Recently I have had the delight of reading a new book on poetry, Poemcrazy by Susan G. Wooldridge. My grandmother gave it to me for Christmas and, in trying to immerse myself with ideas and inspiration, I have started it.
So here we go with another entry in the journal of Evelyn-finds-something-neat-about-poetry-and-comes-to-share-it. Today’s topic: word pools.
The third chapter of Poemcrazy is all about word pools, a concept I had never heard about before. The idea is simple: it is a list or “pool” of words you build as a tool of inspiration. If you’re in a class, the students can all donate a couple and write them all on the board. If you’re on your own, you can open random books and write down what you find. Or flip through the dictionary and write down the ones that stand out.
Sounded both fairly simple, but fun. So I found a notebook and began.
My first word pool:
mend milk white tatter tether jubilant connect unpretentious excerpt admit one nail idol dedicate heaps curtain patter watercolor fancies clogged ship wrecked rascality timeline this journey to the stars excommunicated dreaded lace agape drapes
bills booklet bathtub corpse contest firmament knead weld exquisite
I kept going and then began combining words of similar moods, picking out interesting ones, building vivid phrases, and shuffling them:
lens pale mushrooms flaked emerald fingers inlaid steps child of the sea foam, bubbled hair, limbs plash slicing ivy shreds
Suddenly it had started to build up an image. I read over that part again and out loud. That part is swimming with words that slip and slide, and pop and fizzle.
This year I dissected different types of mushrooms in my biology class so the first line with the words “pale” and “lens” and “mushroom” instantly reminded me of fingering the delicate underside of a large Portobello mushroom.
I ended up writing more words and phrases as I pictured the dissection:
caverns, soft textured walls, frames, peal back layers of courts, pale tender lens and detailed tapestries, feathers of a bird.
Well, lately I have been experimenting with collage and mixed media work, so I had the idea, what if I actually hunted down and collected physical words instead of just thinking of whatever came to mind and copying them down?
I collected words from the following:
- An book’s discarded dust cover
- A old, weather-beaten copy of Emma I bought for craft purposes from a thrift store long ago for only 50 cents
- Some cut out advertisements
- A nature magazine issue I had three copies of
- Old cards
I decided to make two cards, each card with a different starting letter. I picked “E” after my own name and then “A” because I had a lovely big A from the dustcover.
I cut, I snipped, I pasted and found some old, worn out words like “a” and “address” or “eight” and “ever,” and some dynamic, odd ones like in the phrase “absurd aversion” or the word “extravigance.”
By the time I had collected a good amount for one evening, I looked over the now tattered flap from the dustcover and saw so many more interesting words that did not fit into my two small categories. So I decided to put the slip to use and picked out the interesting phrases and words and created a piece of blackout poetry, Sympathetic Streak of Ridiculousness.
Then yesterday morning I found another poem in the shape of the title of three books, as I stood surveying my shelf and noticed two books whose titles seemed to flow, so I joined them together with the handy book “with” that I used over and over again during my first bookbinder poetry session and vola!
“she walks in beauty with all the light we cannot see”
Next I pulled out my shoebox where the night before I had stuffed all my scraps of leftover pages from the cutting out of words starting with “a” and “e.” This shoe box is a very specific show box. It is the shoe box a pair of flats purchased last year came within. It’s made with thick solid, clean cardboard, and it has a gorgeous watercolor feather on the lid, so I had kept it for storage purposes.
Keeping art supplies in it and, now, slips of paper and collected words, it makes me think of the line in Jack Johnson’s song, Better Together, “Our dreams are made out of real things/Like a shoe box of photographs.” Which is very fun.
So I dumped the slips of paper on my desk and began turning them over and playing with them.
For coming from such random places and for being completely unthought-through there were a surprisingly large amount of fantastic finds of phrases that had much potential like “She is fated-” and “Time, The,” as well as “comedy of manners” and “often get bespangled.”
Then from the random listless shuffling and re shuffling emerged a line of poetry:
Isn’t that just amazing?
I was so happy when I flipped over one of my clippings to find the phrase “seven-thousand cut flowers.”
I feel like that one needed more to it, but I gave up on it after a while and adding to it and subtracting from it it for over five minutes.
This one was my last one and I liked the way it flowed, so I ended up trimming it a bit and put it into my sketchbook journal.
I love the image of a person writing out an ordering slip on a dreary day. “Please mail: seven thousand cut flowers and ninety colorful garlands; all this glamorous floral, and also beautiful sketches meant for a queen.”
Here is the finished page:
At least the page is finished until I decide to add more flourishes and perhaps more text.
And as usual the morning of painting and playing with ideas left these hands messy, so in the mood of being poetic I wrote a line from an old poem of mine that it reminded me of.
The exact line of the poem is actually: her fingers wear little pieces of sky.
Apparently this poet doesn’t have a perfect memory.
Anywho. That’s it folks.
Have you ever made word pools? What poetry exercises do you put to use?
~ evelyn ~