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Exercise Wednesday: Poetry — The Three-time Exercise.

February 27, 2013

by Peggy Miller

When you write a poem, you are telling it to yourself.  So the deeper you look at yourself, the more focused you can be, the better the poem that will result.  But we are all bags of contradiction.  As much as we believe one way, there is always that nagging instance when it is otherwise.  As fine as the poem’s thought may be, there may be a dark undertow, a certain awareness that we know something else and we are not saying.  No matter what we say in a poem, we could have said its opposite, and still have been expressing a portion of our deepest selves.  Experiment with that traffic jam of contradiction, and give voice to a tiny pinch of the chaos of your thoughts.

Write a poem, a short one, that you will end three different (and contradictory) ways.

It should be short enough so that all three versions fit on one side of one page.  If it’s too long, make two columns.

You might finish it once with a bang or a punch – that is, in a way that concludes strongly, or surprises.

Another version you may finish the same poem in a way that opens – not concluding, but ending softly or opening up to the whole universe, or turning the corner to a different subject or image at the end.   In your third version of the poem, try to finish by denying or contradicting what the the other versions say. Or argue with your poem.

Have fun.

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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