I must admit, I’m always trying to practice poetry, because I’m a novice. One thing I find difficult is picking a topic to poem about, since I always want to pick the “right” topic. This is becoming easier now that I have a thoughtbook, but it’s still hard. To remedy I’ve begun forcing myself to write about something I don’t necessarily want to, and see where it takes me.

The way I do this is by randomly picking four objects that I have lying around. If you find yourself trying to consciously decide on an object, you could have someone else do it instead. As it happens, someone picked these objects for me: a partially consumed clove of garlic, a metal water bottle, a baseball cap, and a package of fishing line. My plan was to write two poems about one object, one where we don’t immediately reveal the subject, and one where we do. And then I would try a “narrative” poem about another object.

A pungent beast
the shrunken white flesh 
Its skin is flayed
thin pieces by piece 
A chunk removed
by prying fingers
Fragrant insides
flavored viscera
The clove is gone
thrown in a cauldron

I was pretty pleased with this poem. I liked the take on garlic, and without meaning to I achieved a consistent syllable rhythm in the poem: it goes 4-5, 4-5, and on.

The garlic sits atop a table,
waiting to destroy the monsters of lore. 
It is nearly as old as they are,
but they've all gone and faded
leaving the garlic with little to do,
but pass time as a seasonal spice.
Perhaps one day he will finally be used,
to vanquish evil or to decorate a chicken. 

This one I was less satisfied with. It seems identifying the subject directly allows a lot of my preconceived notions to enter the poem, which can take it down already familiar paths. Approaching the subject sideways and trying to avoid naming it gives a new perspective, by necessity.

Finally, the narrative poem.

Oh, to think of the thing I've held in me. 
Black coffee, hot enough to scold my plating, no creme. 
Tap water from that shady fountain, I can still taste the dust.
Tasty soup, but you dipped your bread, and in floated crust. 
Why do I remember all this, quite extreme?
For god's sake, do remember to wash me. 

This was sort of goofy… and yeah. So, this may or may not prove to be a useful exercise for you. I felt it got me thinking about poetry pretty well.


  1. Undertow on 26 September 2008, 18:24 said:

    I also use poetry exercises like yours — I have a lot of fun opening a book with my eyes closed and putting whatever word my finger lands on in a poem. I think poetry exercises using forced inspiration are at least valuable in the way that they force the writer to work on stylistic elements. The poems I write without using a forced subject are undoubtedly the best, but writing about random objects or words is a good way to distance myself from the content of the poem and focus solely on the writing. I think this sort of effort shows in your poems here — the first and last, especially, have wonderful word choice, flow, and tone, and thus you’re able to distinguish and confer beauty to aspects of commonplace things like a garlic clove and a metal water bottle. Good way to show off poetry skills!

  2. SlyShy on 26 September 2008, 21:45 said:

    Thanks, that means a lot coming from you.

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  4. Sidnee on 10 December 2012, 19:40 said:

    I was wondering, what is the rhythm for your second poem?

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