Follow a recipe

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Award-winning poet Adam Sol shares a recipe for cooking a poem. Try it!

 

Idea:  Take three kinds of language and intersperse them. 
Reason:  I love hearing how different kinds of language bang up against each other. So this encourages that sort of poem.
So:
1. Make numbers 1-3 down a page, so it looks like this:
1.
2.
3.
1.
2.
3.
1.
etc.
 
2. Take a piece of official language that’s in the room you’re in. Instructions about how to proceed in case of emergency, a memo that’s been recently distributed, something from the newspaper. Insert that language into all of the lines marked 1 in your list.
2. Try to carefully describe a natural object. Intersperse along the lines marked 2.
3. Write a letter (fictional or real) to someone you love that expresses something deeply felt — anger, love, disappointment, longing. Address the letter to that person and distribute in the lines marked 3.
 
I find that this exercise usually produces some really great juxtapositions, although it doesn’t tend to make a complete poem. But one of the great things poems can do is jump from subject to subject, tone to tone, approach to approach, without apology or explanation. This exercise encourages that, sometimes with surprisingly powerful results.