest your focus. Write in free verse or start shifting back into form mode by using one of the ones we have gone over in the past few weeks, or another form that you know.

If you wonder ‘Can I?’ The answer is ‘Yes’.

Remember to post a link so I, and others, can enjoy your poem. I shall see you Thursday for thoughts on freewriting and free verse; Friday, for the roundup; and next Tuesday, when, hopefully, I shall present you another form.

Happy writing, all.


Posted by on 12/07/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Poem in Response to Wordle #12

This was even more fun than it already is, as I rarely have a poem until I have thrashed around a day or two. And I used the words as is, if you count the a- added to buzz!

Wordle 12

A poem fluttered
when I saw the words,
a whim of thought,
logic twisted, instinct
a-buzz.  I don’t resist
the river galloping
through my world.

The Sunday Whirl‘s wordle — even if you don’t write, stop by and read some of the results. I’m off to read the early entries.

See you tomorrow for the next form; Thursday for a discussion of freewriting; and Friday for the week’s roundup of prompts.


Posted by on 10/07/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Friday Freeforall: Prompts, Poem a Days, and Giveaways

10:19 am — Atlanta

Hello all! I’m running late today. Had a dentist appointment this morning and am now sitting here with numb gums and 800 mg of ibuprofen. I will keep this short, as many people do not need or want to be flooded with exercises this month. I have picked the prompts that are the most interesting, or fun, or have the most possibilities. I will run through the prompts first and then give you links to the happenings around the poetry month sites.

First up is Carry On Tuesday which gives us two clichéd phrases, but I included it because often if we kick off with the cliché and freewrite for a while, we come up with something. Then, you can remove the clichéd phrase unless deliberately including it because it is a cliché. Go on over and take a look and see if something sparks. The blog, as always, includes links to hear or see the phrase in context.

Next, Big Tent Poetry, which, if you were here last week, you will remember is participating in the poem a day by giving us seven prompts each week. Here are the first three for this week: 1. Write about a broken window. 2. Write about something that no longer exists. 3. Write a poem with lungs in it. For the rest, visit the circus.

I don’t always include Poets & Writers, but their post this week is intriguing and fun. They ask us to, Take a cue from Raymond Queneau’s Exercises in Style, which tells a single narrative in ninety-nine ways, and write a poem based on what happened just after you got up this morning. Then use one or more of these filters to revise the poem: I do not include the filters they suggest. To see what they are [you know you are curious, even if you aren’t going to write a poem] visit the site.

How complete do you often feel about the poems you write? We know that’s not likely all black or white, each poem stands on its’ own. And maybe a poem can just be as it is – without a judge or jury speaking up. But how is it for you as a writer? That’s the question here. How do poems “arrive” for you? That’s how We Write Poems starts its prompt. Head over to read the rest. The topic of the how of writing poetry fascinates most poets. Here’s a chance to write about it. I already know I’ll post on this one.

For the month, I have an exciting site for you to visit: Inkseeds. Jennie Paige is posting detailed exercises that explore our personal mythologies. Here is a sample from today’s prompt: Sometimes we are so immersed in the details our personal mythology that our own worldview and story structures become invisible to us, much as a flighted bird doesn’t for a moment consider the air that it moves through. But our personal stories do not evolve in isolation – we are always in the context of the grander scheme, the larger lives of the groups we belong to. Today’s prompt asks us to step back out of ourselves for a while, to notice and to honor the things that we have inherited from those who have gone before us. I encourage you to visit and explore her site. So far we have dealt with water, earth, personae, and dreams.

This is already longer than I had planned, so I shall give you the link to my last Friday’s blog, which contains links for a couple of Poem a Day sites and the links for the Great Poetry Giveaway.

If you know anyone who would be interested in any of this, take a second to click any of the buttons below. I shall see you again Tuesday, for Acrostics Part 2, and next Thursday for the rest of the story on the no no words for writers. Have a wonderful weekend. Happy Writing.


Posted by on 08/04/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Friday Freeforall

8:28 am, Friday – Atlanta

Here we go with this week’s roundup of prompts and exercises for your delectation.

We start with The Poetry Tow Truck. Donna asks us to try channel surfing again but with a different perspective: Choose a program and watch for at least five minutes. (Or go nuts. Watch the whole thing. ) Try to take your focus away from the people, and therefore away from their clothing, accessories, etc. that dominate a scene. Look into the background and write down what you see there, as many details as you can. Go to the site for an example of what she collected and what she did with her results.

At Writer’s Island the word of the week is foretell. We are asked to look into the future and…well, you will have to stop by the island for the rest of the prompt.

We may lose Carry on Tuesday, which would be a shame. No other site has a prompt like theirs. However, dwindling numbers of responses is giving the creator pause. Drop by and read what Keith has to say. His possibly last prompt is a line from Romeo and Juliet, apt for the site, if indeed it is the last time: “Parting is such sweet sorrow”. To read the line in context and hear it read visit the site.

Our single word sites give us food on Sunday Scribblings, top at One Single Impression [plus illustration], and at Three Word Wednesday: figure, juicy, and stress. Stop by for the definitions as they have a particularly good source.

For those of you who like photo prompts, you will find them each Sunday at Scribble & Scatter. Susan May James also accepts submissions of poems, or stories, that go with the photographs, for a book she plans to publish once she has collected one for each week of the year.

In the Big Tent they tell us: This week is your chance to create your own festival, holiday or annual celebration, or to write the anti- of any of them — real or imagined — as a poem. Visit them for their suggested possibilities and maybe some virtual popcorn.

At Jingle Poetry’s Poetry Potluck the words they give us are: our home, temple, and sanctum. Remember that the creators include an inspirational video to accompany their word choices. Next week’s choices sound like fun : Cartoons, Sci-fi, and Super Powers.

I love the illustration at Magpie Tales, this week. My mind started running in several directions as soon as it saw the picture, so check it out.

The letter of the week at ABC Wednesday is: Today is the F Day! I’m here to help Facilitate your Fantastic entry! Now go over and read the rest of the alliterated paragraph.

Do you have a guardian angel? Go to We Write Poems to read their prompt, which always gives possible paths we might travel down.

Visit Poets United just for the gorgeous photographs of lemons, then stay to read the prompt. There are a lot of possibilities with lemons…

The prompt at Free Write Friday has not been changed, but if you haven’t had a chance to visit, head over that way. It’s useful, if you feel like writing but aren’t quite there with a poem. If they haven’t changed by next week, we’ll give them a rest for a while.

That’s it for this week. I hope you have a restful , or playful, weekend, and certainly a writing one. See you Tuesday for Dialogue Poems, and Thursday for more on nouns.


Posted by on 25/02/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Friday Freeforall: The Usual Suspects and Two Newcomers

7:33 am, Friday – Atlanta

And thank goodness. Has it seemed to anyone else that it should have been Friday three days ago? Okay, here we go. You will notice a common theme as it is Valentine’s week.

First, The Poetry Tow Truck offers three options. One asks you to write a  love poem that uses traditional images  in completely, unique and different ways and offers an e. e. cummings’ line as an example. One is to write an anti-love poem and provides a link to Shakespeare’s famous sonnet that does just that to ultimately show the speaker’s love. The site is worth a stop just to read a poem Donna has up that she wrote and is using as an example for the third option.

Over at Writer’s Island they ask us to let the word epiphany spark your muse and provide a photograph and definition to help us.

The opening line of a love poem by Cortney Kuchta, “One Wish” is given to us by Carry on Tuesday. To see the line and read the whole poem, drop in on the site.

The single word prompts are up:  Sunday Scribblings [who have an intriguing phrase instead of a word for us this week]; One Single Impression has artwork and a poem with their word; and Three Word Wednesday has their words + definitions

I have included Susan May James’ Sunday Snaps.  She posts a new photograph every week and I know many people work well off visual prompts.

At The Big Tent they are suggesting:  One thing you may or may not have considered is the title. What title best summarizes your work? Is it the title of a specific poem? A theme found in your work? Something completely and totally random? Visit the circus to read the rest of the prompt.

The Jingle Poetry folks ask where we are headed with our Aims, Goals and Ambitions and have provided us with accompanying inspirational video. Looking towards next week, we are being asked to consider Love, Bonds and Relationships.

Using a prompt that I ask my readers to make a part of their daily lives, Poets & Writers says:  For one week, collect words and phrases you encounter throughout the day from signs, advertisements, menus, overheard conversations, radio programs, headlines, television.  Now visit them to see what they suggest.

The photograph at Magpie Tales, as always, is interesting. Because of the angle there are off-beat possibilities for an ordinary object. If you try this one, you might freewrite first.


The second newcomer is ABC Wednesday who have an original prompt. Each week is a different letter of the alphabet. They start their prompt this week with: “ABC Wednesday is an EXALTED ENTITY.” You might visit and read what some of their legion of contributors do with the prompt.


How many of you have what I call my nest? We Write Poems starts with: This week’s prompt is about finding, making, defining what is a safe place. They go on to talk more about the concept and offer a couple of possible directions.

As this is the third Thursday in the month, Poets United has a video prompt. In their discussion of it they ask us to find a quiet moment too and listen and watch the Lilies of the Field clip “Amen”.  Let it take you somewhere you may have never been before and let it inspire your inner poet. They go on to make a couple of suggestions as to paths we might go down.

And finally, at Magic in  the Backyard, Freewrite Friday presents an illustration and a brief prompt and suggests freewriting to it. No pressure for a poem, unless, of course, it works that way.

I hope everyone has a restful, or playful, weekend and that some writing happens. See you on Tuesday for creative writing.


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Posted by on 18/02/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Tuesday Tryouts: More Than a Comparison

8:20 am, Tuesday, 8 February, 2011 – Atlanta

Today, I would like you to do two final metaphors and, for the purpose of Thursday’s discussion of parts of speech, turn one of these pieces into a poem [unless you wrote right into one].


Describe a building as seen by a man whose son has just died in a war.
Do not mention the son, war, death, or the old man doing the seeing.

Freewrite in prose (or poetry if you have been inspired in that direction).

In order to accomplish the prompt, what did you have to do? Articulate it to yourself.

Creating a metaphor
simile: indirect comparison? metaphor: direct comparison?
NO! A metaphor provides the identification of two unlike things.
where a simile compares two things which are similar in nature.

Metaphor: from the Greek metafora: to transfer to. When using a metaphor, you are transferring the properties of one thing to another:  “Juliet is the sun”. Not Juliet is like the sun, hot, bright, yellow…but Juliet IS the sun, the centre of Romeo’s universe, the giver of life and nurture.


Describe a lake, or other natural scene, as seen by a teenager who has just killed someone.
Do not mention the person killed, death, or the teenager doing the seeing.

Freewrite in prose (or poetry if you have been inspired in that direction).

No pretty images for the post, to not interfere with your own images. I shall see you Thursday, poem in hand, ready to begin a revision process.


Posted by on 08/02/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Tuesday Tryouts: Metaphor This

8:12 am, Tuesday 1 February, 2011 – Atlanta

Hello! I hope everyone had a good weekend. I am recovering from visitors. They were less exhausting in my youth.

Today’s exercise is a lot of fun and I suggest you try several. You may or may not end up with a poem, but if you have trouble with metaphor, this will take you a long way to overcoming it. I have no images to decorate this post because I don’t want to suggest anything [even a clipart version] to your brain. The imagery needs to be all yours.

This week we will take comparison further.

Pick one of the below and freewrite. Do another…and one more?

Describe the night as seen by a young (wo)man whose first child has just been born. Do not mention birth, children, or the parent doing the seeing.

Describe a body of water as seen by a teenager contemplating suicide. Do not mention death, suicide, or the teenager doing the seeing.

Describe a bridge as seen by a middle-aged adult who just can’t seem to do well in her job. Do not mention school or the adult doing the seeing.

Describe a dog or a cat as seen by a child whose parent has just done something awful. Do not mention the parent, what the parent did, or the child doing the seeing.

Describe a forest, or some other natural scene, as seen by a woman whose detested husband has just died [yes, you can switch genders]. Do not mention the husband, the death, or the woman doing the seeing.

The trick is to accomplish the exercise without resorting to cliche and being obvious. Again, this is setting up for the next step. Next week we will discuss metaphors a little and I will give you two final prompts to work with, similar to these, but working towards a poem with one of them, so we can move into the revision process.

See you Thursday, when I do have a few loose ends to tie up.


Posted by on 01/02/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Tuesday Tryouts: I Shall Compare Thee

8:47 am, Tuesday, 25 January, 2011 – Atlanta

How is everyone? I hope over the weekend you had time to write, and play, and even frivol. Last week I had you do some directed freewriting as preparation. The second step in the metaphor exercises is to play with comparison, without worrying about using anything in a poem. You need to feel that you can play, and that you can stretch things, even be silly. Have fun with this.

Comparison is as natural as breathing. You hear a train and it reminds you of the ocean. You caress bark and remember your grandfather’s knees. You look at tributaries and see your veins. One landscape melts into another. It’s as if each time you encounter something it is imprinted over all the impressions that came before it; each impression is transparent.

The connection between two things can be obvious or subtle. Sometimes it’s physical. Other times the similarity is experiential or has to do with function. It is possible to find some similarity between [almost] any two things.

Babies and garbage trucks share similarities: they are both often smelly, move on all fours, and consume a lot. Trees and elephants both have trunks, have rough outer skins, live a long time.
Goldberg, Poemcrazy


Today draw comparisons between two things. Choose at least one from your surroundings. The other can be an object, a person, or an abstract concept like jealousy, love, fate. How many ways can you compare them? Go for at least twenty-five. Stretch yourself. If you have difficulty, try another pairing.

category metaphor

Comparison allows the writer to distance her/himself from the subject and allows, therefore, more direct comment. Examine a group. It can be your peers, your colleagues, your family… Then pick a category: vegetables, gardening tools, types of cereals, holidays, birds, any category that comes to mind. Develop character sketches for each member of the group based on elements within your chosen category. For instance, if you choose vegetables as a category, write about what type of vegetable your character looks like or acts like and why. Consider, you are not saying Uncle Joe is like a mushroom. You are saying he is a mushroom.

animal metaphor

What kind of animal are you? What qualities does that animal embody that you identify with temperamentally? Describe yourself as this creature. How does being this animal affect the way you write? Remember, you are not saying you are like a bear; you are a bear.


Consider what kind of weather corresponds to you right now: snow, lightning, rain, fog, a summer storm, whirlwind. How far can you take the comparison: mood, thought pattern, appearance, what you like to do for fun…

Write several of these, as the next step in preparation, and next week will come the more interesting exercises involving metaphors. These are to get you thinking naturally about comparison and to see things from a different point of view.

See you Thursday for submission resources.

All images are from clker.


Posted by on 25/01/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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