Friday Writing Exercise 0 Comments

Friday Writing Exercise

The Dadaists knew all about assemblage poems before you had magnetic words on your fridge. They ‘were concerned with spontaneity, automatic writing, and chance operations.’

By taking a leaf out of the Dadaist book but applying our conscious, active editing minds to the words before us we can make some pretty interesting word experiments.

Instead of cutting up a newspaper, receipt or story and randomly organising the pieces to make a Dadaist poem, take your time with the pieces. Read them and find new ways of joining them. Is there a logic to the pieces? Are you swayed by it? Or can you construct new sentences and new meaning with what’s before you?

We sometimes underestimate how much editing can shift the meaning of a piece. By adding or taking out a word, even a joining word such as ‘and’ or ‘of’, how does the meaning change?

Auden famously altered a line from his poem September 1, 1939 from ‘We must love one another or die’ to ‘We must love one another and die’. What difference does the change from ‘or die’ to ‘and die’ make to the meaning?

Why not try taking the first part of someone else’s sentence and finding your own way to end it? Pick a theme and a book (preferably on a different topic), then flip the book open randomly. Use the beginning of a line you find and end it with something relating to your chosen topic.

For example, ‘The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and all of Max’s was concentrated on the loose thread hanging from the soldier’s collar.’


Austin Kleon – from ‘Newspaper Blackout Poems’


Another fun exercise is blackout poetry – taking an existing article and blacking out all the words you don’t want, as above. By limiting ourselves to a certain set of words, we are forced to consider their meaning, realise their potential and experiment with new word combinations and relationships.

Izzy Roberts-Orr is a Voiceworks Poetry EdCommer. She writes poetry, plays and reviews. She posts stuff on a blog. She tweets @izasmiz.

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