Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Take three poems, choose your words and ...

Jackie Kay inspired many of us recently when we had the pleasure of hearing her read (perform would be more accurate) as part of the Lowdham Book Festival last month. She is a star! So it seemed appropriate to select Jackie Kay's poetry collection Darling to spark our writing exercise at this month's meeting.

Three poems were chosen at random from the collection by asking group members to suggest a page number. Everyone noted down between six and 10 words from each poem as the poems were read aloud to the group. Members then had 15 minutes to write in any format as long as they used all their chosen words. I've participated in this exercise on a number of occasions now and always been surprised and excited by the results. Not just in how it frees my own imagination, and creates interesting new associations between words. What's great is hearing everyone else's contributions. Did we choose similar words or different ones? And what did we make with them?

This is what I came up with. It may be the beginning of a short story, and I aim to work more with the persona/character that 'appeared' on the page. I'm encouraging other members to post their writing from this exercise here. Come on - you know you want to!

Words selected::
trees, whipped, cotton, scream, bass, landing, happen, telling, keep, missed, trousers, toffee, skin, bones, revolutionary, gulls, waving, learned, returned, soft, down.

There's nothing revolutionary in my trousers.
It's just the way I like telling it in a full
bass voice: "See what I can make happen".
And I did. All those years ago, when I was
skin and bones and I couldn't do a press-up
for toffee, you thought me soft;
tried to keep me down. While the gulls
would scream, preparing for landing
on yet another bag of chips, I was patching
myself with cotton. There's a turn-up
in these jeans. I learned what I missed
under that pier, rolling off you as the wind
whipped my backside raw. The crack of
the boards was trees splitting. The only joy
in waving you off imagining what returned.


  1. Ok, so I can't comment on the content of your trousers, but holy cow, that is a fabulous opener- I laughed like a monkey :) I love the line about being under the pier -it spoke to me -thank you for sharing what you wrote.

    The exercise was really enjoyable to me- thank you for it, Nickie. I'm going to put out my contribution, too, an hope to see everyone's else's work!

    I chose to write three small pieces, one for each group of words I picked from the three poems:

    Group 1: trees, mercy, silence, strangled, paced, again

    We're trees, you and I
    with our painful silence,
    our strangled, mute needs.
    Were we people with hearts and mercy in mind
    we would have
    paced about
    and thought
    and tried again.

    Group 2:
    believed, secret, singing, falls, trees (oopsie!)

    I believed you each of those days,
    singing, smiling.
    I didn't know I was just a secret.
    The sun falls,
    I see it hide amidst the trees,
    a secret just like me.

    Group 3: hawks, rooted, levitated, song, turtledove, soft

    A turtledove among hawks,
    doft with song,
    I dared levitate to your level
    in your sky.
    But the wind rent my feathers.
    Now I am rooted.
    I will never fly again.

  2. Minxy your first piece gives me shivers, I love what you've written. I think this is somthing very much worth developing - they all are, but especially the first.

  3. Great poems... number 2 resonates with me... thanks for posting them. :-)