Conference Challenge #3 – Poetry

Happy Wednesday, everyone.

I hope you are enjoying the conference challenges.  And, while we do like to get people thinking- you can’t win if you don’t actually do the exercises and comment.  So, in order to continue honing our craft and invoking that interactive component to the blog we have (drum roll please) another writing challenge: POETRY! (No groaning and/or cursing- you can do it!)  The good news is that you have already worked on overcoming failure and the importance of simplicity in the previous exercises.  You’re half way there.

Coming up with a clear definition of poetry these days is really difficult.  There is no standard.  And, hey, that works for me.  Why be stuck in a box of rigid thinking, right?  I could say that poetry is a literary art that uses language to express ideas, convey experience and evoke emotions in a vivid and imaginative way.  But, what does that really mean?  Seriously, aren’t we as creative writers and illustrators doing all that already?  I like to think so, anyway.

Poetry as an art form may even predate literacy.  The oldest surviving poem, The Epic of Gilgamesh, was written in the third millennium B.C. on clay tablets.

So, I’m thinking we can do this challenge.  We have computers and indoor plumbing.  Set aside an hour (or so) and the elements of poetry could even improve your writing and illustrating.  No joke.  I have to admit, poetry pushes me way out of my comfort zone.  But, if I can do it- so can you.

Okay, I like things broken down.  I’m a slow learner, what can I say?  Poetry is all about breaking things down, concentrating them into their essential elements.  Who wouldn’t want to learn how to convey their meaning in a more precise and clear way?

Clear?  Concise?  Poetry?  You may be thinking I am completely nuts.  (And, that may be true.)  After all, how many of you have read a poem only to wonder what the heck it was really about?  I know I have, but that probably goes back to that slow learner thing.

According to John Timpane of the poetry center, there are a few key elements to writing poetry:




experimentation and form.

Now, let’s use them to write our very own poem.  Remember to breathe.  No one is going to see your poem, unless you want them to.  I have already made a run for the snickerdoodles just thinking about this exercise.

Poetry, like all creative arts, is rooted in the everyday.  So, we have plenty of experiences to draw from.

I like to think of poetry as music that uses words and their sound as a rhythm.  It is the sound of the language and it’s placement in the line that causes the reader to imagine our meaning.

I am suggesting that we throw the traditional rules out the window when we write our poems.  Pay no attention to what “should” or “shouldn’t” be in there.  Just write what comes to you.

Now, let’s get started!

If we take a good look around, and use our attentiveness, we can select a subject for our poem.  It can be anything, really! (the awkward silence when you say goodbye to somebody and then walk away in the same direction, a beloved pet, the hair that grows on your big toe)  Come up with an idea/subject you know well.

Next, really concentrate on that subject.  Pay super close attention to it and make a list of descriptors.  Focus on all the details and be specific.  Adrienne Rich said, “Poetry is above all a concentration of the power of language.”

Then, concentrate it further- condense it and come up with it’s essence.  But, reject anything too commonplace.  Think of totally new ways (originality) to describe the object or occurrence.  Remove everything non-essential from your list.  In the words of Sir Philip Sidney, “Poetry is a speaking picture…”

Now, experiment with the form and organize your poem.  Write a few passages on your subject.  Make it rhyme or write in free verse.  Mess with the spacing, the syllables, the length of the lines.

Rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite some more.  (In my case, wipe brow and hit delete a few hundred times)

Illustrators’ Challenge #3

We haven’t forgotten all you talented illustrators.  Chieu Urban has come up with a fabulous exercise for this week.  Good luck to everyone.

Have you ever tried drawing with your non-dominant hand?  It’s a great exercise and the results are loose and sometimes whimsical.  Last weekend, I spent a good part of my day experimenting with my left hand (I’m right handed) and just love the free style effect. Let us know how your illustrations turn out!

Good luck with this week’s challenge.  And, don’t forget to leave a comment in this post to qualify to win the raffle.

This entry was posted in Writing & Drawing Exercises and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Conference Challenge #3 – Poetry

  1. OK, I’ll be brave again – this isn’t very “children-like,” but I didn’t see that as criteria. It sounds very dark, but it’s not.

    “Lost Friends”
    Lost friends – where did they go?
    How did we live the life when they were gone?
    Where did we find our friends again, and how did it happen?
    Did we spend the right moments with our very special friends?
    And will we ever find a friend like that special friend again?
    I hope not. I don’t want to lose another one.
    Friends are different from family.
    We can’t choose our family, but we can choose our friends.
    We need to fix our family; we don’t need to fix our friends.
    We take friends for granted — until we lose them, for good.
    And then we realize how much that friendship meant.
    Wouldn’t it be nice to begin all friendships,
    With the hindsight we have, when losing friends for life?

    By Valerie Ormond

  2. Tabatha says:

    Have you talked about Storybird here? Our local illustrators might find it interesting. I posted about it yesterday, with a poem, so that kind of goes with the challenge:

  3. Lona Queen says:

    I did try to write a poem about Facebook since it was what was right in front of me, but it is too awful to share — and you didn’t say that we should write a terrible poem like you did with the picture book story. 🙂

  4. Lovely words and beautiful illustrations on storybook, Tabitha.

    Lona, all my poems are terrible- seriously:)

  5. Yay! I wrote a poem. I haven’t done that since high school, and I had to step into the mindset of my 17-year-old main character to actually write it, and it’s kind of terrible, but it felt great. I think I’m going to start writing poetry more often 🙂

    If you want to see it, I did post the poem on my blog:

  6. Shirley Menendez says:

    I wrote a poem and decided I would try to market it, so I sent it to a children’s magazine. Don’t know if I will ever see it in print, but I’ll keep my hopes up.

  7. Pingback: Conference Challenge #5: Grip, Click, LEAP! « As the Eraser Burns

  8. larissagraham says:

    Woo hoo for sending your poem to a magazine, Shirley! Crossing my fingers for you- Good luck

  9. Miranda McClain says:


    Ahh, quite time without the kids.
    I’ll find a peaceful spot.
    The library should do the trick,
    I’ll get some time to write.
    But wait a minute,
    Is this for real?
    You really must be kidding!
    I thought the library had rules
    To keep noise levels down.
    At first it’s minor,
    Not so bad.
    I think I can ignore it.
    His music is a little loud
    And I can hear him chewing.
    But then his phone rings!
    For crying out loud!
    He’s talking to his friend.
    As if that isn’t bad enough
    He’s crinkling wrappers while he’s at it.
    How am I supposed to concentrate!
    With this crunching, talking, lip-smacking,
    Inconsiderate, swearing, uncaring, self absorbed,
    Idiot sitting next to me.
    Boy this guys a Jerk!

  10. larissagraham says:

    I’m glad the poetry challenge is still going strong! Everyone is so talented. Thanks for sharing-

  11. Sue Poduska says:

    I did write my poem, but I’m not in a very sharing mood. It is an Ode to a Geode, which will likely appear in print. In addition to descibring its physical appearance, I thought about where it came from and why it’s still in my living room.

    Thanks for the exercise!


  12. Pingback: Conference Challenge Wrap Up! « As the Eraser Burns

  13. Ann McCallum says:

    I actually enjoy writing poems. It takes a long, long time to make them work and mine often have that Dr. Seuss-y feel (though much, much, much worse, obviously) I wrote one about neighbors.

  14. Cathy Sledz says:

    I, too, enjoy writing poems, like fiddling and finessing them. This poem — a four-liner called Dabble Duck — surprised me by the amount of research behind it, which for the first time included YouTube. Who knew there were so many videos of ducklings in puddles that needed viewing?

  15. Beth Blevins says:

    Wrote a poem with my kid (3-minute poem):

    Knitting Needles

    Knotted balls of yarn
    So many unfinished projects
    Sweaters that have been dreamed of
    Yet haven’t been made
    In my sleep I knit and perl,
    Knit and perl
    And wear a scarf made of dreams.

  16. I wrote a love poem called “Cumin.” Not for kids, but so nice to write a poem again.

  17. Dorthey says:

    Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is an extremely well written article.
    I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful
    info. Thanks for the post. I will definitely return.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.