Guest Author - Jessica Smith
Having trouble thinking of new poetry ideas? Just can't get that poem to come out right? Here are some creative exercises to help jump-start your verse.
Open your dictionary at random. Close your eyes and place your finger on the page. Open your eyes, and write down the selected entry. No matter what it is- noun, verb, proper noun, number, etc.- write it down. Close the dictionary. Repeat the process. Do this at least five times (more if you're feeling brave). Now, create a poem using those words. The choosing is random, but the next step is to find some sort of correlation between the randomly chosen words. If something isn't immediately obvious, just start with the first one and write until you can use the next. Then edit, pare your poem down until the rambling is gone and it makes sense. The use of this exercise is to add an element of unexpectedness or surprise. It's the perfect choice if your poetry often feels too predictable or conventional.
Alternative: instead of the dictionary, use a newspaper or magazine to choose your words, or even a nearby novel. Taking words from different sources can affect the tone of your poem. Try it several different ways and examine the results.
Choose any instrumental song or album. Listen to it once or twice, and see what types of images, emotions and memories it brings up. Then, play it again and write at the same time. You can use all parts of the song for poem ideas. Think about musical terms like tempo, meter, harmony and disharmony. What type of instruments are present- do they all blend together, or do some stand out from the rest? Imagine the musicians- where they are, what they look like, what facial expressions they're making. Picture the instruments, their shapes, sounds. What other things (plants, objects, animals, people, places) do they bring to mind? Instrumental music is ideal for this exercise, because of its lack of words. If you are one of those people who can tune out the words of a song and just focus on its melody, then you can try it with a different song. Just make sure to check during editing that song lyrics didn't sneak into your poetry.
Remember that saying about how many words a picture is worth? Well this exercise lets you decide the number. Choose a photograph- it can be from your personal collection, or a striking news photo, or perhaps one in a magazine that caught your eye. Study all aspects of the photograph- its color, light composition, angle, focus, content, etc. Think about what it means. Ask yourself questions about it. If the photo is black and white, why is it so? Is it an old photo, or did the photographer make a conscious choice? How would it be different in color? In a color photo- does one color stand out? What if it changed to its opposite (a color wheel is useful to glance at here)? What is the subject of the photo? Is there anything in the background that might be important? Think about your perspective, also. What does the photographer look like? Where is he or she standing? What would you see if you were in the photo looking directly at its taker? Some photographs have clear stories behind them- you know the stories of those you have taken, or perhaps of family photos. Take a look at a stranger's photo. What is the story? What emotion does it make you feel first? Does it bring up any personal memories? Write a poem about this.