I love to play with words which comes in handy as a poet. I’m forever jotting down favorite phases, bits of dialogue I overhear or words that seem interesting to me for some reason or another. It’s important to play with your writing because sometimes poems hide in the act of play. There are days I  forget that and I sit down with my notebook determined that right now I will write a poem. And sometimes that works. I can pull up one of my prompt cards and scratch out a rough draft. But I think freewriting and word play are important even if they don’t lead to a poem at that moment.

So I keep a lot of lists. I keep lists of individual words I like and word pairings that might work in a poem. I spend time in the garden just staring at the plants and the birds trying to describe them. I make lists of things like everything I can think of that is red or cold or pieces of furniture. I make lists of verbs. It’s not busy work. Really. It primes the pump.

A lot of times making these lists leads to an important exercise that I learned from Beth Kephart. She said she writes five metaphors a day.

I thought it sounded easy until I tried it. I stuttered step around it a lot and write a lot of junk metaphors but after doing it for a while (more like every few days. I don’t have Beth’s discipline.) I’ve found that I can quickly write out 5 metaphors and 1 of them might be something I can use. The more you practice it, the easier it comes.

So today’s exercise is to start a couple of lists of your favorite words and try your hand at a few metaphors. They don’t have to lead to something, but you won’t be too surprised if they do.