It’s not really a challenge-challenge. I just needed you to click this post.
The following is an exercise use by Theodore Roethke and his student and also celebrated poet in his own right, Richard Hugo. I wanted to see if any of wordpress’ own poets wanted to do this exercise with me. I’ve taken it from Richard Hugo’s The Triggering Town: Stray Thoughts on Roethke and Teaching. If you wanna do it lemme know reblog it share it and we will take it from there
Use Five nouns, verbs, and adjectives from the above list and write a poem as follows:
- Four Beats to a line
- Six lines to a stanza
- Three Stanzas
- At least two internal and one external slant rhyme per stanza (full rhymes acceptable but not encouraged)
- Maximum of two end stops per stanza
- Clear English grammatical sentences (no tricks). All sentences must make sense
- The Poem must be meaningless
Too many beginners have the idea that they know what they have to say—now if they can just find the words. Here, you give them the words, some of them anyway, and some technical problems to solve. Many of them will write their best poem of the term. It works, and I’ve seen it work again and again. While the student is concentrating on the problems of the exercise, the real problems go away for a moment simply because they are ignored, and with the real problems gone the poet is free to say what he never expected and always wanted to say. Euphonics and slant rhymes are built into the vocabulary of course, and as for item 7, it simply takes the exercise one step further into the world of the imagination. Without it, the exercise is saying: give up what you think you have to say, and you’ll find something better. With item 7, it says: say nothing and just make music and you’ll find plenty to say. Item 7 is an impossibility of course, but when the student finds out it is, one hopes he will have increased faith in sound and the accidents of the imagination.
Some traditionalists seem to think that forms exist to be solved for their own sake, as if the poet is an engineer. That’s just foolish. If a poet finds himself solving the problems of a form simply for the sake of challenge, he has the wrong form. After you’ve written for a long time, to do it in the forms at all is a little like cheating because you are getting help. But the forms can be important, and when Roethke felt himself going dry he always returned to them. For some students, the exercise will not work because the form is not theirs. They need another or, in some cases, none. Though I can’t defend it, I believe that when the poem is coming on with imaginative honesty, there is some correspondence of the form to psychic rhythms in the poet.