Write After Reading: Living the Life Poetic (Chapter 43)

Write After Reading: Living the Life Poetic is a weekly online book club with poetry participation. It alternates between my blog and Susan Taylor Brown’s blog. Susan led last week’s discussion, which included  a really cool Mad Lib exercise. 

This week, we’ll be talking about  Chapter 43: I’m So Adjective, I Verb Nouns: On Word Choice.

I get into word habits, I know, and sometimes my poetry starts to sound boring, even to myself. Poetry is all about surprising language, so if I start to feel that boredom, I know I’m in trouble!


I love: “[P]oetry does not play by these rules.” That’s the essence of poetry to me. It doesn’t necessarily play by any rules, and when it does, it’s the rules of its own (or the poet’s) choosing.


I’m doing Young Author Conferences all week (great fun, but exhausting!), so I confess I looked for an easy exercise to do! Here it is:


Make a list of 10 nouns, 10 adjectives, and 10 verbs that appeal to you. Maybe you like the way they sound or look, or what they mean. It may help to carry a notebook for a week or so, collecting words as they occur to you or as you experience them.


I enjoy word tickets and word lists, and I decided my very simple exercise today, which I did mostly as the kids were writing praise poems, would be to compile a list of some fun nouns, adjectives, and verbs that I don’t remember previously listing.







OK, I don’t know that these are my favorites or anything, but I did jot down words I liked in a kind of stream of consciousness fashion. I noticed verbs were the easiest for me to come up with, followed by nouns. I struggled to come up with 10 adjectives!

In looking at my lists, I realize I really am drawn to the f and z sounds. I don’t seem to go for one-syllable words much, and all my adjectives seem to combine to make some outdoors night scene (except for bouffant, which came out of nowhere!).

And here’s the next exercise, too: 

Choose a paragraph from something in print…type it up with blanks where every noun, verb, and adjective appear in each sentence. Then rewrite the paragraph randomly plugging in nouns from you list to fill in the blanks where nouns were, adjectives for adjectives, etc.…Don’t worry about making sense. The goal here is to be spontaneously random and see what happens.

That scares me but I’m going to give it a try!

The paragraph is from The Beginning, by Peter Ackroyd:

There were ADJ and ADJ NOUNS, too. ADJ NOUNS, known as ADJ NOUNS, VERB to 12–1/2 feet in length. Nothing on the NOUN had ever VERB so ADJ TURNED INTO ADVERB. The NOUN were ADJ NOUNS of the NOUN.

I’ll share the real text in a comment once we all do our little Mad Lib here:>)

Here’s my version:

There were dazzling and ethereal mountains, too. Fleeting secrets, known as inky feathers, stretched to 12–1/2 feet in length. Nothing on the expanse had ever enveloped so peacefully. The zippers were shimmering samples of the rendezvous.

Huh. I don’t like that at all. I think my choices were too informed by the knowledge of what the actual text says, or maybe the words I left in. Don’t know. Just feels very prosaic. Will be very interested to see what you come up with in your own lists, Mad Libs, or other exercises you play with!

(Since I’m at Young Authors Conference all week, it might take me a bit longer than usual to respond.)


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