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POETRY FOR THE TERRIFIED Monday Creative Writing Exercise because it’s a good way to start the week

Lidil signMost people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people – Adrian Mitchell

Most people either love poetry or are scared by it. I see the same delighted/horrified expressions in class at the start of every term when they see the list of subjects I have lined up for them.

This exercise is for the scared, for those who have an urgent need to click on another post, to read that blog about the Albanian leather industry you came across or learn more about black bin liner technology. You’re in safe hands, I’m not a poet. That makes me just about perfect for this task. After all, if you were taking your first tentative steps with word processing you wouldn’t want to face Bill Gates across the table, would you?

Three good reasons why someone who will never ever write a poem of their own free will should do this exercise.

1)    Yes, it’s a challenge but it is a doable challenge. Poetry is about rules and the rules for this exercise are so simple and straightforward a seven year old can understand them. In fact seven year olds do this kind of poetry all the time. That doesn’t make it childish or easy – doing the best you can is never easy

2)    It makes you think about using language with precision

3)    At the end you’ll have written a poem. Hey!

Three good reasons why someone who writes poetry should do this exercise.

1)    It’s a gentle stretch of your poetic muscles, a limbering up,

2)    It might push you in new directions.

3)    At the end you’ll have written a poem. Hey!


An acrostic is a passage of writing where the initial letter spells out a word or phrase. That’s it. It could be as simple as:
It can be so complex that spies use it as a way of passing on messages unobserved. It actually started life as a way of revealing prophecies in ancient Greece, and in some countries it has become a regular newspaper feature making something that is halfway between a crossword and sudoko.
Hope that hasn’t put you off…all you need worry about is selecting the right word to start each line and reading it aloud often to check that it flows well. Reading aloud is a good idea for any piece of writing – at the editing stage it can even help you with punctuation – but is essential for poetry.
Name acrostics have always been popular. Here’s the one that appears at the end of Alice Through the Looking glass. Lewis Carroll spelt out Alice Liddell’s full name, the child to whom he dedicated the book.

A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July–

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear–

Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die.
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream–
Lingering in the golden gleam–
Life, what is it but a dream?

 Here’s my somewhat less ambitious attempt

Bashful like one of the seven dwarves
Reserved like a table
In a restaurant
ream heavy like all writers should be
Greedy for that thing called
Education wanting to…
Teach and be taught

Give it a go and don’t forget to read it aloud. Change it until you are pleased with the way the words sound together.

There! You have a poem. And it’s all about you, the one subject you’re an expert on.
This could even be the way you sign your emails from now on….

photo credit: the justified sinner via photopin

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2 comments on “POETRY FOR THE TERRIFIED Monday Creative Writing Exercise because it’s a good way to start the week

  1. cathum
    June 13, 2016

    Thanks for reminding me about acrostics. I did this with one of my groups as an ice-breaker – they loved it.

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This entry was posted on July 15, 2013 by in Muse and tagged , , , , , , .
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