Bouncing Off Walls
I m i t a t i o n & H o m a g e
Diction Cloud / Diction & Phrase / N+7 / Canceled Text / Boolean Poetry / Translexical Translation /
Total Transfusion / Rhyme Mining / Syntax / A Sweeping Bow / Cut-Up Dialogue /
Portrait by Metaphor & Catalogue / Poem of the Ordinary / Bounce Back
Choose a poem and list all the words in the poem in alphabetical order. Write a poem using these words. Don't look at the original again until you have made several drafts of your own poem. ° How flexible can you be? Since the purpose of the exercise is to place you in someone else's diction cloud, I recommend either a very strict rule or something like "80% of the words in your poem must be from the list." Another possibility is to limit yourself to the list for substantive words but allow flexibility for small words (articles, conjunctions, prepositions). ° Variation: have a friend choose the poem and list the words, so you won't know your source till your poem is finished. A lesser-known poem by a poet you admire, perhaps? Or a poet you have never read.
Diction & Phrase
In the beguinage god created the hebdomad and the earthfall. And the earthfall was without formalization, and void; and darnex was upon the facette of the deerhair.
In the behest God created the heckelphone and the easement. And the easement was without format, and void and darshan was upon the facial of the defeasance.
In the bend God created the hen and the education. And the education was without founder, and void; and death was upon the falsehood of the demand.
Other considerations: When the base text includes nouns in apposition, such as trail head you can make your own rule: apply N+7 to both words; consider the first word an adjective and alter only the second word; or take the expression as a single noun trailhead, and alter it by the normal practice. ° When altering a metrical poem, you can choose to respect or to ignore meter. To preserve the meter, start with the 7th noun and continue searching until you find a noun that will fit the meter. In some cases, the alphabetic distance may be very great, even crossing into subsequent letters.
Choose a poem and create a new poem from it, by obliterating all the words you don't want to preserve. You can cross them out, black them out, white them out, paint over them, print them in a pale font (leaving your selected words in black), or remove them entirely. ° However you choose to do away with the canceled words, you must leave your selected words in place, positioned on the page where you found them. ° For the purposes of homage or satire, your new poem should comment on or respond do the original poem.
The best way to explain this is to give you an example. You could think of this as a translexical lexicon with no limits. So read the example, choose a model poem, and have at it.
TOASTED WHOLLY-GRAIL STOAT
What's so specious about
Choose a rhymed poem by a poet to whom you wish to pay tribute. Consider how sense is linked by sound in the poem, and whether its rhyme is beautiful, witty, odd, or what. Now, list key words in the sound patterns: full rhymes, slant rhymes, assonance, and alliteration. Use this word list to write a poem that does not use end-rhyme. Pay attention to syntax as a tool to place key sounds where you want them and where they will be more or less audible. ° You can vary this exercise by choosing a poem with full rhymes, generating slant rhymes for its key words, and writing a poem from your new list of words (including the original rhyme words).
As an exercise, this calls for you to write the first draft of a poem by imitating the syntax of a model poem. As imitation, it calls for you to keep to that syntax, as much as possible, as you revise the poem.
Type out the poem triple-space, so you have enough room to write between the lines. Begin your poem by writing under each line of the model poem. Write sentences that follow the exact syntax of the model. ° You can do this very simply just by using the same part of speech, word for word. A more useful approach, however, is to imitate the syntax a little more consciously (as in this discussion of Adame’s poem). If you do this, you may find that the rhythms, even the logic of your poem will mirror that of your model. If you choose a very different subject for your poem, however, it may not resemble the model in any other fashion. ° Use concrete diction, sharp images, interesting sounds. ° When you are satisfied with your own lines -- as a rough draft, at least -- erase the original lines. (Or, if you are working by hand, copy out your own poem in a fresh copy.) ° Read your poem aloud.
To revise: examine the function of the grammar and syntax in relation to their function in the original. Get to know what they are doing before you start changing them. ° You may or may not keep the lineation of the first draft, but pay attention to the relationships between syntax and line. If you make your own pattern, different from your model, think about what pattern you are making. Don’t just make it simpler because simple lines make you more comfortable. Let it be strange if it wants to be.
As you revise, keep as much
possible of the original syntactic structure. Don’t cut up complex or
compound sentences into simple ones. Don't change incomplete syntax to
whole sentences, and don't change altered grammar to standard usage. If
you have inverted syntax someplace, don’t be hasty to
reverse it into straightforward syntax. If the lines and sentences
different than your usual poems you've done a good job! Don’t revise
to sound like your usual self. The purpose of this exercise is to
your ear in new patterns.
Some poems that work well as models:
John Donne: Batter My Heart
Three-Personed God, Death Be Not Proud, or Song (Go and catch a falling
A Sweeping Bow
Choose one poem as a model.
its nouns, its verbs, and its modifiers. List its metaphors, images,
and idioms. Study its syntax and scan its meter or rhythm. List its
rhymes and slant rhymes. Define its tone. Consider the distance or
intimacy of the speaker. Define its line type and its line length. ° Now, choose a
subject that parallels the subjects your target poet writes of -- but
make it a subject you care
about and think about. If your target poet is Niedecker, for example,
don't try to write about Black Hawk Island, Wisconsin, but do write
about a place you know and love. Or, if your target is Levine, write
about a job you've done or a pardigmatic scene out of your teen years.
In this exercise you will write a series of unconnected metaphors, similes, images, and questions, then use them to construct a catalog of images and metaphor that portray a person. As you work your way through Steps 1-11 be sure to vary the tone; make some warm and some cold, some tragic and some comic, some ironic and some emotional; some very close to you, some very removed from you. You should also make the leaps of association as large as possible; make some so large you're not sure they make any sense at all.
Begin with these steps:
1) Write an aural (sound) image. Elaborate it by apposition, then elaborate it by simile.
2) Repeat step one using a visual image.
Here are some examples:
Leaves scratch across a parking lot, something in a hurry to escape--like rats leaving a sinking ship.
One involuntary squeak, a small admission; like a bagpiper trying to stop sound at the end of a tune.
Curved white wicker in a metal frame, a perforated sail, as useless as a weekend rain.
3) Write two appositive metaphors for parts of the human body. Again, make your leaps large. Such as:
Your lips, a
train I am
of waiting for.
4) Write a metaphor or simile involving something you saw in another country. If you have never been to another country, use something you've read or heard--but remember that it is hearsay. Such as:
An argument as
obsolete as the
5) Write a metaphor or simile involving weather. Such as:
He thundered but he never struck.
6) Write two verb metaphors. Such as:
He thundered but
7) Choose an ornate or highly decorated object and describe it in detail.
8) Turn your description from Step 7 into a description of something else. For example, the details describing an ornate tablecloth become the details describing sunlight on a hillside.
9) Write a descriptive sentence that contradicts or reverses itself.
10) List 8 or 10 words that can change parts of speech, such as: hand, can, fast, shadow, square, uniform, balance, primary..
11) Write three questions.
OK, this is your raw material. Use it to create a portrait of a person. Choose a real person, not a made-up or general character. And of course there are more rules.
1) Your poem can be composed of no more than two sentences and must be at least thirty lines long.
2) Link your passages with colons, semi-colons, dashes, apposition, and simile only. Use no conjunctions.
3) Use two or three words from step 8 to end lines, so that at the end of the line the word appears to be one part of speech but as we read onto the next line the word shifts to another part of speech. Or, if you can't manage that, use several of these words in both their parts of speech: a fast horse and a ship made fast, a shadow and a dog who shadows you wherever you go.
4) End the poem with a
Poem of the Ordinary
1) Read the following poems:
Pablo Neruda: Ode to
2) Choose one poem to imitate. List its nouns, its verbs, and its modifiers. List its metaphors, images, and idioms. Study its syntax and scan its meter or rhythm. List its rhymes and slant rhymes. Define its tone. Define the distance or intimacy of the speaker. Define its line type and its line length.
3) Choose an utterly different but equally ordinary object or event and write a poem in the manner of your model.
Here is a longer list of poems to consider in the same fashion. The first group may be found in The Oxford Anthology of Modern American Poetry. The others are generally easy to find in other anthologies.
Robert Frost: Design
Gertrude Stein: any from
Tender Buttons http://www.gutenberg.org/files/15396/15396-h/15396-h.htm
2b) Choose several poems to work with and group them by type. Define "type" according to whatever features you are interested in. For example, group poems that transform the ordinary to the visionary vs. poems that depict "real life"; or, group poems about work vs. poems about our bodies; or, group personal narrative poems vs. poems describing or responding to an object. Once you have your groups, write at least two poems designed to fit in to particular categories you've created. You can complicate your categories by paying particular attention to where they overlap. This might lead you to visionary narrative vs. real life narrative, or "real-life" narrative vs. "real life" description vs. "real life" stream of consciousness.
Translation as Interpretation on the Diction/Image/Metaphor Page