Poetry Exercises: Words, Sounds and Imitation

51BMg+piBgLI have been posting about the new poetry group that we’ve started at the local library where I find myself so happily employed. Please click back to the last couple posts for a lot more info.

And I thought I’d mention this to you, see if you want to try it. It’s an exercise I’ve freely adapted from The Discovery of Poetry by Frances Mayes, poet and author of Under the Tuscan Sun. We are following along in Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook. She’s talking about sound, and how the sounds of words are intricately connected to their meaning, whether by design or just association. It goes beyond that “bang” of automonapia. She uses the example of how “hush” differs from “please be quiet,” or “shut up.”

The suggestion (I hate to use the word assignment) was to write down about 50 words, favorite words, but favorites that you prize for the way they sound, particularly if their sound links to their meaning for you. That’s it, the first “assignment.”

But after this Tuesday when we talk a bit about practice and imitation, about the way art students will sit before great paintings to copy them, to study, to learn, we will suggest this: Take one of the poems we’ve talked about, one that resonates with you, and write a piece that mimics the style or form of that poem. Do this using your list of fifty favorite words.

Give it a try. I’ll post more links to the poems we’ll be reading Tuesday, so you can have the whole list of what we’ve read so far.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Patty Kennedy says:

    Oops, friend. Exercise is spelled thus. Glad you’re working at the library. I did in college and loved it a lot. It’s a worthy job. I’ve stayed connected with the local library system. I am, through the default of having previously been the program coordinator for the Friends, and no fault of my own except a love of poetry, doing the right thing and serving as the current Friends of the Library President.

    I stepped up for one purpose — to make sure we continue our poetry programs. I have been reading you for a while. Good stuff. Thanks!

    Patty Kennedy Gig Harbor WA

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Patty, thank you! I shall have to link to my email in a contact me page or on the “About Me” section so that you can correct me privately and save my dignity next time. 🙂 I know better, but sometimes in a hurry typos get past me. I was heading out the door, late for meeting a fellow poet tonight when I hit send.

      What a great encouragement to hear what you are doing for poetry on the local library level! I’m thrilled to hear it, and honored to be considered worth following. Thank you. Keep up the good work, Patty. It’s sincerely appreciated.


    2. Ah, there. Whew. I feel a tad better seeing that I actually spelled it correctly in the post. 😉


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