A Subconscious Exercise


Haven’t done one of these in a while! Lately I’ve been trying to use more creative exercises (not strictly writing; in fact some that are specifically in other creative areas, like art and music) to better and more fully exercise my subconscious. I feel like much of the work of crafting stories happens off the page, when we are in rumination and our minds may wander and jump and connect. Blackout poetry is one such occasion to do so and, being creatively active, engages the mind differently than running or doing the dishes does. And when you’re done, you have a bit of art to show for it!

Words of the Week 3/19/2014 — In which Julie discovers the dark side of an old nursery rhyme

This week’s words:

imputation n. an attribution, as of fault or crime; an accusation

perfunctory adj. performed out of routine; lacking enthusiasm; apathetic

litany n. a recital or repetitive series; a tedious, prolonged account

apéritif n. (French) a pre-dinner drink

placid n. tranquil; not easily upset or excited; peaceful

Now the composition. See if you can identify the well-known poem it alludes to:

For the old woman, a five o’clock apéritif was as perfunctory as the rhyming litany with which the neighbor kids teased her children. The gin and tonic made her placid, and at least numbed, if not impervious, to the chant’s subtle imputations about her chastity (or lack thereof) and rumors that her husband’s departure had made her an abusive matron.

Got it?

That’s right! I of course am referencing the old woman who lived in a shoe, a nursery rhyme of Mother Goose origins. Think I made it too dark? Well. It might interest you to know that at first I myself could only remember the initial two lines of this poem, “There was an old woman who lived in a shoe; / She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.” I wrote my vocab sentences with those in mind and then, out of curiosity, looked up the rest of the poem. As it turns out, it’s just two lines more:

She gave them some broth without any bread;

And whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

Uhhh…yeah. I’m pretty sure my copy of left those last ones out. The illustration in my childhood Mother Goose book was not unlike the one above: bright, colorful, featuring playing children, a gentle matron, and most importantly only the first two lines of the poem. But an illustration that portrays the complete nursery rhyme looks more like this:

I guess I see why the editor took a liberty or two (Can’t you just hear the lawsuits?).

Girl in red

Image Credit: horrigans

Girl in red
Dragging a sled
Behind her in the snow
Red wooden sled
Carving white treads
Glides through the powder below
Red on red
Girl riding sled
Flurries sent whirling by rose.

[Wrote this based on a brief, real image glimpsed out my window in the midst of winter blizzardry this Thursday. Haven’t written any poetry in a while, but this came to me quite readily, and I liked the few lines’ simplicity.]

Affirmation for the Artist

Since I decided to pursue my dream of being an author, a number of revelations have occurred to me. The one I want to share today is this: that as writers, artists, musicians, and other independents (at least in the vocational sense)– especially unpublished, un-commissioned, and struggling ones– our affirmation comes largely from within; and as such we must either be strong for ourselves or fail.

Paychecks. Publications. Praise. These things are all hard for the struggling artist to come by, especially in the beginning. How is one to go on when nothing– no money, no prestige, at times even no one– exists to validate our work? When we even have negative funds, reproach, and discouragement working against us?

I’d think the answer’s the same no matter where we are in our journey: our affirmation must come first and foremost from within us. We must believe in the work we are doing and the integrity of the effort we’re giving it. We must believe in ourselves at all times– especially when nobody else will.

I think, when one becomes comfortable with this idea– with relieving oneself of the need of the approval of others– it is immensely freeing. Yes, there will still be agents and representatives and business people and business deals and guidelines to be worked with along the way or at the end of Rejection Brick Road, but if you’re happy with who you are and what you’re doing– what else do you really need? You’re your own well, spring, and fountain.

And if you’re gonna be a fountain, you might as well look like this.

ALRIGHT, yes, a paycheck would be nice.

But you get the idea.

Write The Next Line! – Bad Similes

This image is TOTALLY relevant, I swear.

—–The Resulting Poem from Today’s Round: Bad Similes—

His eyes were like
slick oil spills, oozing dark desire like
a goth chick’s emoticons. He smelled much like
the acrimonious sins of fathers waking beneath the apathy of mankind. And when he spoke, his voice was like
the song of a cicada in a sweet Georgia pine, menacing like
the heart of a benevolent spirit, traveling through the dimensions of time like
a little girl in a tutu with both shoes on the wrong feet. Handsome as
tepid coffee and a bowl of soggy cereal on a Monday morning, that one.

If only we could say the same for bad similes.

Guys, that was awesome! Hope you all had as much fun as I did. Give it up for contributing poets Lex, Tony Espino, Sahm King, Lilith Colbert and Emma Snow! This is the last of the poetry prompts The Read Room is doing for National Poetry Month, but I do hope you’ll all keep writing and help me make more creative mischief soon! 🙂

Today’s poetry prompt concludes both The Read Room’s week-long series of Interactive Poetry and my series of practices for National Poetry Month. Sometime next week I’ll aim to make it out to the bookstore and slip the poems I made (transcriptions and blackouts) into books. Yay! Celebrate! I’ll try not to buy too many books while I’m there (IS there such a thing? says the idealist. Um, YES, the wallet replies).

SO, in the spirit of ending things with a flying-crane kick, I saved the best (meaning, the worst, but probably most humorous) prompt for last.

Write the next line in the comments below, following the prompt: Bad Simile. Lines should finish one simile (comparison using the word “like”) and offer the prompt for the next by ending with the word “like”.


Prompt: The woman smoked like

Player 1: bacon burnt to the frying pan. The vice of her grip was like

Player 2: a shark chewing jerky. She seemed troubled, like

Player 3: Taylor Swift when her ex walked in. Etc.

At the end of the day I’ll post the complete poem formed by all the various players. Contribute as many times as you want to and have fun!

Get it? Got it? GOOD!

The simile we will be improving (/worsening, which in its own backwards sense is still an improvement because the original was so spectacularly awful), comes from the Twilight series and originally described Edward’s eyes as “like liquid topaz”. *Rubs hands together and cackles* LET US WRITE.

Your line, first player, is this:

His eyes were like

Write The Next Line! – using the word “part”

—–The Resulting Poem from today’s round—–

The hours erased the stars and day peeled apart from night

a dawning appeared from the aftermath of apartheid.

The fleeting memory of times shared, now a part of me erased

save ghosts and their imparting, which leave my thoughts defaced.

Woo hoo! Great work Joel and Jennifer, and well done also to Lex of Inkiebird and Shawn Bird of her self-titled blog for writing their own poems from the prompt. Thanks for playing– hope you had fun!

Here at The Read Room we’ve been celebrating National Poetry Month with a series of interactive poems written by YOU, the readers! I supply the prompt and you guys do the rest — just comment below and play off the lines before you!

Today’s prompt is Must use the word “part”. Use it however you will: hair part, a part of ~, partition, party, apart, parting, impart, partial, etc. etc. Anything will do. Surprise us!

…And if you can’t figure out how to use part, there’s always the old fallback “pants”.

Here is your first line. Drum roll, please!

The hours erased the stars and day peeled apart from night

Write The Next Line! – Linked Freeverse III

—–The Resulting Poem from Friday’s Round of Linked Freeverse—-

Awaking to the owl and the moon
An inflatable monk slit his throat –
the air poured out and soon
was a lifeless coat.

Tony Espino, you’re a star! Thanks for contributing not just today but all week. Give it up lads, and check out this poet’s eponymous blog and his book, Orphan of Reality!

If you heard the phrase,

Awaking to the owl and the moon

what would you say next?

Now’s your chance! This week at The Read Room we are writing poems by playing off of one another’s comments.

To play today’s round of Linked Freeverse, you needn’t rhyme or even make sense– just write something to follow the comment of the person before you!

At the end of the day, I’ll compile everyone’s lines and post the full composition. Check out Monday’s and Wednesday’s rounds of Linked Freeverse for inspiration 🙂

Write The Next Line! – Return & Repeat

—–The Resulting Poem from today’s prompt, Return & Repeat—–

The crash of ivory into a thousand pieces
Was the result of minds crashing at right angles
Minds that jangled with a cacophony of thought
Thought in nails, sirens, screeching brakes
Nails our Fathers purchased for our deeds

A hearty thank you to Tony Espino, Lilith Colbert, and Sahm King for contributing! Well done!

In today’s poetry prompt, Return and Repeat, players create lines that include at least one word from the previous line.


On Tuesday the storm was brewing

The brew was a nasty wash

but nothing could wash the dust

of nothingness caked to the roof.

And so on. Contribute as many lines as you like, but try to follow the prompt and play off of the comment before you! I’ll compile the full poem when the day is done.

In the meantime, here’s the real-deal first line to get you rolling:

The crash of ivory into a thousand pieces