The Collectivism of Magnet Poetry

When I was younger, I always wanted a set of magnet poetry so I could write something cute (but most likely just silly) on the fridge. For some reason or another, I never thought about asking for it. No one in my family writes poetry and none of them read it. The fridge is a shared space and although my report cards and little kid artwork went up on the fridge, asking for magnet poetry was unfathomable. Then I went to college and my roommate had a fun set of “college-themed” ones. We used it on our white board outside of our rooms and we would always come back to something new.

Usually we would start out with just a short phrase: “I ate pizza for dinner” (so college, am I right?). Then after returning back from class, someone would add on “naked” to the end of the phrase or add on a whole other line. They could switch out words and put in new ones anonymously. Sometimes the original phrase would change to something different by the end.

Having a college themed edition of magnet poetry was pretty fun though. And I think living in a dorm specifically catered to writers really helped this whole collectivist poetry thing. But I will say that most of the revisions usually involved some type of sexual act by the end. It was all harmless, freshman year fun.

But this collectivist act made me think about how great writing (or at least revision) comes from living and working in an environment with others who have a shared vision. Writers like to think about how writing is such an individual act but I find that having a pantheon of voices in workshop or outside of it can really help shape something great. It can help you take your work in a direction you haven’t thought of (but by that same vein, sometimes others can completely change your original vision which is frustrating: “I ate pizza for dinner” soon changes to “They drank pizza beer at the naked party”) or reaffirm your choices. Regardless of magnetic poetry being a metaphor for workshop or revision, it’s still really fun to use. I wish I would have used it sooner.

3 Replies to “The Collectivism of Magnet Poetry”

  1. From lego to fridge magnet poetry…I love how you’re building (pun intended) a material, public sense of what poetry might be. And these notions of the visibility of poetry as shared composition seem rich for our workshop. A friend today pointed out that influence isn’t just visible in what we write (the images we get from one poet, the syntax from another) but in methodologies or philosophies etc – that someone would do a certain thing to the shared magnetic poetry might change how we think of writing.

  2. This post was so great Christina! I never had magnetic poetry as a kid either, and the first time I was exposed to it I was actually at a college party my freshman year. I was in this random house creeping around when I somehow ended up in the kitchen. As I was walking around I noticed they had some magnetic poetry on their fridge! The highlight of my night was rearranging the words to make the weirdest phrase I could.

    I also loved what you said in the end, “Writers like to think about how writing is such an individual act but I find that having a pantheon of voices in workshop or outside of it can really help shape something great.” That is so, so true. Yes, one has to get through the first draft of a piece by him or herself, but it needs to be looked at and edited before it can improve at all. I love being in workshop because people always think of ideas and concepts that I never would have before! I feel like the writing process should be a collective process.

  3. I LOVE WORD MAGNETS. They are wonderful for working with a limited vocabulary built by somebody else. It is challenging and fun. They also show us exactly how to use poetry on a white page in comparison to a white refrigerator. I wish I had them in my apartment for inspiration.

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