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Exercise Wednesday: Two Poems

January 23, 2013

By Peggy Miller

One afternoon in an April years ago, a stained and wrinkled list of words appeared in my garden.  I suppose it was an assignment lost by a school child walking home. A spelling list.  And it was too late for the child—the paper had weathered for a few days, had been spattered by rain before it came to rest in my ivy.  I realized the list was a gift, and I used it to devise a poetry exercise.

Write TWO poems.  In each one use any 8 to 10 words on the list.  Underline the  list words in your poems.  When you have completed the poems and used up most of the words on the list, there is a second step.

Omit the list words.  Where necessary (ONLY where absolutely necessary) replace them with a more powerful or unusual word.  Finally, polish your poems for expression and grace of language.

handful
quickly
catcher
beautiful
friendly
player
carefully
generate
greatest
illustrate
restful
nicely
softer
thankful
lively
greater
explain
graph
hypothesize
wonderful

Peggy Miller, an editor with The Comstock Review, has an MFA from American University. She has conducted poetry workshops for over 15 years. Her collections include What the Blood Knows was published in 2007 and Stone Being in 2009, both from Custom Words. Peggy has published a chapbook, Martha Contemplates the Universe, Frith Press, and a Greatest Hits chapbook from Pudding House. Visit her on Facebook.

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