P&W Prompt 5: A Poet to Her Poem

This week’s Poets & Writers‘ prompt:

Set a timer for five minutes and freewrite–writing anything that comes to mind without stopping until the timer goes off. Then circle every third word or phrase of what you’ve written. Use these circled words as the starting point for a poem.

The Freewrite (with the 3rd words in bold italic):

I really hate doing freewrites – for reasons that I just exemplified (you can’t see it, but I’m editing as I type – a definite no-no for freewriting). Okay, so, anyway. I went to the memoir writing workshop in Olive Branch today – got up, got ready, got gas and a sandwich and cigarettes and drove the hour north to the Olive Branch library – which was closing as I arrived. Snow. Snow in Mississippi for the sixth time this season. It’s more than a little annoying. So – what to do but turn around drive another hour back home – without having gained any valuable insight into this memoir process that I’m struggling with. The chapter is coming slowly, I’ve turned the corner in the narrative but don’t know where to go from here. It’s tricky. The history was easy, the history before the history where the narrative starts – this is more difficult for some reason. I don’t know why. But all the focus on memoir is meaning less focus on poetry – and I don’t really know how I feel about that. Poetry being the reason I’m here writing at all. Poetry. Poetry. Poetry. It’s easier than the memoir, in some ways, but in others it kicks my ass. We had the bi-weekly OLPS meeting yesterday morning. My poem was well received but they didn’t get the metaphor – missed it entirely actually – which means no matter how much they liked it, it’s not doing what it’s supposed to be doing and that is frustrating. It means a pretty big revision – something I’m not really game for right now. I always do this with poetry – work hard on the first and second draft and then abandon it – it gets to a point where I don’t really know where to take it – it needs to go so far afield of where it actually is – sort of like this memoir. But that kind of revision, for whatever reason, seems easier – simpler. It’s the writing that’s hard in the memoir – how to get it all out.

The Words:

hate, for, i, you, editing, type, no-no, okay, I, the, workshop, Branch, up, got, cigarettes, the, to, Branch, I, snow, for, time, it’s, a, so, do, around, hour, without, any, into, process, struggling, chapter, slowly, the, the, don’t, to, here, the, easy, before, where, starts, more, some, don’t, but, focus, is, focus, and, really, I, that, the, here, all, poetry, than, it, but, it, ass, the, meeting, my, well, they, they, it, which, matter, they, it’s, what, to, and, frustrating, a, revision, not, for, I, this, work, the, second, then, it, a, I, know, take, needs, so, of, actually, of, memoir, kind, for, seems, it’s, that’s, the, to, all

  • Yeah. Okay. So this is even more random and frustrating than the “choose every third word from a magazine article” prompt and, as I can see now, is amounting to no more than playing with refrigerator poetry magnets. I mean, just take a look at how many articles and pronouns there are in that list! Geez. Okay. Here goes nothing –

So, it seems the most logical first step is to create some kind of loose order out of the words and see where that takes us:

I hate for you to edit, to type
The no-no, well, okay of workshop
Like branches scratching up my back
The cigarette burning into that branch
Covered in snow for the first time.

It’s so time for a do-over, turn around
Hour without any way into the process.
I struggle with your chapter, slowly,
The “don’t do it here,” the, “easy before
We start,” the more, more of someone.

Don’t – but focus, focus is really all
That I have here, all poetry but
The meeting, well, they say it matters
That is, that it’s what matters.

A frustrating revision, not for me, oh no,
This work, the second I see it then I know –
It needs to take, actually, a kind of memoir.
It seems that it’s all. It’s the all.

  • Well, then. That’s total crap. Let’s see what we can make of it if we give it a title and start to play around more freely with the language:


I hate the way we fight. You, breaking things while I scratch
at the black curve of your words. Our ending is marked
in the margins.

Today I watched the snow fall and chain smoked, turning
our relationship over in my head. I slide my finger
down your spine like a lover, whisper, Easy now, it’s just us.

Let’s focus on what’s here before we forget we are wrestling
with love. Let’s draft a kind of memoir until it appears: our story
that seems to say everything. That says it all.

  • Still pretty darn rough, but, hey…what do you expect from poetry magnets? This was a tough one. I hope the prompts get more interesting as we go through the year. Feel free to struggle along with this one if you like. I’d love to see what you come up with! Happy writing!!

2 thoughts on “P&W Prompt 5: A Poet to Her Poem

  1. Bravo! That was a lot of articles and pronouns. I loved that comment too – I was thinking it as I read your free-write.

    I’ll try to get the energy to do a free-write of my own.

    Don’t lose it with the drafting. It’s always the worst part of our writing process. We feel we’ve written something that’s a mixture of fodder and profoundness with our first draft. Creating the second draft is like killing off our favorite supporting character as we realize the words we’ve written don’t really fit and it needs to be re-worked. Still by the end of the second draft, we feel as if we’ve really gotten somewhere and communicated something and that’s what we’re here for, right? But then we put our work into someone else’s hands… and realize we have to kill much more than our favorite supporting character to get to the end.

    Don’t give up hope. The third draft is about changing our perspective. That and getting to the finish line. If we can make it to the finish line, perhaps the third time’s the charm.

    • You are so right (and wise!). I’ve always struggled with revision – in poetry, that is. Prose is easier for me when it comes to revising. Getting the prose down in the first place is HARD work for me – but once it’s down, I feel completely at ease to mess with it. Not the case with poetry. In fact, it’s just the opposite. I get it down, usually pretty easily, and then get stuck. Now what?? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our words just came out perfectly formed???? 🙂 Thanks so much for the feedback and encouragement. I hope you do take the time to tackle this one. It was a real challenge!

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