Wednesday, 25 March 2009

A poetry game you can play at home

Here are the so-called rules. Take a decent piece of literary text. In this Poet-in-Residence example it's a day's entry chosen completely at random from a Virginia Woolf diary. Highlight some poetic-looking words and phrases and cobble them together like a piece of IKEA furniture thereby making a poem. The Poet-in-Residence poem THE OLD DRIVING WHIRLWIND took all of ten minutes to compose. Now you may cry, "And it shows!"
But that is deliberately missing the point. We can and should self-assemble these poetic goods on display in the DIY shop window. It's a small contribution to poetic posterity. Give it a whirl. And don't be afraid.
In THE OLD DRIVING WHIRLWIND only the word 'is' (line 3) and the punctuation were added.


Two glasses of vin du pays
Settle the dust in my mind.
Hope is the colour of dirty brown paper.
A dark cultivated woman
Something of miraculous desirability
Was my desire
Mounting all the time steadily
Coming in at night in the wet
Punctured in a mountain village
In the bitter windy rain
In the old driving whirlwind ...

gw 2009


  1. Interesting game poet! I tried it once a few months ago - this is the poem that emerged, taking lines from various RS Thomas poems:-
    When I was a child and the soft flesh was forming,
    Like a poem or a composition in music;
    I looked as though through a clear window.
    You could take me to pieces
    and there would be no angel hard by,
    wringing its hands
    over the demolition of the temple.

    when I close my eyes I can see it.
    I have looked long at the land,
    trying to understand my place in it.
    At the dark sources I stand now.
    The winds of the world are blowing.
    The patched gate you left open
    will never be shut again.

    It is a good exercise I think because if you use a brilliant writer you somehow get the flow os his/her words and feel the rhythm.

  2. Once I made a few poems from Telegraph cryptic crossword clues.

    Mairi's TLS poems are great aren't they?

    I know my Shakespeare haikus are from poems but that's obviously unavoidable. However I'm following the classic 5-7-5 haiku sylbl method and therefore using perhaps 10 or 12 words from 140 or so available in each sonnet. So far (up to XIX) I've managed to avoid words like thou thus & thine. And what's more I think they all make a kind of sense. I write them on the bus.

  3. Did you ever hear Dame Janet Baker sing entries from the diary of Virginia Woolf? If her words can be sung surely there's poetry aplenty to be had from them. I'm going to go look for my copy.

  4. Never heard of that song, Mairi. But we're not afraid! I ponder now ..

  5. This reminds me, have you ever had a look at A Humument?

    Off now to have a go at an IKEA poem...

  6. Thanks for that one Dominic. There's a lot to think about there!


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