LESSON 14 – PLAYING WITH WORDS

I take writing poetry very seriously.  I suspect you do too.  But, while the subject should be intensely felt and the end-result should meet the very highest standards, there’s no harm at all in having fun as you write the poem.

One of the assignments I have given my workshop attendees, over the years, is to take a simple line and find as many ways as possible to “say it.”

Example:  She climbed the steep, rocky hill.

  1. She clamored over rocks to reach the summit.
  2. She struggled over stones/ her breath tight in her lungs/ as she made her way slowly/ to the top.
  3. She felt the sting of wind/ as she scrambled up the dizzying height/ to     breathlessly     reach the top.
  4. The precipitous climb/ up the rocky slope/ left her shaken and breathless/ but filled with hope.
  5. Stones tumbled down while she struggled up/ the unkind mountain/ seeking the light at the crest.
  6. Her feet slipped on small   loose stones/ as she clawed her way up to the mountain’s top.
  7. Stones disarranged beneath her feet as she tackled the heartless mountain.
  8. While her heart aimed for the summit/ her spirit was left breathless/ at the base.
  9. She tried and cried and hand over hand/ wrestled her way to victory/ at the mountain’s top.
  10. She lurched past boulders/ and over small   sharp rocks/ as she staggered victoriously/ to the imposing mountain top.

In poetry, it is always, all about words.  Each word matters.  Each word needs to be important to the poem.  Each word needs to be the right word and, only you – the poet – can decide which word(s) is right for your poem.  And just a thought – if prose is an open hand, then poetry is a closed fist.  It needs to be tight and strong and powerful.

I also tell my students to pretend that every word that they put into the poem costs them money and, every word they take out of the poem, is money they can put back into their pocket.  Of course, this requires that you take special care in choosing the very best words to express the feelings and meaning you are trying to impart.

How many ways can you say the following?  The storm crept in over the mountains/ winds so strong they brought even/ the mightiest trees to their knees.

Have fun!  And consider sharing your exercise with me at www.poetladykatz.com  Just click on the Chat Room and send it my way.  Maybe your exercise will be chosen to be featured at the beginning of next week’s next week’s lesson.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *