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Writing Workshop: Iridescent Ribbon, Rhyme, and Rime Royal

Iridescent Ribbon, Rhyme, and Rime Royal

We recently read Wallace Steven’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” and discussed our impressions and favorite words and lines. Then I placed 13 objects in the middle of the table and asked everyone to write a poem making whatever connections they wanted between the objects. They could also choose to focus on one object. Afterwards, I asked them each to choose one line to give to me on a strip of paper. We arranged the strips randomly on the floor and read the poem that resulted:

The pinecone pleonastically pointing

yo yo moves

a puzzle piece, bright yet worn

an iridescent strand of ribbon

stretched across the skies

Why did they not eat; are they not hungry?

Please have a parent take it to the office if harm comes of using said item.

Swirls, dots, spiraling around the milky way,

in patterns often changing.

And now we see the majestic yellow puzzle piece in its homeland. Notice how it stays still,

waiting for its prey. The wooden square continues to try and win the yellow puzzle piece’s attention.

It is not good for the female of the tribe.

tiled into the clouds like whispers

yellow figure, vague in shape but distinct in sharpness—oh—wait, it’s an eraser?

A calendar of days I cannot live again

and cannot remember except to think

I could have done more. I could have used them better

the spring

One participant offered word boxes from a book of word searches that she had been completing. She thought that the boxes contained interesting groups of words to feed poems or stories. We each took a different box. Some writers chose to use every word in the box. Others chose a few to begin a story.

For the past few weeks, we have been exploring metrical verse, using Michael Clay Thompson’s Building Poems and Mary Oliver’s Rules for the Dance. We have read poems by Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Robert Louis Stevenson, William Wordsworth, and others in order to learn the difference between an iamb and a trochee and to find examples of alliteration, assonance, consonance, and various rhyme patterns. We have also learned about stanza forms such as the Italian sonnet, the English sonnet, the rime royal stanza, the ballad stanza, and the limerick.

Three participants collaborated on a sonnet. One participant began an epic poem in a medieval language of his own making. Several writers tried their hand at composing limericks. Some of these experiments may appear in revised and edited form in three weeks when we publish our anthology.

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