Sunday, April 3, 2011

Writing Exercise # 29

The questions we ask are usually a form of hunger. Some of the questions, of course, are starved and snapping. They have a lot of teeth. While other questions are quieter; small attempts to quench a mild thirst and are equally as kind to us as they are to the person being asked. That said, let's jump in:


1. If you are human, there are at least twenty questions you would like to have answered. They could be questions asked of a former lover, a current lover, a parent, a teacher, a stranger on the street, a god, an animal, a country. They might even be questions that could all be answered by one person. They are questions that burn holes in your coat pocket. Questions that pop up at dumb moments, when you'd rather think or worry or wonder or marvel at something else. One question usually leads to more questions. Write down at least ten of those you need most answered. If you are a more advanced human, you might only have one. Write it down.

- - -

Let's build a pantoum of questions. The form is this:

Stanza 1:

Line 1
Line 2
Line 3
Line 4

Stanza 2:

Line 5 (repeat line 2)
Line 6 (new line)
Line 7 (repeat line 4)
Line 8 (new line)

Stanza 3:
Line 9 (repeat line 6)
Line 10 (line 3)
Line 11 (line 8)
Line 12 (line 1)

Each line should be a new question, but make sure whichever line you choose to open with is the line you want to close with, too. If it is only one question repeated, try tweaking it. "Did you think of me when you kissed her" can become, "Were my lips beneath her lips?"

Pantoums look strict, but I actually feel a lot looser when working with the form. To get a better idea of how you can alter repeated lines, check out this masterful (and often hard-to-find) pantoum by Maxine Kumin.


(This exercise was inspired by the frightening poem/fable "The Invisible Men" by the Nakasak Eskimo - scroll down a little to read it @ the site)