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:








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



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



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



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 against the anger, the frustration,

the pounding fists of hate,

rage against ignorance and pain,

against war’s yoke of brutish weight.



Listen in peaceful silence,

hear solitude’s quiet voices.

Listen to the hermit in his cave,

how in his loneliness he rejoices.



Mercy for the weak and poor,

mercy for the able.

Have mercy for your enemy,

for all who sit at your table.



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