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Friday, March 14, 2008

Poetry Friday--The Exquisite Corpse and Other Poetry Fun

Poetry doesn't have to be stuffy and full of hidden meaning. You can have fun with it.

Many years ago, at a writers' retreat, I played a game called "Exquisite Corpse." About 5 or 6 of us sat in a circle and received a blank piece of paper and a writing implement. At the top of the paper we each wrote down two lines to start a poem. It wasn't necessary to rhyme, although it was allowed. When everyone had finished--spontaneity is the key to this--then the first line was folded under, and the paper was passed to the person on the right. That person read the exposed line and added another. Again, the top line was folded under and the paper passed. The addition of lines continued until each person received her own paper back. At that point, the paper was unfolded, the poem was read, and the starting person added a final line. Then the poems were read aloud. Amazingly, some were quite cogent! We had fun and continued the game with a new piece of paper. I'd like to suggest that you try this old parlor game. People will have to give up their laptops, which may be a good thing, and get back to basic pen and paper. I'd love to see your resulting poems!

One of my favorite books is The Adventures of Dr. Alphabet: 104 Unusual Ways to Write Poetry in the Classroom and the Community by David Morice [372.64 MOR]. It has a dizzying number of playful activities with poetry. And, I'd like to stress the COMMUNITY aspect. Adults of all ages can participate. This book is a great resource for those who are planning activities for Poetry Month coming up in April.

Here's a typical activity:
88. Popsicle Puzzles

One student's poem is another student's puzzle. In this case, the second student tries putting the poem back together.

Each student arranges ten popsicle sticks in a rectangle and writes a poem on them, one line per stick. Then everyone exchanges sets of sticks and tries to arrange each other's set in the order of the original poem. The students can also collaborate on larger poems by arranging the sticks from two or more sets.

In case you're wondering where the name "Exquisite Corpse" came from, here's an explanation from Wikipedia.
The name is derived from a phrase that resulted when Surrealists first played the game, "Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau." ("The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine.")

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