Saturday, April 01, 2006


I saw this idea in the book Poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge a poet and wordlover. Reading Poemcrazy will make you want to dabble with words and poetry even if you think you don't like poetry. (Which I can say because I think I don't like poetry ;-))

(It also turns out that April is National Poetry month and I didn't even know it.)

How to
Cut up paint chip samples keeping the color name. (The color names are often very cool.) Write a word or a phrase on each. Use permanent marker or gel pens (milky gels for the dark paint samples) or metallic markers or paint markers or stamps. Cut -- or tear -- words from magazines (or printouts) and paste them on. The paint chip samples will get swirled around in a bowl and shuffled about in pockets so keep that in mind if you feel the need to add embellishments.

Then what
Keep them in a bowl or a hat or an old shoe. Keep a handful in your pocket or purse. Keep some blank ones too to jot down words and phrases that strike you as you come across them. (It helps to shake them up in a grocery bag once in a while since they aren't slick and tend to clump together.) Draw them out in pairs and triples and see where the serendipitous connections take you. Get a handful and turn them into a poem. Or a story prompt. Put them around the house randomly against and within objects. Paste them on Art Trading Cards.

You can find words and phrases anywhere but I found the ideas and words in the book inspiring so here's some ideas if you need a jumpstart.
  • Poetry books - even -- or maybe especially! -- if you don't like poetry. Poets love words so they've already done the filtering for you. Look in poems for words and phrases that make you pause.
  • Maps - Wamphray, Blinkbonny, Scrishve, Cambus-puttock ...
  • Road signs - out of context "one way", "no turns", "soft shoulder" take on new meanings.
  • Spam - check the titles as well as the paragraphs at the bottom: slug billion, bronzy buffalo, loose it, kittle, loudspeaking, chiffonier, tiresome grove, buckhorn.
  • Thesaurus - walk is kind of a nothing word, but stroll ... trudge ... tromp ... sashay ...
  • Magazines, books, newspapers, car manuals, catalogs, TV shows, song titles, movie titles, menus, cat breeds, knitting terms ... Basically anywhere.
Some more examples

ziggurat, fandango, kitten, window, doorway

zigzag, swivel, churn, trigger, slink, swaddle

Tintinabulation, swoosh, zoom, badaboom

Words that evoke feelings and memories and connections
luminous, feathery, moonstone, reflection, wanderlust, formerly, nourish, spangles

Split words apart (and mess about with the spelling a bit)
ant arc tic, flabber gast, do nut, tran quill

You'll never look at -- work shop --quite the same way again.

Mush words together
everclear, grasslover, stargazer

Words and phrases that are fun to say
pomegranate, ameliorate, gargantuan, cantankerous, burrow beneath, wild child, gather green, feather pen, celery salt

Alter the spelling
handy cap, farm a see

Make up words
fandoozle, fantabulous, confuzzle

Opposites to include the darkness with the light.
Angel and devil, spring peepers and zombies, light and extinguish, benevolent and malevolent, somewhere and nowhere, destruction and happy-kitty-bunny-pony (which is the title of a book described as "a saccharine mouthful of super cute".

Names of plants and animals and places with interesting sounds
fiddleheads, damsel fly, Lamborghini, Sea of Crises (moon)

Things that work less well: people's names and familiar places because they're too specific. Brad Pitt will just be Brad Pitt and Harry Potter will be Harry Potter though brad -- pit or hairy -- potter or (Peter) may -- hew may not be. Sweden will be Sweden though Skrinklehaven (Wales) can be whatever you imagine.
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