Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Poetry Exercise # 9

Twice within the last seven days, a little exercise I give myself has come up, so I'm taking it as an invisible nudge from the universe. Speaking of "invisible," we're going to write a poem off of what I call a "ghost line." A ghost line is an inspiring line or image that becomes the unseen first line of a poem. It's how I come up with a lot of my exercises. I see a striking group of words or an arresting image and design an exercise based off that.

You know how you underline a favorite line in a book? That's what I do, only I take it a step further and build an entire story or poem off that.

Today's ghost line is from Anne Sexton's "Menstruation at Forty." It is:

Love, that red disease

Now remember, this is the invisible "first line" of your poem. Do NOT include it in your poem (unless you give credit to the original author.) YOU come up with the rest. So the second line is actually your first VISIBLE line. Fun, right? Also, the poem doesn't have to have anything to do with the ghost line, but the point of the ghost line is to inspire.


- untitled -

It coughed its final cough
as its head settled
into the pillow,
blistered arms
at its side,
the last breath,
a shattered hymn.

The women gathered
in the corner,
men stood in their suits,
blue and unmoving.
The fever snapped
at the frightened villagers,
lunged for
the other children
hiding behind the white lace
curtains, ineffectual skirts.

By sundown,
the room nearly empty--
a row of candles, unspent,
the boy's small shadow
of sweat:
a wet ghost
in the bassinett.

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