Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Writing Game: The Poem Shakeup

Ready to play a writing game?

I recently joined the Working Writers group on LinkedIn. A fellow writer, R. Terry, poised an interesting question. For the days when it's hard to get motivated, where does your writing get-up-and-go-come from?

Her question reminded me of a game my creative writing teacher taught me. I described the game to R. Terry, who dubbed it the poem shake-up.  The idea of poem shake-up is to take some of your own work and throw it together with fresh ideas. There's an element of randomness to the process, that keeps you from blocking your own creativity.

Here's how it works

1) Write a poem. It can be about anything.

2) Cut the poem into strips (one line per strip).

3) Grab a news article. If you want inspiration from brave new ideas, pick an article on a subject wildly different from the topic of your poem. R. Terry did this today, to great effect.

If you want a springboard for a finished poem, pick an article that compliments your poem in some way. For the example in this post, I used the second option.

4) Cut up the article, making each piece roughly equal in word length to your poem lines. Make sure the number of article strips equals the poem strips.

5) Pick up all the strips, poem and news, and throw them in the air!

6) Collect the strips off the floor, and arrange them into a single poem.


You'll see thematic connections emerge that didn't exist before you threw it all into the air, and individual words will speak to you in new ways.


For the poem from me, I picked one that I wrote for last year's International Talk Like A Pirate Day. You can read the original poem here. The article I chose was pulled at random from the July 2011 Whiskey Magazine. Why a whiskey magazine? Because I couldn't find a rum magazine.

My goal was to have a shakeup that I could turn into a finished poem. Here's the end product:

Nightmare Seas

Water wisps and mist
we wrap around the seven seas

We float around the boats
which are alien to our ways

deep ways.

We slither, sling, and sail.

It's not about enjoyment.
Our job is to be, to think,
To capture
scared whispers, nightmares distilled.
The whiskies we all enjoy.

Coolly analytical, spiritually piratical.
Our abilities hover past your eyes
in a world you'll never see.

Are we base? Are we cruel?

Do we care what you think?

Your pain is our gruel.
It tastes like the space left in time
once your legs rot below the knees,
Oaky and ethereal.

When do you sail?

No answer.

No matter.
We will know. We will see.

And here is the original poem shakeup:

Our captain was a scalawag
It's not about enjoyment
We're grim an ghastly ghoulies
This series is an entry
job it is to be think
either. It is analytical
the whiskies we all enjoy
We float around the boat
which is alien to whiskey
deep way. Their tasting
we sail the seven seas
But when yer needing work
tasters such as distillers
'cause we're nothin' past the knees
The first mate were a fool
the helmsman such an idiot
and blenders whose daily
Aye, we be ghostly pirates
the professional extreme
lovers but the norm for
As frightnen as you please
abilities lie behind
intellectual, a world
he swam in his own drool
that sail the seven seas
oh, we be ghostly pirates
ye go where there be gruel.

And that's an example of how to get inspiration from a good ol' shakeup! Go to it, and have fun!