Poetry can feel restricted. Like most styles of writing, it is deeply personal and blooms in solitude. It’s often viewed among the arts as a cold and lonely craft. Musicians can jam, singers can belt, painters can thrash buckets at a canvas, dancers can sweat and sweat as they leap and spin. There are so many ways to express emotion through passion and movement. This cathartic release can be hard to spot in the world of writing.
It would be a joy to see poets wield a similar recklessness and spontaneity. Wouldn’t it be nice to allow ourselves to be angry or ecstatic without worrying about our voices crumbling? Writing receives a wrap as a sport of carefulness and refinement. Long hours hunched over on the keyboard, sharpening phrases on the whet of your mind. For the most part, that is true: and it’s all good and well. But what about when we want to scream? Poetry cannot be uncoupled from emotion, nor emotion from an eventual passionate burst of release.
How can we allow our form of art to be visceral and spontaneous, to release? Is it possible to coax this state into such a careful form? I argue that writing can be as reckless as anything else, if we let it. Writing itself can be figured to be a form of very slow improvisation. Creating sentences out of narratives out of nothing: shaping a language. The process is often tedious and mentally demanding, even if the writing isn’t good. Speeding it up will cause mistakes, to be sure. Writing from some passionate trance might not produce the cleanest syntax, but it might just be interesting. I implore you to leave the tedium for tomorrow and just get some thoughts and (more importantly) feelings onto the page. Write recklessly once in a while! It might not be the optimal practice for blog posts or essays, but as a poet you will be surprised what pieces of language will come leaping out if you do not stop yourself. To aide in this theory, I have gathered some writing exercises to help you channel your ravenous writing beast and let loose:
Most people have played this game at some point. It’s as simple as sounds. Look at something in the room and think of the word that represents it. Then write down the first next word that you associate it with. Just daisy-chain those puppies together, the more tenuous the connection between the two words, the better. This may not get you any award-winning poems, unfortunately, but it can prime your mind to quicker, more spontaneous thoughts. Sort of like those weird warm up games they do in theatre. This lesson plan from Visual Thesaurus goes into depth on how a word association poem might turn out.
Emotion to Object
As a disclaimer, this method comes with certain risks. If I were to continue the theatre metaphor, this would be akin to method acting. So proceed with caution. The goal is to get in touch with your emotions. Which ones are you feeling, or have you felt recently? Concentrate on one clear, strong emotion and whatever makes you feel that way. Once you are certifiably in your feelings, describe an unrelated object or subject in a way that implies said emotion. This exercise is good for making sure we are in touch with our emotional side while writing, as it is an essential tool for expressive writing and can make the creative process more interesting.
This is a very similar exercise as Emotion to Object, but this time thinking in terms of colors and the emotional baggage that they carry for you. Colors are powerful symbols. What does a blue word look like? How about crimson? How can we charge a random object or subject with the emotional content of the color grey? Thinking about colors can help you develop a consistent emotional tone.
This one is scary. But if you have someone you trust to write with, ask them to play a writing game with you. One that I’ve played since I was little is to simply pass words back and forth to form sentences. It seems silly, but if two like minded artists are really attempting to create interesting language, it can yield eye-opening results. Having half of your poem written for you forces you to make choices that you would not otherwise make, to get out of your own mind for once. If you’re curious about writing with friends, the poetry blog Little Infinite goes into more depth on “Collaborative Poetry” and its benefits.
Meet the blogger:
GEORGE HUBBARD is a creative writing student focusing on poetry who is set to graduate with the class of 2022. He is a transplant from small town Iowa, and spends his time exploring the Twin Cities’ record stores, restaurants, and breweries when he’s not studying or in the pool practicing for Hamline Swim and Dive.