Tag Archives: sensory

Poem Tryouts: Go Ahead, Touch It

1:38 p.m. — Walnut Creek

Can you feel the flaking paint? The cool smooth steel? The crumbly, light as air, burnt match head? Hello, all. I hope you are well. My husband visited for a week at my mother’s and did something miraculous with the computer connections — after many days of hair pulling. I hope to read some of your poems in the next couple of days, if my brain hasn’t gone the way of the computer connection. If not, write, anyway!

How often do you think about textures when you describe things? How thoroughly and deeply do you touch things? The impulse to touch or to want to touch something unusual, unknown, or intriguing is natural. The desire to touch has been part of our psyche as long as learning has, because touch informs us and imparts knowledge in a way that perhaps only sight does, as a sense.

The impulse to touch is stronger in some. I cannot see something new, or something which attracts me, without wanting to touch it and if I cannot, I feel incomplete. Museums and art galleries are torture. Are you a tactile person? When you shop for things, especially clothes, do you ever finger the fabric or material from which the thing is made? In museums do you itch to stroke the sculptures? To explore them with your fingers? If our socialization didn’t discourage us from learning through our tactile sense, we would be forever touching things to learn about them.

What do you learn from touch, from texture? Think of handshakes, hugs, the touching of rare or holy objects, holding a baby, kissing someone’s cheek, or mouth.

Today, write through texture. List as many textures as you can think of: prickly, fuzzy, satiny, rough…

List, next to each texture, what you associate with that texture.

Mentally feel your way around a person, an object, an event; meditate, in words, on what you understand about objects or people, through texture and touch.

I am including several photographs by Paul from freedigitalphotos. His pictures are particularly sensory. Look at each photograph and in your mind feel the object and describe what it feels like to touch the different parts. Do not forget that part of touch is not just texture, but also temperature.

The asparagus to your left, still raw, the stem cool and smooth, the head nubby. The wall below, with the plaster and the brick, each rough, but the brick more crumbly, the plaster smoother. The spiky conker with its satin smooth seed. Each provides multiple textures, often contrasting. Look around wherever you are and let your fingertips sense textures, feel them in your mind.bricks_and_motar

I shall see you next Tuesday for a prompt to do with storms.

Happy writing, everyone.


Posted by on 09/07/2013 in exercises, poetry, writing


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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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A Sense of Place: Tuesday Tryouts

7:28 a.m. — Atlanta

Hello, all. How are you this new new year? For those dragons among us, we already rule, but this is our year. If you wanted to write a poem and instil a sense of dragon, how would you go about it? Think about it for a few minutes…

Notice how I segue into our topic for today: How do we go about instilling a sense of place in our poetry?  Place is huge. Several of the prompt sites, that many of us frequent, have touched on place. I will try not to duplicate exercises, but this is an area we will play in for a while.

Think about what you mean when you talk, or think, about place in poetry… feel free to jot notes to yourself as we go along. Notes warm the brain up. What is place?

Does a place have an identity before we identify it, or give it a name? Once we identify the running water keeping us from the other side, as river, we begin to give it a more specific identity. Large river. Large muddy river. The Mississippi. The mighty Mississippi. Ah, now we are getting somewhere. The places that we identify, name, and give meaning to, have a strong sense of place. Our goal is to figure out how to establish that sense of place in our writing.

We need to know what we each mean by sense of place. Is it merely physical? Does an emotion need to be attached to the place to establish the sense? Paris. An oasis. The Yangtze River. Stonehenge. The desert. What images and feelings popped up as you read through the list? Mull for a few minutes [you continue to jot notes] about how you might establish a sense of place if you were to write about one of these places.

But let’s start with your own baseline landscape: The special bond which develops between children and their childhood environments has been called a ‘primal landscape’ by human geographers. This childhood landscape forms part of people’s identity and constitutes a key point of comparison for considering subsequent places later in life. As people move around as adults, they tend to consider new places in relation to this baseline landscape experienced during childhood. Wikipedia — article worth reading, should you have the time. It is short.

Identify your baseline landscape. You may choose a larger whole, such as a city, or an aspect, such as surrounding mountains. Whichever you choose, it should possess that which cannot be replicated in any other place. Consider that your audience has never been there [even if you know they live in that place]. How are you going to convey the sense of place so that your readers have an idea of the truth of your place? More notes.

The structure is up to you. Much depends on whether free verse, or a more formal form, is more suited to establishing your place. Remember that form and content go hand in hand. You will need to consider concrete details and sensory imagery in your quest to establish the sense of place of your baseline landscape. This week we have been playing with symbols with one of Joseph’s ‘Reveries‘. Consider symbol as a way in.

You may decide that your piece works better as prose, and that’s fine too. Don’t keep yourself from posting because you think you must have a poem. The objective is establishing a sense of place in your writing.

I can’t wait to read and feel your landscapes. Remember that you can and may post anytime.

I shall see you Thursday for announcements — anymore to go in? Friday will be our roundup of the week’s prompts. And, next Tuesday, since you seem to enjoy them so much, a painting from which to write.

Happy writing, everyone.

P.S. Should a sense of dragon poem arise, post. We dragons have our own sense of place.


Posted by on 24/01/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Tuesday Tryouts: Poems on Things That are Found

9:00 a.m. — San Antonio –> Walnut Creek

Hello dear readers. Tell me you didn’t see that coming! I was going to wait a week and throw you off balance but for the life of me can’t remember the exercise I was going to do this week, so found items it is. The exercise runs the same, but found includes a whole branch of poetry.


Start by thinking about and then listing all the things you have found in your life. Leave room for notes with each item. You can do a companion piece to your lost poem, but make the list anyway. We are always on the lookout for topics to write on, so, resource pool! Possibilities include, a pet who was missing, a new word, a friend, your way [can be literal or figurative], an opportunity, an insight, a branch of the family tree, something you thought was lost.

Next to each find jot notes on what you remember. Try to include as many concrete and sensory details as you can.

Then, jot notes on any feelings and emotions you associate with each find.

Pick one from your list of things found. Decide whether you want to write in free verse or one of the forms we have been playing with or, indeed, a form you like but we haven’t played with yet. Choose the point of view — will the speaker speak in first or third person? The choice affects how the poem comes across, so you might choose one and mentally try the other once you have a draft. Consider whether you wish to include feelings, or just tell the story. Decide on the speaker’s tone: happy, ecstatic, tongue in cheek, humourous…your word choice will support the tone. And, if you don’t remember the whole story, make up whatever you need to convey the story you want to tell.

Then we have found poetry, poetry found in words already written [the most common form], or a photograph, or a painting, or a piece of music [no words]. Rather than make this post longer, if that interests I have given you links to the posts where I went over approaches to found poetry. I tried to give you the start of each and if you are still interested then keep moving forward in posts. I have the found poetry running over several days. If you aren’t, for some technological reason I have not thought of, able to access any pages, let me know.

Write and then post so we can read the results.

If you have questions do ask; if you think someone would enjoy this, click on the buttons below.

I shall see you on Thursday for another reader suggested topic: enjambment; Friday for the week’s roundup of prompts; and next Tuesday for…yes, another open prompt. Ta dah! I know! What is with me? Don’t get used to it.

Happy writing all.


Posted by on 28/06/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Tuesday Tryouts: Poems on Things That are Lost

9:00 a.m. — San Antonio

Hello dear readers. I promised you an open prompt this week, which means you get to choose the form, whether it is free verse, or a more structured form. For those who have been assuming free verse is free: Hah!

While free verse is my usual format, in many ways that choice provides more difficulties, because when I am not choosing a standard form, I do need to consider the structure of the poem. Forms, such as those we have played with in the past few weeks, take a lot of thinking out of the equation, because the form tells us how to structure the poem. We can concentrate on other aspects. With free verse we have to come up with our own structure to support our content, as well as all the other things that make a poem.

Didn’t know you were going to get a mini-lecture thrown in did you? On to the prompt!


Start by thinking about and then listing all the things you have lost. Leave room for notes with each item. Consider things like a memory, a tooth, keys, a friend, your direction [can be literal or figurative], an opportunity, a close relative. What other things have you lost? Or, in a wider, more abstract view, what has been lost to your generation, or town, or country? Plenty of possibilities.

Next to each loss jot notes on what you remember. Try to include as many concrete and sensory details as you can.

Then, jot notes on any feelings and emotions you associate with each loss.

Pick one from your list of things lost. Decide whether you want to write in free verse or one of the forms we have been playing with or, indeed, a form you like but we haven’t played with yet. Choose the point of view — will the speaker speak in first or third person? The choice affects how the poem comes across, so you might choose one and mentally try the other once you have a draft. Consider whether you wish to include feelings, or just tell the story. Decide on the speaker’s tone: sad, angry, tongue in cheek, humourous…your word choice will support the tone. And, if you don’t remember the whole story, make up whatever you need to convey the story you want to tell.

Write and then post so we can read the results.

If you have questions do ask; if you think someone would enjoy this, click on the buttons below.

I shall see you on Thursday for a reader suggested topic: the poetic inversion; Friday for the week’s roundup of prompts; and next Tuesday for…yes, another open prompt [I know what’s coming down the pike with forms, so I’m lulling you].

Happy writing all.


Posted by on 21/06/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Thursday Thoughts: More Words That Have to Go

8:57 am — Atlanta

Hello dear readers. I hope everyone is well and writing. Today, I shall speak about a group of words and then we will take a week’s break from my telling you what you should not be using. Next week I shall talk about some internet resources I have found worth bookmarking. Then, it’s back to words that should be used sparingly.

The grouping for today:

this is,
is when,
is where,
here is/are, there is/are

The main problems with these phrases are their blandness, lack of specificity, and use of verbs of being, which contribute to the blandness. They say nothing. I said in a blog about active versus being verbs: This is not to say never use being verbs. Sometimes we want to have a state of being, but too much being leaves the reader with a fuzzy, and often dull, image. There is nothing to see when something is, as opposed to something running, singing, breaking…When you use being verbs, do so with deliberation and an awareness of the effect.

You read: “Look. There’s John.” Or you read: “Look. John is standing over by the fountain.” Which gives you a picture?

You read: “Where’s the bread?” “It’s here.” Or you read “The bread is on the cutting board.” I am still using a being verb in the second example, but I am talking about the state of the bread’s location. I am being specific about “here”.

In poetry your phrasing will be less stilted, but the rules of specificity and sensory imagery still apply. You need to give the poem and your readers something to hang onto: active verbs, specific whens and wheres.Your objective is to engage the readers’ senses.

Be aware in your own reading, not just of poetry, but of newspapers, magazines, and novels, of how often these phrases appear and how much the writing lacks because of them. Be aware, too, of the writing that does not use these phrases and how much richer and more concrete what you are reading about becomes.

Short and sweet today. I am in recovery mode from having a temporary crown put on a molar yesterday. I shall see you back here tomorrow for the last of the short roundups. Next week we are into May and I shall return to the regular roundup list. Tuesday will be ballad day, and next Thursday, bookmarkable sites.

Happy writing.


Posted by on 28/04/2011 in poetry, writing


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Tuesday Tryouts: Blazon It!

8:33 — Atlanta

Hello all. I decided to show you the BLAZON. The form is not stressful and can be fun.You will need to think metaphorically, much like the delight song I asked you to write some weeks back, or surrealistically, as we did some months back. I have provided links for both posts, as we have new readers, and my long time readers may need a refresher. I know I would.

Here’s an excerpt from a BLAZON, a poem that itemizes the qualities of something or someone beloved:

Free Union
a 1931 poem by Andre Breton

My wife whose hair is a brush fire
Whose thoughts are summer lightning
Whose waist is an hourglass
Whose waist is the waist of an otter caught in the teeth of a tiger
Whose mouth is a bright cockade with the fragrance of a star of the first magnitude
Whose teeth leave prints like the tracks of white mice over snow
Whose tongue is made out of amber and polished glass
Whose tongue is a stabbed wafer
The tongue of a doll with eyes that open and shut
Whose tongue is an incredible stone
My wife whose eyelashes are strokes in the handwriting of a child
Whose eyebrows are nests of swallows
My wife whose temples are the slate of greenhouse roofs
With steam on the windows
My wife whose shoulders are champagne
Are fountains that curl from the heads of dolphins over the ice
My wife whose wrists are matches
Whose fingers are raffles holding the ace of hearts
Whose fingers are fresh cut hay

If you wish to read the entire poem, you can find it here. Note that Breton starts at the top and is working his way down the form of his wife. That is one of the conventions of a blazon.

Shakespeare, in his Sonnet 130, wrote a blazon, but did so by listing what the attributes of his speaker’s beloved are not.

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks,
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know,
That music hath a far more pleasing sound.
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Your Blazon

I am going to broaden our options by suggesting that we can pick a person, or an object, or even a concept and that we can write a blazon where we dislike rather than like something. For one of the things/persons you love/hate, itemize the qualities this thing/person has.

To help you create images of the surrealistic kind, consider, as you list, how each quality affects you and your senses (touch, taste, hearing, smell, sight) and your emotions and your imagination.

List at least fifteen qualities and next to each, jot sensory associations. In case you have not gone back to the postings, I have copied an example of metaphor associations: Patience: turtle, stone, the colour grey, glaciers…they are your associations so don’t worry if others might think them odd. You will only have the metaphors and imagery, in the end.

Pick the ones you like and model your lines after Breton, or Shakespeare, or come up with your own way to list the attributes. You want specific images, sensory associations where possible.

Once you have about fifteen lines, arrange them in an order that makes sense to you, and reads well. Eliminate lines that don’t ring true, or don’t fit. Figure out how you want to end your poem. Finally, post the poem and post your link in comments, or post the poem in the comments here. Most of all, have fun with this.

I will see you Thursday for more words to avoid, and Friday for the week’s wrapup. If you know anyone who would enjoy blazoning, feel free to share. Happy writing.


Posted by on 19/04/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Thursday Thoughts: It’s All About the Nouns

8:12 am, Thursday — Atlanta

Good Day to all. If you remember, last Thursday I set an exercise to prove a point about the strength of nouns in writing. In case you haven’t read last Thursday, here it is. You might revisit the post anyway to remind yourself how dreadful my adaptation is, before reading the poem below.

When you read Masefield’s poem “Cargoes,” note the specificity of nouns. Ask yourself how those nouns affect your reading of the poem. How do they affect the mood of each stanza? How does the imagery affect you sensorily?



John Mase field

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.


Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amethysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.



Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smokestack
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

A book I think everyone should own is The Way to Write by John Fairfax and John Moat. It is a slender volume on language. They say this about nouns:

“The word noun comes, one way or another, from the Latin word nomen which means (here we go again) a name. ‘The name of a person, place or thing …’ Knowing what we do about names and the power they command we can surmise that nouns are important. They are, in fact, the most important, and for one good reason. Of all the parts of speech, only nouns are independent. All the rest, directly or by implication, depend on the existence of nouns for their own existence. Nouns depend on nothing.
TIGER. Bang. It stands all on its own.
But, ‘RAN’ or ‘PUNY’ or ‘INTO’ or ‘MOREOVER’ or ‘STEAD­ILY’ — they just don’t figure. Not on their own.”

Notice in your reading of poetry, when you like a poem, whether the writer uses strong nouns and verbs; if you don’t like a poem, ask yourself what is missing…

Next Thursday, a little on verbs and a final thought on adjectives and adverbs; tomorrow is the prompt roundup for the week; and Tuesday, more dialogue poems.

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Posted by on 03/03/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Tuesday Tryouts: Your Metaphor

9:05, Tuesday – Atlanta

I was going to start a new series of exercises with dialogue poems, but wrote a metaphor poem last week, in response to a We Write Poems prompt, that I enjoyed so much and feel is too good an exercise not to share.

By: doraelia ruiz


The first thing you need to do is visit the original poem on which I based mine, N. Scott Momaday’s “The Delight Song of Tsoai-talee“. I will post mine below, so you don’t have to leave the page a second time.

Jot a list of qualities you associate with yourself. Next to each quality write things you associate with that quality.

from microsoft


Patience: turtle, stone, the colour grey, glaciers…they are your associations so don’t worry if others might think them odd. You will only have the metaphors, in the end.

Pick the ones you like and write a line beginning with I am + the thing you are + a place, or action, or time. That will be much clearer on reading the two examples. You want specific images, sensory associations where possible.

Once I had about fifteen lines, I rearranged them in an order that made sense to me, and read well. I eliminated a couple of lines that didn’t ring true, or didn’t fit. Finally I figured out how to end my poem, because following Momaday for his ending would have been difficult.


from microsoftMy Delight Song

I am the words I write
I am a dragon swimming the ocean’s depths
I am a stone waiting to be picked up
I am a stand of evergreen bamboo
I am a grain of dust carried on the wind
I am the smoke of incense spiraling skyward
I am a cloud through which the sun shines
I am the border between night and day
I am the red berries of the winter ash
I am the grey heron hunched against the cold
I am the cry of a train in the night
I am a photograph fading out of focus
I am a scrap of paper left as a bookmark
I am a fingerprint on the minds of students
I am all these things and
I am the words I write.

After “The Delight Song of Tsoai-Talee,” by N. Scott Momaday

Enjoy and do post a link in comments, so I can enjoy too. Thursday will be Revision: Verbs and Nouns and I know you won’t want to miss that! Friday is our roundup of sites. Next Tuesday will be Dialogue Poems.


Posted by on 22/02/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Thursday Thoughts: Revise, Redraft, Revise

8:56 am, Thursday – Atlanta

Good Day – I realized for some of my readers it is good evening rather than morning.

I am going to try and spread revision out, as there are not a lot of  pretty images that go with discussions of parts of speech, with which to break up the text.

Dig out the poem you wrote from the building, or body of water metaphors. Or, the freewrite, if you don’t have a poem yet. Or, your latest poem draft, if you haven’t yet had a chance to do the metaphor exercises.

Read through your choice. Every time you see an adjective, underline the adjective and the noun it describes. Every time you see an adverb, underline the adverb and the verb it qualifies.

What are adjectives and adverbs?



modify: to make less strong
qualify: to limit, restrict

Is that what you want to do to your nouns and verbs?

Hierarchy of parts of speech:

1.    Verbs
2.    Nouns
3.    Adjectives and adverbs

Before committing yourself to an adjective-noun combination, consider using a better noun by itself. Or, consider using a simile or metaphor. If you want to use an adjective, make sure it is specific. What images do the words magnificent, wonderful, great, fabulous, fantastic, beautiful, ugly put in your head? Specific images, or a jumble of possible things, or a blank? Do you want your readers to be unclear? You need to show the magnificence, the ugliness, the specific beauty. Your words are the reader’s eyes to the images you want them to see.

Wherever possible, replace an adverb-verb combination with a better verb. While there are places for adverbs, in the English language verbs are our richest words. Adverbs weaken verbs: She ran quickly. Well, how else would she run? Instead, how about loped, galloped, sprinted, cantered, raced. Now, if she is running slowly because she is looking for her dropped keys, then the qualifier has a job.

If you need the practice, over the weekend [or whenever you have the time]:

Write a one-page description of any thing, place, or person, in your usual style. Rewrite it, without modifiers [adjectives/adverbs]. Now go back and look at it. How are you going to give the reader a specific sense of the place? Mood? Ambiance? How are you going to craft a word picture of the person, so we read a portrait? How are you going to convey the object and its context? How can you use sensory imagery, strong verbs and nouns, similes, and metaphors to convey your truth.

Tomorrow is the Friday roundup, Tuesday we’ll move onto a new series of exercises, and next Thursday: nouns and verbs!


Posted by on 17/02/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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