Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Writing Exercise: Obsessions

My friend James Engelhardt and I sometimes swap poems to get a little advice and help from each other.  I feel very lucky to have him as a poetry buddy.  He gave me a really great idea for an exercise a few months ago.  I thought I'd post this as it might be something you might want to play with too.

I sent him a poem that started with the lines How will I love/without another birth?  James' idea was that I try a whole series of poems that begin with that same question.  I love this exercise as it's really helped me explore a current obsession in my writing.  I find that I (and a lot of poets I know) tend to have obsessions about certain topics and we have to write until we get those out.  Ideas and topics show up in poems over and over.  It's one of the things I love best about poetry books--being able to see a particular question or theme explored in multiple ways.  I've never before tried to directly address that idea by writing multiple poems starting with the same lines. It's been so much fun to do it.  

Here are a few openings I'm working on:

My Beautiful Eggs

How will I live
without another birth?

Without this sure sign,
that I am loved by one

greater than myself?

Apologies to the Body

How will I live without another birth?
By losing weight
by cutting my hair
by piercing my ears, again.

I’m considering a tattoo, although I don’t
tell anyone yet.

After Lucy

How will I live
without another birth?

I watch the fall wind
shake the alder tree

and even that looks like
a contraction, leaves spiraling

I'm not sure if any of these will turn out to be "keepers" but it's fun to play with, and useful to have a set place to start.  Hope this is something that might help you too.  And thanks to James for the idea!

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