Write After Reading: Living the Life Poetic (Chapter 71)

It’s Wednesday again, time for Write After Reading!

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. Last week, we did Chapter 63: Taking Shape, Experimenting with Poetic Forms at Susan’s blog. Zip over there and take a read if you missed it.

This week, we’re talking about Chapter 71: Lists as Triggers. Poems using lists of predetermined words are such a fun puzzle! Centos are one form of this (see my cento that uses the titles of 23 children’s/ya poetry books here). And there are tons of other fun variations, like this fabulous paint chip poem by Julie Larios. The possibilities are endless.

In this chapter, I actually love “The Horse in the Drugstore,” by Tess Gallagher. (Find it here if you don’t have the book to read along.) Usually, I like poems that make more “sense,” in the traditional sense, but this scene captures me, amuses me, and mystifies me.

My favorite bit of this chapter: Think of a list poem as a linguistic obstacle course that challenges you to find new ways out of the old maze. Remember, in this case list poem refers to a poem that is inspired by a list of words, not a list poem in the way I usually use the term.

If you find you like this challenge, may I recommend Sandford Lyne’s book, Writing Poetry From the Inside Out? It includes an appendix of word groups (each having 4 words), somewhere between 700 and 1000 of them. His groupings tend to include more easily connect-able words than the six that Gallagher was challenged with.

For our exercise this week, let’s write a word list poem. Either use the six words from Gallagher’s poem:

bruise
horse
milk
reason
bride

Or use one of these four-word groups from Lyne’s book:

pilgrim
universe
kneel
fly

blows
magnets
inhale
affirm

taillight
flicker
gallons
bleed

boys
boat
umbrellas
wind

wall
drink
hidden
springs

Can’t wait to see what we come up with this week! And feel free to share a poem you’ve written previously based on a word list, too, or your thoughts on the experience of trying this kind of poem.

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