Wednesday, December 14, 2005

D.C. Arts Center

If you're in the D.C. area, be sure to go to "The Batcave," an open-mic night at the D.C. Arts Center on 18th Street in Adams Morgan. You can do whatever you want - poetry, music, motivational speaking, etc. - but please come! Tonight's theme is what you would put in a timecapsule for 2005. The time is 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Here's the site about the center:

Monday, December 12, 2005

Poetry Exercise #6: Line Lengths

A simple revision exercise: in the first draft of a poem cut each line in half or add two lines together throughout the poem. This will force you to look differently at the work, and it will help suggest places to tighten or revise. It might also help create new, more interesting line breaks.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Iota Poetry Reading

There's a great Iota reading on Sunday, featuring Jonathan Vaille, I think, who's had a book recently published at Word Works ( It's at 6 p.m. right next to the Clarendon Metro in Virginia. The series usually has 2 guest speakers then an open mic. It often lasts to 8 p.m. and great bands play there afterwards sometimes (like Holly Golightly and Okkervil River!) I wish they had more time for the open mic people, usually limiting us to one or two poems, but it's still a great event. (See

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Poetry Exercise #5 Syllable Limits

Here's an exercise: write a poem using only one or two-syllable words. (I borrowed this from a fiction writing exercise I saw in a Bernays and Painter book.) This requires you to pay a lot of attention to the language you use, as well as making for sparer, plainer poems. Sometimes writers make the mistake that a bigger, "fancier" word is needed when it would be better just to use a simpler word. In the revision, fill in the flesh around the bones, but keep true to the spirt of using the best, clearest word, not the pretentious one.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Poetry Exercise #4: Elements

One of the thing I'm working on now is a series of poems about each of the elements: earth, air, water, fire. I think a good exercise might be to find some categories like that in the world, especially ones that oppose each other in some way, and use them as inspiration. For example, you could write a poem each about yellow, green, and red, the colors of a stoplight. When you think about it, you'll have plenty of associations about each category; for example, yellow could remind you of lemonade, leading you further to the stand you used to have as a kid. Or red could make you recall candy, then the suckers you get in doctors' offices. Another example of categories would be each of the pieces in a monopoly game, like a race car, top hat, dog, etc. When writing each poem, think about how they respond or allude to one another.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Poetry Exercise #3

Make good use of your reading: Take a line or even just a few words from a poem you like and turn them into a title for a new poem of your own. It's a good way of taking the energy from a good turn of phrase and using it to propel a work of your own. Or, just use one of the lines as the start or the end of a new poem you write. You can cut this borrowed line later from you work during the revision. Even a small kernel of someone else's language can inspire. It also allows you to write your own take on the subject of the poem you borrowed from.