From beginnings last month, to endings…
This month’s writing prompt is about writing to a constraint. For me, some of my favourite writing has come from not being able to write completely freely. A good example of this is form.
‘Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.’ – Robert Frost
I’m not sure I fully agree with this quote by Robert Frost, as I think writing free verse carries its own challenges and subtleties. But I know what he means.
Sometimes, witing to a form can force you to raise your game. It forces you to take the poem in a different direction. If you can’t find a word that says what you want to say and still fits the form, then you have to say something different. Form can push you outside of your comfort zone, and force you to think outside the box.
(It’s actually the same reason I often won’t let my school groups write rhyming poetry, when I want them to focus more on freeing their imagination.)
This prompt isn’t to use a traditional form, but it hopefully it will bring out something different and unexpected in your writing.
Write a poem using the end-words from a different poem.
Take another poem (by somebody else) as your starting point. Try to make it a contemporary poem that you don’t already know, so that you’re not constantly thinking of the original poem while you’re trying to write your own.
Don’t read the original poem; just write down the last word of each line.
Then, write your own poem, ‘filling in the gaps’. What you should end up with are two completely different poems (the original and your own), but with the same words ending their lines.
Obviously, once you’ve done this exercise, you can rewrite your poem and remove any of those end-words that really don’t belong, and edit your poem as normal.
Your original poem can be any contemporary poem (try to avoid anything too old, as you may get stuck with some anachronistic ‘thou’ and ‘thee’ language). But if you’re struggling to find one, here’s a suggestion:
And if you don’t want to see the rest of the poem, the line endings are as follows:
Good luck! I’d love to see any / hear which poems you chose. Comments in the boxes below 🙂
This is an interesting exercise and I’ll definitely be trying it out. I’ve been struggling with ‘writer’s block’ (I know – there’s no such thing really, just lack of inspiration) and have been looking at writing prompts to get the juices flowing again. Basically I’ve struggled since I lost my husband (and muse) 7 years ago. I don’t seem to be able to get the interest back I had, despite having my first collection published over 2 years ago. I’m trying everything I can, to get back to where I was before and start the poetry waters flowing once more. Will let you know how I get on with your prompt.
Hi Janette –
Sorry to hear you’ve been struggling. I used to think writers’ block was just a lack of inspiration, but I’ve been thinking about it more lately, and I’m not sure that’s true. I think it usually boils down to one of two things: either it’s laziness on the part of the writer (sounds mean, but I know so many writers who say they have writers’ block and yet never even make time to try to write – it’s so true that inspiration likes to find you already working), or it’s something much psychologically deeper. I’ve gone through a couple of periods of struggling to write, and in both of them it was because there was something else going on in my mind that I was trying to grapple with. I think that if you’re struggling with something big outside of your writing, it can make it hard to access those creative parts of the brain. Sometimes I think I just have to put the writing aside while I deal with the other issues, and sometimes continuing to attempt to write can help my get through the problems. I think it just depends on the individual circumstances.
That said, I hope the exercise works out for you. I’d love to see what you come up with!
This is a great prompt! It reminds me of the Golden Shovel form Terrance Hayes created: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/articles/detail/92023. I wrote two Golden shovels for my MFA thesis. I originally thought it would be quite difficult, but I quickly settled into a rhythm. The second poem wasn’t so much a golden shovel as I used the words at the beginning of the lines, a reserve golden shovel!
Yes! I’d actually totally forgotten about the Golden Shovel form, so thank you for reminding me. I tried to write one a few years ago, but I don’t think it really went anywhere… The Golden Shovel uses the words from a whole line, though, doesn’t it? Rather than end-words. Glad you enjoyed the Golden Shovel form though, and this one too! 🙂