Creative Writing 101 :: Poetry Exercise

Short post tonight.

I haven’t touched on poetry much in this blog so far, and I would like to remedy that. One of my favorite ways to write a poem is what I like to call The “Olds Exercise” named from the Author Sharon Olds. In one of her books she describes a very unique way of writing poetry. Not only as an exercise but those poems that you write could be tweaked into some pretty cool stuff.

The basic idea of this way of writing is to think outside the box. Take 7-12 random words; you can randomly flip through a dictionary or thesaurus or ask a friend (or multiple friends) to give you words. You must include EVERY word in the poem, and make it mean something. You don’t have to use all of the words in the order they were given, either.

For example

Words given: vivacious, fossa, nuzzling, wink, diminish, monomorphic , inflection, Morgan le Fay, quibble, sotto voce, osmotic, yowl


Sotto Voce

There’s a little place on the back of your neck

that you keep hidden behind tangles,

golden curtains of soft, lucid tresses

an inflection where you carry all your secrets

In that spot you won’t let anyone touch

(A fossa only lovers will know)

I can see a whisper nuzzling its way

sotto voce

through the cooling pours of your skin

and tiny streams of sweat wink

at strands of hair in their way

as if to say, “we know this cryptic code;

but we swore

we wouldn’t tell”

The voices mock the wind—even it can’t stroke the nape of your neck

despite its osmotic tendencies

Soon it, too, will diminish itself, give in

and return to the hand of Morgan le Fay

where it will quibble

and yowl

and force the curtain of fibers back from their shadow

in a monomorphic snapshot of purity—

away from a vivacious laugh

because you know the enigma still stands

Still, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you wear your hair up.


I started back in High School to write ALL of my poetry like this. It gives it a little more edge, makes you take that extra step to reach for a metaphor or simile, or forces you to wrap your idea around something in a way you never would have before. Try it! It’s easy and surprisingly a LOT of fun. Feel free to post your results here or shoot them to me in an email!



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