One morning at the AWA training in Alamo, I woke up with this in my head:
Throw out the bad
and keep the rest.
In the heart of the good
lies the very best.
I don’t usually dream in rhyme or wake up with poems, though I envy people who do. And this seems a bit trite to me as a piece of poetry. But I do love the sentiment. It’s not original, and now I’m trying to see if I inadvertently swiped it. (I don’t think so. It’s not turning up on Google anyway.)
What I’m learning again is that words, images, lines show up for us if we’re open to receiving them. Certainly writing groups and good prompts help, but I find that if I sit quietly—sometimes in meditation, sometimes at stoplights—and I request an image, it comes. (See “Requesting the Poem” under the “Poems” page of this blog for more on that.)
Sometimes images show up because we throw words up in the air and see how they fall down around us. My colleague Chris DeLorenzo introduced me to a fun exercise that plays with words to create unusual adjective/noun combos. Try this:
• Sit in a circle with a friend or two or three, and give each person two 3×5 cards. (The more people, the more fun the exercise!)
• Ask each person to write six nouns (people, places or things) on one card—it’s more fun if they’re interesting nouns, not just “dog” or “cat,” though those certainly will work.
• Then ask each person to write six adjectives (descriptive words that are typically paired with nouns) on his or her other card. Don’t try to make the adjectives match the nouns. Again, fun adjectives make things more lively.
• Then have everyone place their noun cards in their left hands and their adjective cards in their right hands. Tell them, “Extend each arm to the person next to you in the circle, and hand your noun card to the person to your left and your adjective card the person on your right.” (You do this, too!)
• Each person ends up with two cards of new nouns and new adjectives. Tell them to start making lists of unusual noun/adjective combos from the words they’ve been given. Play with the words so they have intriguing pairs to choose from. The funnier/wilder, the better. “Kinky tractor.” “Chartreuse roller skate.” “Playful granite.”
• Have each person share, say, three of their combinations aloud. Encourage people to write down the ones they’d like to borrow.
• So now, from the big list of nouns/adjectives, write into one of the combos. Or perhaps play with several of them in a poem.
This frees up our logical brains in ways they don’t necessarily want to be freed. It loosens the often too-tight writing muscle and gets us to play in the sandbox of vocabulary, to mix metaphors. It reminds us that writing is fun, dammit, and we take it much too seriously.
Here’s a poem that arrived at the Alamo training after we all shared some of our pairings. I bet you can easily spot the funky combinations. Have fun! Don’t stifle the laughter!
Point me toward that playful skyscraper.
Watch me step out with intelligent ankles,
frenetic toenails and one blue bunion
in my satisfied shoes.
I carry an altruistic horseshoe
and an indigo flystrip for luck.
Let me take this city
armed with angry chocolate, sassy tofu
and a rude Maybelline lipstick.
For I am a mischievous roller skate
and one sexy zucchini (though some
might call me an inept Jelly Belly
full of strident baloney).
I am a pearly caterpillar,
a tall rolling stone of twirled rhinoceros.
I am hot Kleenex, baby,
into which I blow a virtuous booger.