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This is one plumb challenge
April was national poetry month. Did you participate? Cool, you’ll be extra prepared for today’s exercise. If you didn’t prepare, then this should be novel and fun.
Even if prose is your medium of choice, experimenting with other forms and techniques is useful. It can help you get around a block if you’re struggling to get things done. It’s also a great technique for shaking loose insights that might be harder to see clearly inside your own medium; sometimes the familiar shelters us from noticing the novel.
You do not have to write any actual poems for this exercise. You can if you want! These exercises are designed to get you started playing with poetry, but you have full permission to burn the results and pretend this never happened if you are so moved.
Consonance, Assonance, and Feeling Alliterative
Pick a letter of the alphabet. Any letter, though avoid the ones that are rare. Then spend 3-5 minutes writing down as many words that begin with the sound of that letter as you can think of. (This means that if the letter you choose is “S” then “Snap” and “Cess” both work. If the letter is “C” then choose one sound represented by that letter and stick to that one.) Set a timer for how long you want to spend on this, then go, go, go!
When that’s over, sort the words into categories. Choose whatever categorization scheme you want. They could be clumped by theme, length, number of syllables, part of speech, or whatever else strikes your fancy. The point here is to try on different ways of thinking about the words you come up with, and how they can relate to each other without other context. Try a few different organizational schemes and see what relationships you find and how they change from one scheme to the next.
We all go snicker-snack
Pick a passage from a published work of prose. This is a great time to snatch your favorite book off the shelf, or that comfort read you haven’t touched in a while. Once you have it selected, open to the beginning of a chapter chosen at random. Rewrite the first page of that chapter, except nonsenicalized. In other words, select verbs and nouns to change into made-up words that don’t have any particular meaning. Keep your substitutions consistent throughout, meaning that if you turn “lamp” into “woink” then your rewritten version should have “woink” everywhere “lamp” appears in the original.
How does this change the gist of the page? What context and information do you lose this way? Did you find yourself using made up words that shared qualities with the words they were replacing?
Never enough plums
I lied. You do have to write a poem. But it’s easy.
Write a pastiche of William Carlos WIllaim’s “This is Just to Say.” You can either do the traditional content rewrite common on twitter, or save the content and change it to another form or format. Whichever path you take, spend a few brain cycles on pondering the implications of your changes and what that shows about the relationship between content and form.
Feeling poetical? Or enlightened? Maybe just a tad more nimble than you were before? Remember, exercises like these are good as deliberate practice and a novel way to learn things, but they’re also supposed to be fun. If you went through these and took them too seriously, go try them again and let yourself play.