books,  Poetry

The Practice of Poetry Exercise 1

I found this book at my nearest Half Price Bookstore recently.


This book is designed for poets, specifically  those who teach. (Says so on the back cover.) The copyright is from 1992. I leafed through it at the bookstore and realized that the exercises contained within were actually still usable and helpful today.  So, last week I read the introduction and over the weekend I began section one labeled Ladders to the Dark: The Unconscious As Goldmine.

Here’s the thing, if you don’t practice, no matter what it is you do, you will not get any better at it. Think about when you learned to ride a bike, play an instrument, or when you work out. Practice is important, especially in writing, whether poetry or prose. I have been writing poetry for a long time, but that doesn’t mean I do not need to practice or study my craft. Even masters need practice and study. It never ends. Plus, studies show that continuing to learn new things helps to prevent dementia and senility. (Read this article.)

So, here I am to show you that I practice what I preach. Please feel free to try the exercise for yourself. The first “assignment” was to pretend that you have never been told anything about poems or poets. Try to remember a very early experience you had of reading or hearing language that interested/excited/confused/enlightened (etc.) you. (I’m paraphrasing from the book.) Now write about that experience, trying to describe what about the text got to you and why.  (This exercise was contributed by Ann Lauterbach according to the book.) The following is my original and my edited poem.

xo Jesi


One More Time (original unedited poem)

by Jessica Scott

“Mr. Brown can moo? Can you?”

I see the cover of the book

as she reads the title.

Her arms wrapping me in comfort and safety.

Excitement fills me-this is my favorite story!

Her voice reading the words

sounds like the loveliest music,

though I only hear her love

echoing in the rhythm.


She turns the pages and we rock in the chair,

swaying back and forth as the story,

and time, moves us forward

until the end appears and the story ends.

She closes the book, and the rocking stops,

we sit in silence for a few seconds.

And then, “Again!” I say.

The rocking chair creaks as we begin to sway again;

her gnarled hands open the book.

“Mr. Brown can moo? Can you?”

And the story goes on.


One More Time (edited version)

by Jessica Scott


“Mr. Brown can moo. Can you?”

She reads the title, her voice sounding like lovely music,

While I look at the cover of the book.

Her arms wrap me in comfort and safety,

And I am excited…this is my favorite story!


She turns the pages

As we rock in the creaky old chair,

Swaying back and forth

As the story, and time, moves us forward.

She reads the wonderful words that rhyme,

My discerning ear picking up the rhythms

And patterns of language,

Though I will not understand that for a while yet.


There’s the last pages, and then the story ends.

She closes the book and the rocking stops;

We sit in silence for a few seconds

The story’s echo fading away until…

“Again!” I demand.


The rocking chair begins to creak and sway, again.

Granny’s gnarled hands open the book one more time.

“Mr. Brown can moo. Can you?”


Jesi Scott is an aspiring writer of novels, a poet, and blogger. She has guest-blogged over at The Well-Tempered Bards, and has a post featured at For Love Of…. Jesi has two poems published in Memories of Mist, a literary anthology, and one published story in a newsletter. She is currently working on releasing her first poetry collection as well as writing her first novel. When not writing, Jesi can be found getting lost in bookstores, singing and dancing around the house, experiencing culture with friends, and generally having fun with her four sons when they aren’t driving her weeping into her closet, which she calls her Padded Cell. She loves to rescue stray bookmarks, as well as books, and has opened her heart to any and all stories needing a home. Archery is her current favorite thing ever but you might want to stand back a little as she still has a tendency to drop the bow occasionally.


      • lrconsiderer

        I don’t doubt it! My earliest memory is of seeing my sister for the first time – I would have been 16 mos old, and I remember being lifted up to peep over the top of a smoky-brown coloured plastic little box, and she was in there, sleeping.

        I was racking my brains as I read this, trying to think of my earliest book memory though, or my earliest exciting experience with words…and I can’t (though allegedly at age two, I could say ‘condensation’ in context…)

        • Jessica

          My son Jack didn’t speak a word until he was almost two and then it was in complete and clear sentences. And one of his favorite kid shows was called Pinky Dinky Doo which was aimed more at 8-10 year olds. The main character would tell a story to her little brother and they’d focus on one word like “frustration” for the entire program. Jack’s vocabulary was incredible and you could ask him what words meant that he used and he could tell you and give you an example. And he remembers that. LOL. Although, he did refuse to call me Mom until he was 4 or 5. Until then I was Bop-Bop. And he’d look at me like “I know you want me to call you mom but I’m not going to” with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face. He doesn’t remember that at all though.

    • Jessica

      I am a maverick. LOL
      Seriously, I completely approve of editing my poetry. I don’t like closing myself off to making my work the best it can be. That means editing. I save the original to see where my thought processes led me, but I grow and mature and I like going back and revisiting older work that maybe I wasn’t so fond of or tweaking something somewhere.
      Growth people! My work is better for editing! 🙂

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