Craft of Poetry Writing Exercise: “Look It Up”

In this writing exercise inspired by Solmaz Sharif’s Look, students will explore using found language in order to create compelling dramatic situations.

Writing Exercise: “Look It Up”

  1. Select 4–5 words from Solmaz Sharif’s poems in Look. (These could be the DOD terms in small caps or her language.)
  2. Look up each of these words in the Oxford English Dictionary, available through the Taylor Memorial Library. Take notes on each of the definitions. Reflect: Did you know all of these definitions? Do you use these words differently?
  3. Write down these 4–5 words. What dramatic situation would include all of them?
  4. Free-write a poem in which you use all 4–5 words. Try to use the words in such a way that they make sense for this dramatic situation.
  5. Share. (Let’s type some of them up in the Group Notes document.)
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Craft of Poetry Writing Exercise: “Possibilities”

Note: This semester, I will share my ENG 2030: Craft of Poetry Writing Exercises as images, since they live all together within a Course Reader document on Google Drive. On the first day of class, my ENG 2030 students completed this “Possibilities” writing exercise as a supplement to their personal introduction. The questions about Szymborska’s poem likewise allow me to get a good calibration of what things they know or don’t know about poetry and poetic craft.

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Interesting Subject Matter & the Artful/less-ness in Presenting It

Grandpa Glenn just chillin' on his goat cart. Photo taken around 1916. Globe, Arizona.

“Grandpa Glenn just chillin’ on his goat cart. Photo taken around 1916. Globe, Arizona” from freeparking.

Class: Writing Poetry (Virginia Commonwealth University)
Genre: Poetry
Purpose: To talk about not relying simply on the drama inherent to subject matter or narrative
Readings: “Song” by Brigit Pegeen Kelly and student poems

Before beginning workshop today, I read aloud Brigit Pegeen Kelly’s poem “Song” to the class as a way to open up the conversation about their own use of inherently compelling or dramatic subject matter. Of course, Kelly’s goat, whose head has been severed from its body and hung in a tree by a group of boys, is interesting; but it’s only a good poem for the ways in which Kelly works with sound, imagery, and lines. As this isn’t a close reading of the poem, I won’t go in depth about our discussion, but we did consider how poems with interesting dramatic situations, narratives, or images might fool us into thinking they are “good” poems simply because we remember the content. I urged my students to consider Kelly and her artfulness in presenting compelling subject matter when they write their own poems; to not simply rely on something that seems “meaningful”; to make it meaningful through their presentation.