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Monday’s Muse: An Exercise From The Practice of Poetry

Last night I did another exercise from The Practice of Poetry by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell. The exercise is supposed to be a group exercise where you close your eyes, a word is said, and then you open your eyes and write down everything you “saw” when you heard the word. It is a lesson in “translation”, how the brain naturally associates certain visual meanings to words. For the solo poet, you can still do the exercise by translating in a different way. The book provides four columns with words in each one. You pick the first word your eye falls on in each column and then write the words down on a piece of paper. Take five minutes to think about each word, then on a separate sheet of paper you write down everything you thought about each word. It’s like word association but for writing. Next, you are supposed to see what connections occur among the words you have now written. Then “circle the words that seem most vivid, most evocative, that seem to reverberate with intention.” Now write the words in a line or how they make sense to you and don’t be afraid to let your intuition guide you.Trust yourself, and see what you come up with. So, here are the columns that the book listed:

1                      2                       3                        4

Rage               Solitude            Mercy                 Peace

Order               Ectasy              Pain                    War

Justice             Evil                   Hunger               History

Common         Gratitude          God                     Angel

 

Here is my practice sheet and the resulting poem:

 

Rage

Solitude

Mercy

Angel

 

Rage:

Anger, frustration, hurt, pain, stupidity, ignorance, annoyance, people killing, war, injustice, madness, hate, pounding fists

 

Solitude:

Loneliness, Superman, fortress, cave, hermit, library, peace, alone, quiet, silence, books, reading, chair in front of a fire in a fireplace, me

 

Mercy:

Compassion, angels, love, sympathy, empathy, sisters of mercy, nuns, kindness, easing someone’s pain, helping, volunteers, heart, consideration, thoughtfulness, nurses,

 

Angel:

Love, light, wings, flight, flying, flying away, compassion, kindness, peace, miracles, help, heart, feelings, goodness, empathy, cherubs

 

Anger, hurt, pounding fists hate frustration

Peace, quiet, alone, Superman, cave

Love, compassion, easing pain, thoughtfulness empathy

Love, heart, flying away, light

 

An Exercise in Non-Sequitur Translations

By Jessica Scott

 

Rage.

Rage against the anger, the frustration,

the pounding fists of hate,

rage against ignorance and pain,

against war’s yoke of brutish weight.

 

Listen.

Listen in peaceful silence,

hear solitude’s quiet voices.

Listen to the hermit in his cave,

how in his loneliness he rejoices.

 

Mercy.

Mercy for the weak and poor,

mercy for the able.

Have mercy for your enemy,

for all who sit at your table.

 

Love.

Love when it’s easy, love when it’s hard,

have empathy for the weak and the strong.

Let compassion rule your heart,

let kindness be your love song.

 

Rage, and listen with mercy and with love,

Let your heart be your conscience, and the example thereof.

 

Overall, I found it to be an enlightening exercise. Today when I look at the words I picked, different images come to mind. I’m in a different frame of mind, you see? I think an interesting add-on practice would be to do this again a few days later and see what your mind comes up with then. Try the exercise for yourself. Try using a random word generator and see what happens with the words that come up.

Hope y’all are having a great Monday so far.

xo Jesi

 

 

Jesi Kay, poet and aspiring novelist, was born in the Texas panhandle where wide skies, lazy summer days, and rolling thunderstorms sparked her imagination and left lasting memories in her blood. An early reader, poetry and mythology were her passions. So much so that when she was ten years old her step-father gave her his college mythology textbooks to read, which were full of classic poetry and more than enough tales to fill her romantic and inquisitive nature. Jesi loves reading, art, going to the theater, the romanticism of the Victorian era (but not the missing conveniences of indoor plumbing and central air conditioning), running when the heat and humidity cooperate, and cold weather so she can wear her favorite boots and knitwear. Also, she still has those college mythology textbooks, a little worse for wear over time but still intact and telling their stories to her. Jesi is a contributor at The Well Tempered Bards blog and at www.octpowrimo.com.

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