“Headliner” Exercise

The front page of the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet from the 2nd of January 1905. (Published before 1923 and public domain in the US.)

The front page of the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet from the 2nd of January 1905. (Published before 1923 and public domain in the US.)


Class: Intro to Creative Writing
Genre: Poetry
Readings: Matthew Olzmann’s Mezzanines
Time: 20–25 minutes

Mayor To Homeless: Go Home
Stabbing Disrupts Anger Management Class
Missippi’s Literacy Program Shows Improvement
One-Armed Man Applauds the Kindness of Strangers
Statistics Show That Teen Pregnancy Drops Significantly After Age 25
Federal Agents Raid Gun Shop, Find Weapons

  1. Pick one of the (real) headlines above as the title of your poem.
  2. Now begin to write a narrative poem about the situation that provoked the headline.
  3. Go back and read what you’ve written. What else does it remind you of? (The first thing that comes into your head.) Start writing about that.
  4. Go back and read what you wrote about the second thing. What does that make you think of? Write about it.
  5. Is there a way to get back to the first story? Is there something else you missed in the first story? What images connect across each of these stories? How are the motives of the characters different? How are they alike?
  6. Try to work your way back there.
  7. End the poem with an image from the first story.
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