This is a short exercise I did last week based on a prompt by one of my classmates during the last session of Jena Osman’s graduate workshop. For my source text I borrowed a copy of the ‘Game of Thrones’ novel (the plot of which is deliberately opaque to me). The resulting poem made me crack up when I re-found it in my notebook, so here it is.
- A book is picked that is believed to hold truth.
- Open to a random page
- A passage is picked, with the eyes closed
Exercise: Write down 5 questions. They can be related or separate. Ask the book for answers. Write a poem exploring the wisdom that the book has given.
(I should note that I cheated a little by choosing five separate passages— and that, since my life is going pretty well, the questions are a little banal. These short poems lean, maybe, more on directly appropriated language than intended, gleaned by scanning the page very quickly and proceeding, like a Spiritualist or Dadaist, on more or less automatic principles. I had 20 minutes to write these, and I’ve cheated again by slightly sprucing them up, but not much. Well.)
1. What should I make for dinner?
large lemon cloak, on fire,
I died laughing. Fanned a flame
with his large lemon cloak.
Lion meat, horse meat. Black fish meat.
2. Anything good going on this weekend?
A dog gets tired. A toad.
Young dog gives wit a lord, a kick.
I’ll ride off to a bloody wedding,
that is, a dang wedding, dammit
dog-wolf, I’m sick of kicking a dead wedding!
The river was a trident-girl, sopping,
dog pulled from a lion, smelled a ransom.
3. How am I doing for time?
The mountain’s strength was the nothing human.
I’m pressed for waste sans speed or skill,
burdened with a birch skull in my hey-day.
Worn down under water, warm time, yield
or be drowned, cur said to me.
4. Should I read Susan Howe when I get home, or work on my papers?
The one with the twitch? The shaking sickness?
I’m a peevish man, not a stupid one,
and the book says it’s possible this girl
is barren on the eve of a wedding,
and me preferring a comfortable captivity by the sea.
Balking over a boil and upsetting all his plans,
book, I’m a chest of clothes, I’m conceded sensitivity to illness
girls can get in childhood.
I’m wound up way up around the castle.
Their lord would show them every courtesy,
but the prospect still depressed her.
5. What do we need from the grocery?
wine pod, what feast
they wait without.
zero detail about a date
or list of goods. or witnesses
or his little stunted legs.
a courtroom scene carries
along an implicit sense
of urgency but the
characters still pause
greasy grey sausage.
at the expense of pace or tension he notes
inconvenient vows, those