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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pop-Up Poetry

I recently led a Pop-Up Poetry workshop at one of my favorite nature spots, the Whitewater Preserve. Planted in a lush canyon, surrounded on both sides by a high-walled canyon we fine-tuned our observation skills and enjoyed a word gathering walk, writing poetry, and applying alternative sources of inspiration for writing poetry--just through paying attention to our surroundings in nature and allowing poety to "pop up" around us.

Even if you think you don’t have a poetic bone in your body, opening up to these creativity exercises just may surprise you when your inner poet emerges in response. Grab a notebook and a pen and give these ideas a try:

Poetry Path. Take a walk in a natural area with a particular theme in mind, like sounds, blue, textures, patterns etc. Write poem notes (phrases) that describe your chosen prompt which you can use in a complete poem or other writing later. For example, using the prompt “sounds:”
  • Describing the sound of wind in the trees interrupted by squirrels chattering: I heard an animated conversation above me, the voices of the leaves chattering with the wind about the squirrels.
  • Hearing a stream before I saw it: Somewhere beyond the moss the muffled voice of a stream tells old stories to wide-eyed boulders and fallen trees. From this phrase, I tried a version of haiku (5-7-5 poem about nature):

          Beyond the soft moss
          A stream tells old stories to
          hushed, wide-eyed boulders.

Word Gathering. One of the exercises we did as a group was a word gathering walk. For about 15 minutes we walked around the preserve collecting words in our journals directly inspired by everything we encountered. Just words. I suggested participants write any phrases on a separate page. Keep only words on your page. As a group we then exchanged our lists, using someone else’s words to write a poem (returning original lists when done). (Sources: Creating a Word List from Your Nature blog; Word list exchange idea from Liz Lamoreux’s book "Inner Excavation: Explore Your Self Through Photography, Poetry, and Mixed Media")

But if you’re going solo, a great alternative is to cut up your individual words and choose ten of them to arrange directly into a 10-word poem or randomly pick five of your words to use as inspiration in a poem. (Random 5 from Bowl of Random Words at The Odd Inkwell blog) 

Here’s a partial list from a word gathering walk by someone who does not think they are a poet; a reluctant poet: hot, green, soft, crunchy, bark, tree, leaves, water, wet, summer, season, chirping, wings, flight, laughter, blank, falling. See below for their Fallen Poem.

Sensory Overload. Still think you don’t have it in you? Embrace your descriptive words! Take any object and write down at least 5 words or phrases to describe it in detail. Try descriptive words that address your senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste) as a guideline. For example, "nest"--downy shelter, wet feathers, warm scent, peppery insects, tiny, hungry calls.

newly hatched, wet feathers
shifting with anticipation
stretching, reaching
tiny, hungry calls
the warm scent of peppery insects
lands softly
within the downy shelter
feeding time.

Wishy-Washy and Fallen Poems. Creating ephemeral poems can be a great incentive for putting anything down “on paper,” even those poems you think are…well not so great. Just as long as you keep working your poetry muscle. From mistakes come creative masterpieces…

Wishy (rain) Washy: how about Molly Anderson-Childers & Chris Dunmire’s suggestion of chalking a bad poem on the sidewalk and praying for rain! (from Jellybeans for Breakfast: A Guided Imagery on Play)

Fallen Poems: collect a few fallen leaves (not too crunchy) and write bad haiku on them followed by adding them to your garden as mulch—veggies and flowers eat up poetry! Or better yet, leave a lucky stranger your spontaneous prose or a poem note written directly on a leaf inspired by fall leaves, the surrounding scenery, or the tree your leaf came from, leave it on their windshield as an unexpected word gift. (Adapted from "leaf tweets" from my article, Let Nature Be Your Muse--9 Activities to Boost Your Creativity)

The “reluctant poet’s” Fallen Poem:  
Chirping and soft wings. Laughter in flight.


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