Sunday, January 18, 2009

poetry exercise: 10 minute spill

This is one of my favorite poetry exercises because even though it rarely yields a brilliant poem, it often gives you some good images to explore. This exercise, by Rita Dove, is taken from The Practice of Poetry by Robin Behn & Chase Twichell. Enjoy.

10 Minute Spill

Write a ten-line poem. The poem must include a proverb, adage, or familiar phrase (examples: she's a brick house, between the devil and the deep blue sea, one foot in the grave, a stitch in time saves nine, don't count your chickens before they hatch, someday my prince will come, the whole nine yards, a needle in a haystack) that you have changed in some way, as well as five of the following words: cliff, needle, voice, whir, blackberry, cloud, mother, lick.

You have ten minutes.

When I teach this in class, I offer a list of idioms. We talk about simple ways to change the phrases - sometimes by just switching two of the words with each other, such as "only as weak as the strongest link." The point is to have fun with words on paper. Play around. Here's what I came up with yesterday:

I wake at the edge of a cliff,
my pajamas flapping in the wind.
The moon winks behind a cloud
and I sigh: this, again -
before turning toward my house,
my waiting unmade bed.
A thought needles me.
My mother's voice asking what if
this woman's work is done -
one step too many when steps are few.

And the image I like? "The moon winks behind a cloud." Maybe that'll show up in a better piece someday.

Feel free to post your own 10 Minute Spill in the comments.

1 comment:

Natalie D said...

THat sounds like fun. I would have liked that in school. How is back to school for you? Do you have no time but in the summer? I saw your comment about the detergent and it made me laugh you said this summer...5 months away!