Poetry Games/Voices in our Heads

I can’t think of the exact name of the game, but I recall in a few introductory creative writing classes/creative writing clubs doing this exercise where one person writes one line of a poem/story/etc. and then each subsequent person writes one line until it goes all the way around and the page is filled with an often offensive, chaotic, and hilarious jumble.

The game rarely produces works of merit, but I always found it fun, mostly because I was usually the first jackass to break continuity, introduce a random character, event, or object, or  bring forth any number of complications. I loved how it brought out the mischief in everyone.

But the game is important in another way, too, in that it suggests how a poem (in this case) can abruptly or subtly shift in the small space of line or even within the line. A poem of several authors rather than one will most likely come out messy, nonsensical, and inconsistent in the realm of this game, but the product is illuminating nonetheless. From these scrambled poems we can ponder the multiple screaming voices within our own heads that compete for space on the page. Will one voice calmly scribe the poem, or will our rampant mental contradictions battle on the page? The results will differ greatly.

Eight Weeks In

This semester is already halfway over (doesn’t feel like it, does it?) and this is just a brief meditation on where we are right now. Personally I feel like I’ve learned so much from you guys–reading your poems, hearing your comments on everyone’s pieces, and reading your responses have strengthened my writing (not only as a poet but in general) and given me a better understanding and appreciation of poetry. There are still things I want to work on, of course, like experimenting more with punctuation and meter. I’m both excited and terrified that we only have eight more weeks left together, and what that will mean for our continued progression. We have so much time yet so little.

With that, how do you guys feel you’ve grown as poets and writers so far this semester? What haven’t you tried yet that you still want to? I think it’s great that we’re pushing each other and ourselves.

QuickType Poetry

The first half of this semester has taken its toll on me, and so, devoid of any idea for a decent blog post, I lazily googled “Poetry” and clicked on the News tab and clicked on the first thing that came up. It led me here: http://www.macworld.com/article/2692885/just-for-fun-show-us-your-best-quicktype-poetry.html

The link will direct you to a brief article by Susie Ochs about iOS 8’s fancy Big Brother keyboard that predicts what you’ll type before you finish typing it. One implication of this technology is weird, autonomous poetry. In a way this QuickType poetry reminds me of Christina’s post, “Bot or Not,” which delves into computer generated poetry and the eerie resemblance it can have to human generated poetry.

I don’t find any of the poems in this article that impressive or coherent, and I’m bothered by Ochs’ glibness toward poetry (“Your phone might be a poet and you don’t even know it.” Cringe). Still, it’s worth a quick look.

Is our ever-increasing intimacy with technology a detriment to our creative impulses or a useful tool for uncovering them?

When to Stop Writing

When we write and tell stories, we know to start at the beginning, develop the middle (conflict, character), then come to some conclusion, whether it be resolution or irresolution. Some stories might require a lengthy beginning and middle and a terse ending, or vice versa. The point is that narratives start, occur, and end, whereas poetry does not yield to these restrictions. Yes, poems must “begin” somewhere and “end” eventually or else the reader will walk away from it and the writer will die before the thing is finished, but the conclusion of a poem is never as well-defined or as latent as that of a story. In his essay “The End of the Poem,” which we read in the beginning of the semester, Agamben contemplates that poems might never end, they may resonate outward, infinitely, eliminating the risk of falling into prose. I’ve been finding this semester that my biggest difficulty in writing poetry is not beginning but ending. I rarely know when to keep writing, when to insert a new stanza, or when to just end the thing. My issue is less about how the poem ends, which seems to be Agamben’s primary concern, but rather when the poem ends, and why.


My most recent exercise poem is a whopping one sentence taking place over five medium-length lines. After I finished writing I pondered what would come next–how could I elaborate or progress or uncover this poem? After some time I read and re-read the poem, deciding that, for now, it was done the way it was. There was nothing more I could think of adding that would improve it. The poem didn’t need anything. Now, I may be wrong (I’m sure I am), and if I decide to workshop this poem I’m sure I’ll realize how much more I could do with it, or how inadequate it actually is. But as of now I have ended the poem where I think it needs to end, though I’m still not entirely sure why. Why do we end our poems where we do?


Do you guys also find yourselves struggling with dropping the pen (halting your tapping fingers)? Do you think shorter poems are a result of laziness (probably, in my case) or that some poems just don’t need as much space? And what of longer poems, like those of T.S. Eliot? Why extend a poem and why truncate it?

Writing about Things that Don’t Interest Us.

Whenever I’m able to shake off my procrastination and sit down to write a new poem my mind always reels to all the things in life I care about; things I have passion for and stick with me that I just need to spew onto the blank page. My last poem was about music because it consumes most of my time and thought.  So far in this class we’ve seen poems ranging from the subjects of Full House to Horror Video Games and beyond. It isn’t uncommon to latch onto our interests when writing creatively–after all we must write what we know so we can dig deeper into our subjects than perhaps other people are willing or able.

But this somewhat obvious revelation brings me to something kind of strange, so bear with me: What if we wrote about things we don’t really care for? Not even things that we dislike, because dislike lends itself to passion as well, but things to which we are indifferent, things apparently of no consequence–that crumb on the table in front of me, the brave and greedy seagull that walks stealthily beside me, the group of three or four swaying beside one another a few yards ahead. These are mundane things, things we see all the time but rarely analyze–because why would we?

Well, perhaps our passion sometimes gets in the way of our writing. That is to say, if we care about something it becomes easy to write with abstraction because we already know the significance of the thing. So maybe if we tried writing about something we have no passion for we would force ourselves to write with more depth and clarity. And maybe the process of writing will illumine the significance of whatever the topic may be and we suddenly find ourselves interested in that thing. This post runs parallel to Katie W.’s about discovering strange facts and basing a poem on them. Maybe the uninteresting topic can eventually serve as the perfect metaphor for something we do care about.

What do you think? Does this idea completely contradict the purpose of creative writing/Poetry writing? Or could it be a useful challenge to strengthen our writing?

Childhood Poetry

From a young age I dabbled in various creative tasks. I drew, wrote songs in my head, and eventually started writing things down. I loved the effect of rhyme. Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein were the Greats of my time. Though I, regrettably, don’t draw as much as I used to I still write songs, sing and play, and, of course, write frequently.

Geneseo is only about forty-five minutes from where I live, in West Irondequoit, and I go home most weekends for band practice. Yesterday I dug up a portfolio behind my couch containing a hefty pile of artwork I made between the ages of ten and sixteen. Underneath was a thin folder containing poetry I wrote as a kid, most of them written at the age of eleven/twelve. Reading these rhyme-heavy, basic poems invoked feelings of nostalgia and embarrassment, and I loved every minute of it.

Here’s a poem entitled, “Circles,” which I apparently wrote April 28th, 2005 (I was eleven):


Circles are amazing shapes,

With no beginning and no end.

The shape of an orange or a grape,

Ovals always like to pretend.


As big as the colorful planets,

The size of an analog clock,

As small as a piece of granite,

And a perfect smooth silver rock.


The sun that shines with burning desire,

A freshly picked cherry from a tree,

The sparks that hurl from the fire,

And a golf ball that’s resting on a tree.


A circle can be big or small,

The shape of a china dish,

A circle is the coolest of all,

A circle is an endless wish.


I hope you laughed and cringed as much as I did reading that (especially at the ever-descriptive, “coolest of all”). Perhaps what I love most about finding these relics is their purpose as time-markers. I vaguely remember sitting down and writing this poem, thinking it was profound–maybe it was for an eleven-year-old (I do like “A circle is an endless wish,” as lofty as it is). I did the best with the vocabulary and knowledge I had at the time, and now I can appreciate these early attempts that serve as the foundation for my love of writing.

I want to read any childhood poems/other writing you guys have dug up, if you have any. Don’t let me suffer alone.