Saturday, April 28, 2007

Goth-O-Matic Poetry Generator

gothic.jpgLike your goth tongue in cheek? Check out Dead Lounge where resides the Goth-O-Matic Poetry Generator

From the website:
Interested in birthing your own bastard of diabolically morose proportion? There's nothing simpler. Choose one of the classic topics of Darkly Gothic poetry below, then you'll be taken to the Goth-O-MaticTM Poetry Generator. Construct the opus by making the selections that best fit your tormented desires, and choose an appropriate image to loom ominously over your creation. Tap the "Create Your Poem" button, and you'll be able to cut and paste your new expression of pain and angst into your own Web page!

Care to create a Darkly Gothic poem? The Goth-O-MaticTM awaits the touch of your agonized mind:
Here's the one I made from "The Eternal Love of Vampires":
It is a night of ethereal pain, a song of dark desire,
wolves vent their loneliness. The thirsting one

Curling, icy wisps of death shrouds her gaunt form,
an everlasting desire.

Her midnight hair cascades over
translucent ivory shoulders, and her
full really very deeply crimson lips part slightly, to taste the
red tears streaming from the
pale flesh beneath her.

Now a night of ecstasy,
I hunger.
Tips, also from Dead Lounge, if you'd like to try writing your own Darkly Gothic Poetry without the generator:
You're probably wondering how such tormented and artistic individuals pen such magnificently dark epics, where they got their expressive names, and how you can crank out the same self-pitying drivel, uh, create your own shadowed and unearthly opus. Read this list of handy tips for the proper creation of Darkly Gothic Poems. Then choose an appropriate subject from the page of poems, and the Goth-O-MaticTM will help you express your inner angst!

Darkly Gothic Tip 1: DarkRaven's probably already taken

Choose an appropriate gothic moniker by which you wish to be addressed. Feel free to throw a couple of appropriately dark and wicked words together to form something mysterious with which to impress your nonpoetic friends. Adding a color to a predatory bird is still reasonably popular, as is naming yourself after one or two of the notable entities in Hell.

Darkly Gothic Tip 2: Choose an appropriate subject

Things such as darkness, loss, pain, grief, madness, death, night, and the bloodthirsty undead make good topics for darkly gothic poems. You cannot create a darkly gothic emotional abyss about how hard your Spanish class is, or how Mom gives you grief for wearing black eye liner.

Darkly Gothic Tip 3: Read Edgar Allan Poe

If you don't know Poe...

Darkly Gothic Tip 4: Feel free to hurt!

Go ahead and let that emotional turmoil draw you into depression. It makes you create better. You can always pull out of it, right? You don't want to commit suicide, but you want to make everyone think you do. Oh, and don't be that person that goes to schools and starts gunning down innocents; those people have some sort of weird revenge or God complex, and they never write good poetry.

Darkly Gothic Tip 5: Don't try to create a darkly gothic poem at 2:15 on a sunny Friday afternoon in a hip artsy coffee house drinking a decaf mocha espresso

Enough said.

Darkly Gothic Tip 6: Go ahead and chop it up

Don't worry about how short the lines of your darkly gothic poem are. Feel free to devote every line to a scant few words or even a single word. Remember, solitude makes something stand out by itself, um, well, by definition. Consider the following:
'Falling ever darkly into
the ebon abyss of feral eyes,
screaming against
the groping fingers of your
black obsessive passion,
...Wow! Did you feel that torment at the end? We know we did. Hey, entire outpourings of tormented souls have been contained within a couple of fingerspans on the left. The best poems will make you scroll down a Web page after only twenty words or so.

Darkly Gothic Tip 7: Yeah, yeah, dark, blood, heard that one before

Grab that thesaurus and rape it. The more methods you have of saying the same word over again will vastly increase your wordsmithing. Using little-known words like 'eidolon,' 'inexorable,' 'vitae' or 'etiolated' will give you a depth which not-so-darkly gothic poets will envy.

Darkly Gothic Tip 8: Blow it way out of proportion

Go off about that personal angst. Rant in a depressingly deep way about the heartless one who left you alone and barren in the world because you were too depressingly deep. Describe the vision of the ethereal path you have chosen; make sure there's dark fog wisping through it. Display your broken and tattered soul for all to see. Occasionally stopping and reaching your arms out in the stigmata position helps stretch those creative muscles. Take minor everyday objects (a clock) and make them looming and malicious (a stark, cruel reminder of inevitable mortality, blank and accusing, every second drawing inexorably closer to oblivion).

Darkly Gothic Tip 9: Use those bleak images!

If you're building a poetry Web page, or any goth page for that matter, it is imperative that you include any picture of an angel statue or gravemarker you can find. Those weeping Mary ones, or angels with heads bowed, make your poetry that much more painful to read. Ah, I mean convey your pain all the more. If you can combine it with images of dead roses and a few spinning-ankh bars, so much the better.

Darkly Gothic Tip 10: Get inspired!

Of course, one can't always be at one's utmost ghoulish. Sometimes, even the undead can get that pesky writer's block (let alone the occasional artery block). Be creative! Go out to a local cemetery and read the tombstones. Find a large flat one and lie down upon it, reveling in your closeness to the dead. Lock yourself in a darkened room and read H.P. Lovecraft stories to yourself until you sob with horror. Got that feeling that needs creative writer's block healing? The brave even move toward ancient Celtic, or even Runic manuscripts for that special surge of dark energy. Feel free to go to European cathedrals and sit through those Latin choir hymnals with a tape recorder. Practice saying everything in Vincent Price's voice.

Darkly Gothic Tip 11: Get classy with some regional interest

For a special esoteric flavour that leaves the reader aching, er, moved to their centre, go ahead and spell using the Queen's English. Go check out that great medieval literature, the ever-popular Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Use names like Ethelred, Morgoth and Vincegatorix for darkly powerful supernatural beings. Check out a medieval book from the library and write a poem about the torment of translating Middle English while blinking from the blood dripping into your eyes. Let your imbalanced humours bleakly shine!

Darkly Gothic Tip 12: Don't be (that) afraid of sunlight

Every Darkly Gothic Poem need not be written about distant fogs rolling through twilight graveyards (but boy, do those poems taste good). Let the sun bring to light in your poetry your horrible guilt, your significant other's hypocrisy, and your self-absorbed pity, I mean, your hidden meekness. Let that eye-searing daystar expose your naked insignificance, burning you to your angst-ridden soul.

Darkly Gothic Tip 13: Have fun with it!

Wait... no, forget that, I'm sorry. Don't have fun with it. This isn't about fun.
To get you inspired to write your own, here is some non-automatically generated original Gothic Poetry.

When you're done there, check out the Random Gothic Lyric Generator.

Here's an example:
by Suspiria Malaisia

Devils shroud red glossolalia
Serpents feign mocking treachery
My solitude whispers blasphemous innocents
Blazing pinions run amuck through embittered effervescence

Hunger scoffs at crucified abattoir
Wolves recoil from dying sepulchre
Lonliness entangles sanguine soul
Serpents lock up trembling disillusionment

Evil kisses celestial fragments
Fire consumes severed poison
Vengeful cripples feign spectral torment
My Master howls hollow brilliance

Wolves hide under baleful fragments
Wolves languish luscious clutches
The stench unleashes mocking innocents
Terror whispers dark caresses

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Oh, Most Reviled One

lockerbeesAs a counterpart to the blessing poem from the Oh, Most Revered One prompt, call down the ire of the gods and goddesses or Ruler of Hell on some one, some thing or some endeavor with a curse poem.

It's the opposite of the blessing poem. You can begin by addressing the higher power and then like a warm up, you can start each line with "May" or "Let". Like a list poem, it can be a list of things you want harmed and the harm you want to befall them. It can be a list of harms you want to befall someone who has really upset you. It can be events you want to go awry to foil your rival.

Here's a few lines from Paul Janeczko's curse poem: (His is rhyming couplets. You don't need to rhyme (but, in his poem's case, it helps give it a less serious tone :-)
May your gym shorts drop below your knees
May your locker fill with killer bees

May your parents find out what you did
May the bully find out where you hid

May you get a pimple on your nose
May you grow an extra pair of toes
From Poetry from A to Z by Paul B. Janeczko.

The third eye

thirdeyeFor the poetry warm up today, use the template: "The third eye can see ..."

The third eye can see what regular eyes can't or is only open when the regular eyes are closed.

Here are some examples of children's poems from the book:
The third eye can see inside me
The third eye can see my voice
The third eye can see my bones
The third eye can see the wind
From Wishes, Lies, and Dreams: Teaching children to write poetry by Kenneth Koch.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Automatic poetry generator

woodsghost.jpgThe Automatic Poetry Generator. Something to play with :-)

Though this generates entire "poems" use it as a starting point. For each line write a second line to follow. You can use the lines as the basis of your own poem or link them together. It doesn't need to rhyme but you can if you'd like. Here's some examples of poems generated at the site. Use these or generate your own.

All peaceful about the fog

Strangely comely beyond the ground
You destroy dank ghosts on the trees
Oh God! The Fool is good
Totally murky on the earth
You breathe sensuous bugs beyond the rain
Be aware! The twilight gets weird
All peaceful about the fog
We spread cold knives before the land
God! The Knave was hard
wary hopeful
fading slowly
so many roads to choose from
In whose heart
the refugee
take comfort
not knowing why

Strangely hot about the fire

Weird and glowing over the fire
I stroke dry rabbits in the towers
Be watchful. The vision will be born
Strangely humming within the ground
We command electric claws under the light
Alass! The King continues
Strangely hot about the fire
We violate dry bugs behind the grave
Alack! The passion is good
backlit silent
at a crossroads
an old passport
With what hopes
the refugee
seek shelter
while the snow fell

All hot about the rain

So evil among the water
You poke evil ghosts beyond the virgin
Be aware! The insanity shall flee
Dark and damp below the water
You breathe scary dreams beyond the virgin
I reach! The Knave must continue
All hot about the rain
I examine heavy balls within the fire
Oh God! The sin was hard
unsure alive
lost in broad daylight
nothing to lose
With what memories
the hero
stop for a while
all through his life

All hot about the rain

So evil among the water
You poke evil ghosts beyond the virgin
Be aware! The insanity shall flee
Dark and damp below the water
You breathe scary dreams beyond the virgin
I reach! The Knave must continue
All hot about the rain
I examine heavy balls within the fire
Oh God! The sin was hard
unsure alive
lost in broad daylight
nothing to lose
With what memories
the hero
stop for a while
all through his life


beedog.jpgFor today's poetry warm up play with onomatopoetic sounds. Begin with a sound and then follow with words that sound like it (but don't necessarily rhyme). You can explore one word for several lines or a different word on each line.

Here's some examples from Kenneth Koch's class:
The buzz of the bees was as fuzzy as my cousin's dozen muzzled puzzles.

clink --- pink, drink
tap --- hat, snap, black, cat
From Wishes, Lies, and Dreams: Teaching children to write poetry by Kenneth Koch.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Yaddy-Yadda Haiku

In honor of the Anime Boston convention that kept me busy all weekend and since nothing is coming to me that relates anime to poetry, the "Saturday" tip at least draws inspiration from Japan. This game was designed to play with a "Yaddy-Yadda" card deck. It's no longer available (or temporarily unavailable) but you could substitute Scrabble tiles. Or write the alphabet on slips of paper. You may want to add extras of S, P, C, D, M, and A since those letters start the most words.

Yaddy-Yadda Haiku

catblanketFor 3 or more players

To play this game, you need a Yaddy-Yadda Deck as well as pencils and paper for each player.


Each player will create a haiku based on letters drawn from the Yaddy-Yadda Deck. The title of the haiku will be chosen by one player who will act as moderator. The moderator will also judge the winning haiku based on criteria given at the start of the game.

Preparing to play

Remove both X's and Z's from the deck. They won't be used in this game. Shuffle the remaining cards and place them in the middle of the table.

Next, choose a player to be the moderator for the game. Her role will be to choose a title and the criteria for judging a winning haiku. After all other players have written their haikus, she will also pick the winning poem.

A haiku in this game

The definition of a haiku will be in very general terms for purposes of these rules. Here, a haiku will consist of a title and three lines. The first and third lines will have five syllables each. The second line will have seven syllables.

Here's a simple example from one of our games:
Cold Day

Under my blanket
I keep warm in pajamas
It's freezing outside
Traditionally, the haiku is simple, dealing with ordinary life and seasons of the year. A moderator may always give a more specific definition of a good haiku for any session. A brief introduction to the art of the haiku can be found here.

Playing the game

First the moderator will turn over the top two cards of the deck. These two letters must be used to form a title for the haiku each player will write. There must be a word in the title that begins with each of the two letters just revealed. In the above example, an "D" and "C" were revealed giving way to the title "Cold Day". The order in which the moderator uses the letters is irrelevant. Also, there can be more than two words in the title, with other words beginning with any letter. However, it's best to keep titles very simple for this game. Players should write the title of the haiku at the top of their papers at this time.

After the moderator chooses a title, she then must tell players the criteria she will use to judge the winning haiku. As examples, she may judge haikus based on...
  • originality
  • humor
  • aesthetic value (possibly further clarified)
  • relation to title
The moderator's criteria may be a single aspect of the haiku or she may wish to list a few aspects she'll base her decision on. It's completely up to the moderator.

Next, the moderator turns up three pairs of letter cards from the deck onto the table. Each pair should be arranged in a separate row, so that players can easily see which letters are paired up. Each of these pairs of letters will be used to begin words in each line of the haiku. For example, if the first pair of letters was "H" and "M", the first line of each haiku must have a word that begins with an "H" and one that begins with an "M". As with the title, the order of these words in the haiku is irrelevant. So, given this example, a player could write "My hands shake with cold" or "A hundred or more-". The second pair of letters will be used for words in the second line and likewise with the third. Back to the "Cold Day" example above, the letters we had to work with are highlighted:
Under my blanket
I keep warm in pajamas
It's freezing outside
At this time, players work on their individual haikus until everyone is finished. While the moderator can't make and judge her own haiku, she may choose to make one that would represent the criteria she chose for the game.

When everyone is done, the haikus are passed to one player (other than the moderator) who will read each aloud. If the moderator chose to write one herself, she can begin by reading hers. Then the player reads each haiku to the moderator. She may request that any be repeated as often as necessary to make a judgement. Her judgement as to the best haiku is final, but a winning haiku should at least relate to the title given at the start of the game and it must follow the rules above regarding syllables and the use of the letters on the Yaddy-Yadda cards.

Further games

The game can be repeated any number of times. If each player is moderator once, an overall winner may be determined by keeping track of who wins each game. It's likely several players may tie for victory in this case, but I hope it's clear winning isn't the only enjoyable goal of this game.

Players may choose to vary the poetry in many ways. Instead of writing only haikus, poems of any type can be created as the moderator chooses. Since words are chosen based on letter cards, the maximum length of the poem will always be dictated by the moderator. Game time, of course, becomes a major factor with longer poems. The moderator may create a rhyme scheme the players have to follow, or that may be left up to the individual players.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Lies, lies and more lies

mud.jpgFor today's poetry warm up you have permission to lie :-) You can make each line a different lie, or every line about the same lie.

Here's an example from Kenneth Koch's class:
I am grass as green as can be.
I am in a tree on a leaf.
I am in New York on a flying blueberry.
Mud is pretty.
Rain is ugly.

Marion Mackles
From Wishes, Lies, and Dreams: Teaching children to write poetry by Kenneth Koch.

Rhyming triplets

tropical-frog.jpgWrite three lines that rhyme and have a similar rhythm for the following words:
A poem of 3 rhyming lines is a tercet ("TER sit" or "ter SET") or triplet. Like the poem by Joan Bransfield Graham:

Kitchen crickets make a din,
sending taunts to chilly kin,
"You're outside, but we got in."

If you look over the rhymes at Rhymer or Rhymezone, you might find some interesting combinations (curse, nurse, purse? remains, brains, chains?) to spark your muse :-)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Rain is like a cemetery

raingravestone.jpgFor today's poetry warm up compare opposites.

Begin with a comparison that is opposite, for example, a big thing and a little thing: "An elephant is like a mouse" or two things that seem not alike: "Rain is like a cemetery" and then explore how they're alike. You can begin with one comparison and explore that in the rest of the poem, or use many comparisons in the poem following each with a one line exploration.

Here's an example of the second:
An elephant is like a mouse,
for they are grey with active noses.

Rain is like a cemetery,
for they are a times restful and at times saddening.
From Wishes, Lies, and Dreams: Teaching children to write poetry by Kenneth Koch.

Homophonic writing

coconuttree.jpgTake an untranslated poem you can't read but whose letters you can pronounce and translate the sound of the words into English. The spelling may block your ears from hearing the sounds so try closing your eyes and saying any words you get stuck on out loud. You'll need to stretch some a bit. You can, of course, turn single words into two or more words and turn phrases into single words. Don't be afraid to play with it :-)

If you don't happen to have untranslated foreign poetry lying around the house ;-), here's three of them. (There are more nursery rhymes from around the world at Mama Lisa's World.

First a children's song in Swahili:

Ukuti, Ukuti
Wa mnazi, Wa mnazi
Ukipata Upepo
Watete.. Watete.. Watetemeka..
Second, a lullaby in Polish.
A-a-a, kotki dwa

A-a-a, a-a-a,
byly sobie kotki dwa.
A-a-a, kotki dwa,
szarobure, szarobure obydwa.

Ach, śpij, kochanie,
jesli gwiazdke z nieba chcesz - dostaniesz.
Wszystkie dzieci, nawet źle,
pogrążone są we śnie,
a ty jedna tylko nie.

A-a-a, a-a-a,
byly sobie kotki dwa.
A-a-a, kotki dwa,
szarobure, szarobure obydwa.

Ach, śpij, bo wlaśnie
księżyc ziewa i za chwilę zaśnie.
A gdy rano przyjdzie świt
księzycowi będzie wstyd,
ze on zasnąl, a nie ty.
And, third, the beginning of a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. (The Germans capitalize their nouns so those aren't proper names sprinkled through the poem -- though feel free to treat them as such if you wish.) If you need more of the poem, the rest is at About: German - Goethe-Gedichte but note: the translation is right next to it!
Der Zauberlehrling

Hat der alte Hexenmeister
sich doch einmal wegbegeben!
Und nun sollen seine Geister
auch nach meinem Willen leben!
Seine Wort' und Werke
merkt' ich, und den Brauch,
und mit Geistesstärke
tu ich Wunder auch.

Walle, walle,
manche Strecke,
dass zum Zwecke
Wasser fliesse,
und mit reichem, vollem Schwalle
zu dem Bade sich ergiesse!

Und nun komm, du alter Besen!
Nimm die schlechten Lumpenhüllen
Bist schon lange Knecht gewesen:
nun erfülle meinen Willen!
Auf zwei Beinen stehe,
oben sei der Kopf,
eile nun, und gehe
mit dem Wassertopf!
The point is not to translate the poem, of course, but if, after you're done, you're curious what the poems mean, click on the comments. (The last is actually a story you're all familiar with.)

From 66 Experiments by Charles Bernstein.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Waka poem

Here's a fun poem I stumbled across one day. It's best read out loud :-)
<> ! * ' ' #
^ " ` $ $ -
! * = @ $ _
% * <> ~ # 4
& [ ] . . /
| { , , system halted

Here's how it's read:
waka waka bang splat tick tick hash
caret quote back-tick dollar dollar dash
bang splat equal at dollar under-score
percent splat waka waka tilda number four
ampersand bracket bracket dot dot slash
vertical-bar curly-bracket comma comma crash

Thursday, April 12, 2007


dough.jpgIn a sestina each line ends with the same 6 words but in a different order. It sounds hard but the constraints can be freeing.

Sestinas normally have 7 stanzas (groups of lines) but you don't need to go on that long. Just try two or three stanzas and then the last stanza (which has a different pattern). The pattern of ending words for the stanzas are:
The last stanza -- it's called the envoi which isn't important but sounded cool :-) -- is only 3 lines, and each line uses two words. The first word of the pair comes in the middle of the line and the second word comes at the end.
1&2 3&4 5&6
(If you like number patterns, the pattern for the end words of the stanzas isn't as random as it first appears. The article at Wikipedia mentions that it's like folding bread dough back on itself during kneading. Which I only mention because I had no idea what picture to use for a sestina and the bread dough made a nice image ;-)

If, like me, you often find yourself limiting yourself to subjects that poetry "should be" about (a hold over feeling from school undoubtedly!), here's a list of fantasy type words that might help you think outside the box:
ice, fire, creature, quiet, cocoon, black
ghost, night, moon, seek, hidden, curse
Some examples of words suggested by kids in Kenneth Koch's class:
pink, aquamarine, green, blue, purple, red
buildings, portrait, prayer, subject, brush, canvas
thunder, apartment, country, pleasant, scratched, spinach (a sestina about Popeye)
I should have copied the poem created by the kids from the book but I forgot before I returned it. Most of the adult sestinas on the internet have that intimidating formality to them that turns off droves of people from poetry :-/, but here's one that while very formal in tone feels very informal for a poem. :-) Notice she didn't stick strictly to the end word patterns. She changed whole to hole and used various forms of relate.
The Concord Art Association Regrets
Pam White

Your entry was not accepted. We regret
it wasn't (enough for us), a work of love.
We liked many of the colors on the whole
but the mass was just something unrelated
to the rest of our show. We hope your work
will have a bright future in another place.

We remember last year you tried to place
another photograph and it was also with regret
we turned you down. Though for that particular work
we found nothing about it (no one could) to love.
It was obscure and a little upsetting in relation
to the rest of our show which we look on as a whole.

Now you may think us ungenerous. On the whole
you are probably right, but this is our place
and we can do what we want whether you relate
to it or not. However we don't want you to regret
your association with us. We want you to love
us, send us money, but please, no more work.

You see right now we need money to work
on the building we're in. There's a hole
in the roof and one wall needs all the love
and attention it can get. Really the place
needs so much, which all costs. I regret
to remind you we need more space for related

works. We're trying to expand and relate
to lots of different kinds of work
so different people won't regret
their visit with us but will see the whole
beauty and tranquillity of the place
and come with us, a journey of love

where people of all races, colors, and creeds love
to look and bask and of course bring relations,
friends, and lovers. All are welcome to our place
here where all the world's magnificent work
can be shown in its entirety, the whole
place filled - with your exception, we regret.

We know you'll love the whole
work we're doing for this place.
We can't relate enough our regret.

(Copyright © 1983-2003 by Pam White.)
One site on sestinas mentioned "One of the challenges of writing a sestina is to create one that can be read aloud without the audience being conscious of hearing the same six words repeated seven times." Which Pam White seems to have achieved by using fairly ordinary words and not having her sentences and phrases end at the end of a line. (And not even at the end of a stanza!) Which sounds like another interesting challenge but don't worry about it this time! :-)

From Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?: Teaching Great Poetry to Children by Kenneth Koch.

What's like what

rosedrums.jpgUse the following template for today's warm up.

_____ is as ______ (color) as ______ (sound).

Here's some examples from the kids in Kenneth Koch's class:

A rose is as red as a beating of drums.
Clouds are as white as bursting firecrackers.
A tree is as green as a roaring lion.

From Wishes, Lies, and Dreams: Teaching children to write poetry by Kenneth Koch.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Oh, Most Revered One

hathor.jpgCall down the blessings of the gods and goddesses (or Ruler of Hell to smooth the way for evil plans) on some one, some thing or some endeavor with a blessing or prayer poem.

You can begin by addressing the higher power and then like a warm up, you can start each line with "May" or "Let" (or any word or phrase that strikes you as a respectful plea). Like a list poem, it can be a list of things or people you want protected from harm and the harm you want them protected from. It can be events you want to come to pass or flow smoothly.

Here's a bit from Prayer for Reptiles by Patricia Hubbell
God, keep all claw-denned alligators
Keep snake and lizard, tortoise, toad,
All creep-crawl
Tip-toe turtles
Where they stand,
Keep these;
From Poem of Direct Address in Poetry from A to Z by Paul B. Janeczko.

I wish ... some more

doraemon.jpgI should have sent this as the first warm up, but since we've had several new people join the list in the last week, it *is* the first warm up for them :-)

A poetry warm up is a template that lets you play with words without worrying about structure. It's sort of a coloring book for poetry :-)

This is a great initial warm up since it gives so much but allows for a great deal of goofy creativity.

Each line starts with "I wish" then must include a color, a fictional character and a place.

Here are some children's examples:
I wish I was green with Superman in the Negev Desert.
I wish I was Charlie Brown in blue Saudi Arabia.
I wish that I was Popeye with a yellow dress on me and in South Carolina.
I wish Bugs Bunny didn't climb the blue tree in Turkey Land.
From Wishes, Lies, and Dreams: Teaching children to write poetry by Kenneth Koch.

(By the way, if you want to create your own template, you're not limited to colors and fictional characters. You can start with anything. Kenneth Koch suggested animals, months, cars, planets, drinks, birds, states ... The possibilities are as vast as your imagination :-)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Weekend 10: Aw shucks!

anguish.jpgWell, this has been coming. Kat has lost enthusiasm because of her work lost with the dead computer and has moved onto other projects. I wasn't enamored of my murderer or victim and I haven't taken the time to punch them up. Though I did come up with a detective and side kick I liked: a catperson and a dogperson, ah, the personal and social conflicts that could generate! Maybe I'll use them for NaNoWriMo ...

It's not a lightly made decision but it had reached a point where it was draining more than returning. If you've been depending on me, sorry :-( There are new and used copies of the book I've been using, Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery, at Amazon.

Poetic table of the elements

actinium.jpgAlong the lines of the Periodic Table of Science Fiction, here's the Poetic Table of the Elements: a poem -- and for some elements several poems -- for most of the elements.

It's a collaborative project so you can submit your own :-) (It appears from some of the author comments that several were submitted as a school project so there are kids helping out too :-)

Here's a couple for Calcium:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King's chemists
And all the King's chums
Couldn't repair his calcium.

Picked up the pieces, each shard of shell.
Finished their work before it started to smell.
Cremated the albumen
Along with the yoke,
Believe it or not, it hadn't even broke.

Placed all the pieces in a small Easter basket.
Humpty lay shattered on straw in his casket.
During the service
The mood was placid.
When it was finished, dissolved Humpty in acid.

by Rusty Myers

Calcium, an element that’s not unknown,
Is found in milk and helps build a strong bone.
It’s a chemical element that is solid;
With the symbol Ca it is not squalid.
Calcium appears as silvery white
And although it’s soft it puts up a fight.
It’s located in group two, period four
And is an element you cannot abhor.
Calcium, in Latin meaning Lime,
Was found by Ancient Romans early in time.
It was isolated in 1808
By Sir Humphry Davy’s natural fate.

by Jessica Abercrombie

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Hey, you!

heyyou.jpgSpeak, in your poem, directly to someone or something. The speaker doesn't need to be you. It can be anyone or anything.

Try generating some ideas of who or what you're addressing or why first. That loosened me up considerably :-)

When you're done generating your own ideas, here's some ideas from the book:
anger ... at the alarm clock
thanks ... to your dog for keeping your feet warm in bed in January
bewilderment ... at a team that keeps losing, at the sun for coming up so early every morning
It can be:
what you have been wanting to say to someone
to the person who invented pizza
to the snow for canceling school.
And from me:
To the evil overlord you plan to destroy today.
To the werewolf terrorizing the village
To the temperamental engine in your space ship.
To the pebble in your shoe.
To the computer that's died with all your files.
To the wizard tome you aren't allowed to touch.
To the mountain between you and what you want.
To your best friend who has done something stupid.
To a device that always jams at the most inconvenient time.
From Poem of Direct Address in Poetry from A to Z by Paul B. Janeczko.

I used to ... But now ...

iusedtobe.jpgPoetry warm up. Alternate these lines:

I used to ...
But now ...

Here's some examples of children's poems from the book. Children are free of preconceived notions about what they're "supposed to" write :-)
I used to be a fish
But now I'm a nurse

I used to be a rose
But now I'm a leaf

I used to be a design
But now I'm a tree

I used to have a baby
But now he's a dog
From Wishes, Lies, and Dreams: Teaching children to write poetry by Kenneth Koch.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I wish ...

dandelion.jpgIt is, as I mentioned on Sunday, National Poetry month :-) so lots of prompts coming up on playing with words and ideas.

At some point most people pick up the idea that authors begin writing a novel with the first sentence and finish with the last sentence. And I suspect people have the same idea about poetry: that it's written first line to last line in order.

Of course neither is true. Authors (of novels or poems or lyrics or plays or ...) generate much that never gets into the final product, they write the end in the middle and move the middle to the beginning. They write really crappy stuff for the initial draft and play around with it and clean it up in subsequent drafts.

This is an idea from Wishes, Lies, and Dreams: Teaching children to write poetry by Kenneth Koch. (Which has lots of good ideas and imaginative poetry by young children. If you're interested in the book, there are also some older hardback and paperback editions for under a $1. (Though do note that some listed under hardback say paperback. :-/))

In his book he has a whole series of what he calls poetry warm ups. It's a way of getting some thoughts down on paper that might with some rearranging, cutting and editing, become a poem or the seed of a poem.

Some are templates, so each line begins the same. Some are the seed to write a series of related ideas. Most have some repetition in them to help get things flowing. Don't be discouraged if your first dozen lines or more are trite. That's just the clogs coming out of your creative pathways :-) But that stuff needs to get out onto paper so the path can be freed for better ideas to flow more freely.

In addition to the regular writing prompts, I'll post one of these warm ups too.

I wish

Begin each line with "I wish ..." or just the first line and continue with the wish.

Be bold and whimsical! Be selfish! Don't let yourself get bogged down by a need to create wishes in the vein of "world peace" ;-)

Examples of children's poems from the book:

I wish I was a beautiful chick who could be in any period of life
Being Cleopatry in Egypt with handsome men at my feet
Or being a pirate enjoying the gold
Also a bloodthirsty vampire scaring the men.

I wish I was a traffic cop
I wish a turtle gave me a ride
I wish I was a lion with my brother.
I wish all my sisters would disappear.

Anaconda boa

anaconda.jpgA rhyming couplet is two lines that rhyme with each other.

For each pair of letters of the alphabet come up with a rhyming couplet that has to do with ... well. the easiest would be animals or food :-) While not the most original of subjects for an alphabet, you may want to go easy on yourself and leave the challenge in the couplets.

Here's an example off the top of my head:
Anacondas lazing in the sun,
Boas watching dinner run.
Or come up with pairs of words that rhyme*: air, bear; cat, drat ... and build the lines from there.

Or to ramp up the challenge try characters from Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or other favorite show/series that had a huge enough cast of characters to span the alphabet.**

You may want to try generating an alphabetical list first, perhaps with a connection between the pairs (if you chose animals: predator/prey, same species, competitors for the same prey for instance). Don't let the list confine what you write about! Feel free to make any changes as you go along. It's just an aid not a jailor ;-)

*If you need help with rhymes try Rhymer or Rhymezone. If Rhymer gives you an overwhelming number of rhymes try choosing "Last syllable rhymes" or "Double rhymes" from the drop down menu. (Annoyingly, you need to type the word into the search box again.) Rhymezone returns fewer rhymes (which can be a good thing sometimes!)

**There are, of course, lists of characters on the internet:

Harry Potter:
Mugglenet's list of Harry Potter characters
Wikipedia's List of characters in the Harry Potter books

Star Trek:
Memory Alpha's list of Star Trek characters
Wikipedia's List of Star Trek characters

Star Wars:
Star Wars: Databank list of Star Wars characters
Wikipedia's List of Star Wars characters

Wikipedia's List of Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Top 10 Tabloid Headlines for April 2007

WWN-TrainerMarriesDolphin.gifTabloid headlines from 2005 since the City Newstand list is on hiatus.

From the City Newstand in Chicago, for writing prompts or just for fun :-)

Top Ten Tabloid Headlines from APRIL 2005
  2. PHANTOM OF THE IVORIES Liberace's ghost haunts Vegas nightspot — SUN
  8. Something's killing off our sea monsters — and scientists are baffled — SUN
  10. It's like Oscar night for terrorists . . . WHO WILL WIN THE OSAMA? — WWN

"I've written ..."


Weekend 9: Working synopsis

flow.jpgNinth weekend with "Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery".

This weekend is The Working Synopsis.

The working synopsis is a summary of your story *so far*. At this point most people will still have gaps and weak spots (especially the second act). That's not only okay, it's expected at this stage. The synopsis is another technique for organizing your thoughts and seeing where the holes are and what still needs work.

Write the synopsis in the present tense, that is, describe characters as though you're seeing them and their actions right now and telling someone about it: "Boris is a bottom tier student at a top tier college. When he enters the RA's dorm room, he finds the senior draped dead across the bed, an iPod cord wrapped around his neck."

I don't know why they're written in present tense but I've done synopses before and without anyone telling me to do it in present tense it came out in present tense. Maybe it feels like a play-by-play analysis in sports since you're chronicling what happens as it unfolds :-)

The authors have written their synopsis in 5 parts. Set a time limit for yourself so you don't sweat over trying to be perfect. When the timer goes off, stop and move onto the next section. Be fast and loose and have fun with it. Play with the language. A couple of the authors' suggestions are to:
  • start a bunch of sentences with "Because ..." as in Because she wanted x, she did y. Because she did y, he wanted z. Because he wanted z, she did a.
  • start a series of sentences with "And then .." And then a happened. And then b happened. And then c happened.
  1. Back story (also written in present tense) - 10-15 minutes - This is all the events you have so far that have shaped who you characters are and the seeds of what ends up as murder. (It's also written in the present tense.)
  2. Act 1 - 10 minutes
  3. Act 2 -- First half - 20 minutes for *both*
  4. Act 2 -- Second half
  5. Act 3 - 10 minutes
Write two synopses: In the first you should feel the "sweep of the story" from beginning to end. In the second (the rewrite) you focus on the problem areas. Take a break before you start on the rewrite but when you come back, start with Act 2 since that's the area most books have problems in. Give yourself about an hour for the first synopsis and a little more for the rewrite.

Next weekend is scene building.