Is It a Poem, Yet?

I just
break up
the lines
is it a
or a
card game?

Laying down words a few at a time, like the stepping stones in a garden, begins an exploration. Get your hat, let's go. What happens when you shuffle those stepping-words around? Move one next to another, separate a phrase? You can move faster or more slowly as you continue on the quest.

Magnetic poetry works on the principle that all you need are words. You can buy boxes of pre-chosen words that relate to various topics, but anyone who has tried to make a poem with them knows that the word you want is always missing. Why is that?

We need rhythm.
Poetry is about sound and the repetition of sounds.
We need imagination.
Poetry is about connecting the moment to a memory.
We need clarity.
Poetry is about comparisons so we can make something new, familiar, or something familiar, new.
We need time.
Poetry has breath between the lines, sometimes slow and deep, other times quick and hard to catch.

Where are you right now?
Describe a few details slowly, breaking the lines as you go.
What does the moment remind you of?
Connect it to something else.

Judith Tannenbaum, a wonderful educator and training coordinator for San Francisco's WritersCorps, has written several books of and about poetry. One of  these is called Teeth, Wiggly as Earthquakes: Writing Poetry in the Primary Grades, which describes the process of writing and teaching poetry very clearly, giving excellent examples and easy-to-understand activities that are specifically aimed for a classroom setting, but could be useful to anyone who would like to begin writing poems, and to those who might like to refresh their ideas of poetry. Some of the sections are:
  • Body Poems
  • Writing from Objects
  • Writing from Sensory Experience
  • Question Poems and Personification
  • Repetition
  • Walking Excursions to Write Poems

Magnetic Poetry is a start, but it is hard to go very deep with it. It does, however, force you to be creative with the words you are given, even if you don't end up saying what you wanted to say.