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Saturday, February 6, 2010

How to Write 5 New Poems in 4 hours or Less

plus laugh a whole lot, gab, kevetch, present an impromptu Twitter tutorial, scarf down a tuna melt, and watch a pile of chocolate Dove hearts vanish before your very eyes. What was I up to?

I arrived in Edmonds a little before 10 am and landed a 3-hour parking spot in front of the local Starbucks. As I gathered my wares and headed in, two ladies out front complimented my parallel parking prowess. I took it as a good omen.

Stellar poet Kelli Russell Agodon waltzed in at 10:03 am to join me at my quaint window table. Ready, set, write! We warmed up with an ekphrasis using an oil painting from the Museum of Modern Art (courtesy their website, with a catalog of its entire collection), then got into some serious Write a Poem from a Paraphrase of an Un-known Poem-ing. We were afoot!

After an anagram-inspired poem, we delved into an exercise created by Naomi Shahib Nye that asked for questions, for images, for what we'd done in the last 36 hours. I listed baked chocolate chips cookies, made split pea soup, took my son to his swim lesson. (I didn't end up using any of the things I'd done, but I got a decent draft from the questions answered by the images).

In between exercises we sipped, munched, swapped mommy tales, and hoped Kelli's sweet golden retriever was only temporarily lethargic (he couldn't lift his head up when Kelli left to meet me, so her husband had taken him to the vet).

We packed up at 2:45 pm, five new poems in each of our satchels--enough revising to keep us busy till our next meeting (hopefully in March). As we were saying our goodbyes, Kelli's husband called to say the vet figured out the problem with Buddy--a pinched nerve. What a relief.

And off I sailed onto I-5 and into the southbound traffic.

If you are trying to figure out a way to get poems written without having to spend money for a class/workshop, I highly recommend this method. Enlist a friend, set a time to show up at a coffee shop--a place where you can be fairly certain neither of you will run into anyone you know. Bring along a book of exercises prompts--The Working Poet is a great one; so is Kim Addonizio's Ordinary Genius. Bring your favorite writing utensil and some paper, a timer, a little baggie of yummy treats, and your to-go mug. You can each pick 2-3 exercises in advance, or you can pick them randomly from either of these books. When the timer goes off, share aloud what you've each written. Whatever you do, don't offer criticism to your poetry pal, although saying "that part where you go from being a hawk to being a chipmunk was really cool" is perfectly fine. But since no one regularly writes a kick-ass poem in 10-15 minutes, and since the goal is quantity, save your analysis . . . and get onto the next prompt.

Happy poem-ing!


Kells said...

If I didn't say it before, that part where you went from a hawk to a chipmunk was really cool. ;-)

Love your memories of the day. It was a really good time for me too!

Oh and Buddy is absolutely fine today ($100 vet bill later, it was just a pinched nerve.)


Martha Silano said...

Great news about Buddy. I couldn't believe how together you kept it despite his droopy head and general lethargic-ness. I kept expecting you to take off running . . . so happy you didn't! And that it all worked out. xo m