Monday, April 07, 2014

Posted by Laurel Garver on Monday, April 07, 2014 17 comments
Excerpt from Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words
by Susan Wooldridge
photo by Linzi, morguefile.com

I have a strong gathering instinct. I collect boxes, hats, rusty flattened bottlecaps for collages and creek-worn sticks to color with my hoard of Berol prismacolor pencils. When I was a kid I’d lie in bed imagining I was a squirrel who lived in a hollow tree, foraging for acorns, twigs and whatever it takes to make squirrel furniture.

Most of us have collections. I ask people all the time in workshops, Do you collect anything? Stamps? Shells? ’57 Chevys? Raccoons? Money? Leopards ? Meteorites? Wisecracks? What a coincidence, I collect them too. Hats, coins, cougars, old Studebakers. That is, I collect the words. Pith helmet, fragment, Frigidaire, Quarrel, love seat, lily. I gather them into my journal.

The great thing about collecting words is they’re free; you can borrow them, trade them in, or toss them out. I’m trading in (and literally composting) some of my other collections—driftwood, acorns and bits of colored Eater egg shell—for words. Words are lightweight, unbreakable, portable, and they’re everywhere. You can even make them up. Frebrent, bezoncular, zuber. Someone made up the word padiddle.

A word can trigger or inspire a poem; and words in a stack or thin list can make up poems. Because I always carry my journal with me, I’m likely to jot down words on trains, in the car, at boring meetings (where I appear to be taking notes), on hikes and in bed....

When I’m playing with words, I don’t worry about sounding  dumb or crazy. And I don’t worry about whether or not I’m  writing “a poem” word pool. world pool, wild pool, whipoorwill, swing. Words taken out of the laborious structures (like this sentence) where we normally place them take on a spinning life of their own.

Exercises: 

  • Toss words, say them, sing them, chant, notice and let yourself get excited about them 
  • Collect nouns and verbs especially. We want the heart and guts: blood, sweat and tears. We want the action: lure, slink, release, trickle, churn 
  • Label things strangely. Put lightning on a shoe, trigger on a stone. Label a car, spoon. This turns everything upside down and loosens us up. 
  • Pair verbs with nouns. You might wind up with a tarantula spin or table exiting the long room 
  • Collect words for things you love. Mix these with your verbs. 
  • Create a word ocean for your classroom 
  • Create your personal universe of language that includes at least one word that’s an important abstraction, like truth.
Source: Poemcrazy: freeing your life with words. Chapters 3 and 4.

If you were to start collecting words today, what are some favorites you'd add first? 


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17 comments:

  1. What great exercises - I love the thought of pairing unexpected words and seeing what happens. Most of it might be silly, but I bet you'd get some gems, too.

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    1. Many of them could be fun warm ups for fiction also.

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  2. One of my favorite writing exercises was a writing contest that I entered twice because it was such a blast. Entrants received a topic, a first line, and five words that had to be incorporated into their short story of 2,000 words or less. We had five days to write our story. It was probably some of my more creative writing since we had to use words that weren't necessarily words we'd choose ourselves. Those contests were run by the Center for Writing Excellence, but unfortunately the Center isn't running them anymore. :-(

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    1. That does sound like a fascinating challenge--and having a contest attached is good motivation to try it.

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  3. All words were made up at some point! Some are just more recent than others.

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    1. Shakespeare in particular was ace at coining new words. Thanks for visiting!

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  4. I've always been fascinated by words. What's a "word ocean?"

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    1. I think she takes the schoolteacher idea of a "word pool" and expands it to oceanic proportions.

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  5. Damn! I miss writing poetry. Used to do it when I started blogging 10 yrs ago on a personal blog. I would create as I was walking through the city to/ from work. Or at home I'd cut out found words I liked. Then place other ones nearby to see how they'd react together. A bit of jumbling up and you'd have combinations you could never create any other way and went on to make a story/ poem which was quite 'other'... but that might have been because it was brought into being in the small hours of the morning!.....
    http://www.thecotswoldfoodyear.com/

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    1. It's never too late to try your hand at it again. After so many years of blogging, I bet your style has become more sophisticated.

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  6. Great post! I want to collect books, but for now, I collect stories in my head. Good luck with the Challenge. :)

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    1. Stories in you head don't require so much physical shelf space, for sure! Thanks for visiting!

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  7. I have favourite words too; melancholy, harbinger, serenity, melodic and I like lily as well :) I love using the thesaurus to find even better words than I would normally use when writing my blog. Plus I must admit I collect snow globes which is a bit low brow.

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    1. Taking each of those favorites, I bet you could build a word cloud (of associated words) and from them build a poem or story. Harbinger is wonderfully evocative.

      Snow globes are interactive, though, which makes them more awesome than most tchotchkes people collect.

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  8. I collect words too, I love the way certain words roll of the tongue (like mellifluous for example). And it can be a great way to get inspiration by looking back through the journal :)

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  9. Hi Laurel. A lovely post and such a good exercise too for writing. Keep at it.
    Happy Blogging A to Z.
    http://musenmotivation.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/f-for-fancy/

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  10. During the #atozchallenge I found this blog and ordered Never Gone. I have already posted a review about it. Highly recommend this novel. It is well written, a good story. It would be a wonderful book to select for any church youth group because of the kinds of questions entertained in the writing. Congratulations!

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