This week’s prompt is designed to be fun, but it’s not “just for fun.” I’ve often stressed how important it is to be wary of using too many adjectives, adverbs, articles, prepositions, and conjunctions. With that in mind, here’s an experiment to further underscore how meaning is often inherent in nouns and verbs. It’s also an exercise in doing the opposite of what we often do when we write poems—we often over-write and then go back and condense. This week the challenge is to under-write and then add only the most perfect and necessary details.
1. Write a poem using only nouns and verbs. That right, no other parts of speech are allowed at this point in the writing. Be aware as you write that your poems must have meaning, so don’t just write any old things that pops into mind. Be sequential, make sense, create the “skeleton” of the poem to come.
2. After you’ve written your noun-verb poem read it carefully and add only enough details to give your poem a “body.” Be judicious is your use of modifiers, qualifiers, and don’t add any word that aren’t absolutely necessary.
3. Let the poem sit for a few hours, or even for a few days, then go back to it. What’s your poem about? Does it say what you wanted it to say? What’s its apparent subject? What’s the unspoken subject? At this point, you’ll continue to work the poem to give it its “spirit” (its emotional core).
4. It may be helpful to take a look at the example below and try to work through the guidelines using the example given before trying your own poem.
1. Decide what you want to write about before you begin.
2. Think about the meaning(s) you want to create.
3. Stick to your subject.
4. When you begin to flesh out your poem and then give it a spirit, think how you can most concisely give your poem a sense of relationship to its meaning and to its language. How can this poem be developed to explore, illuminate, and situate something about the human condition?
Example (Guideline 1):