23 September 2013

our lost jungle poetry form challenge: challenge #8 - word gardens

The OLJ Poetry Form Challenge #8: Word Gardens
Welcome to the eighth challenge of the 2013 OLJ Poetry Form Challenge! This year’s challenge is all about stepping out of comfort zones and learning to play with poetry. Good luck with these fun and funky forms! (For more on what the OLJ Poetry Form Challenge is all about, check out this post.)

challenge 8: word gardens

Today’s challenge is to create, and write a poem “grown” from, word gardens.

A word garden is just as much about the seeds as the flowers. It’s a form based on the idea of gardening, but rather than harvesting the flowers that bloom from the seeds our first focus is on harvesting the seeds that we will then harvest into flowers. A word garden is created simply by gathering words—our “seeds”—based primarily on personal preferences. For example, while flipping through any given book, you’ll come across a few words on the page that you just love, whether it’s the “return” of a return policy or the “dessert,” “chocolate,” and “lava” of the sentence “In the land of dessert, chocolate lava crunch cakes are king” (found on the side of a Domino’s pizza box). As you find these words, jot them down, and store them in a container. These will be become the seeds for a poem. Somewhere down the line you’ll select a handful of seeds to sow, and watch your poetic garden grow! (For the full guidelines on creating a word garden and writing a word garden poem, check out this post.)

Playing with word gardens in writing a poem is a fun but tricky venture, simply because you’re never quite sure what your garden will cultivate. One day you may reap a harvest of food words: sugar spices marinate dice. The next you may find yourself immersed in the language of business: portfolio leave ability tenure. When you pluck words for a poem, what happens when you discover you’ve pulled twenty food words and five business terms? You might wind up with a reference to “sweetly marinated tenure.”

jump in

Spend some time today creating a jarred word garden. Grab a jar, bowl, hat, or envelope and begin filling it with words. Write each word on a separate slip of paper. Keep slips with you throughout the day and add new words to your receptacle as often as possible. A few hours, or even days, after you fill your container (aim to gather at least 100 words: that way you have plenty to play with), blindly pick 10-25 words (or, if you tend to cheat, have a friend pick them for you). Use those words to write a poem.

Back in June of 2012 I shared one of my favorite word garden poems, titled "Past is Present." Check it out for an example of how word seeds can come together in both unexpected and unexpected ways.

Don’t forget to share your attempt (in the comments below or via email) for a chance to be this week’s featured poet. And as always, have fun!


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  1. Oh, this is going to be fun!! I'm glad I'm a compulsive book starter...I have a tendency of trying to read to many books at one time. There're so many good ones out there.

    Thank you Khara!!

  2. I love these exercises. What gems they create!

  3. I enjoyed this challenge, Khara.

  4. I think I was able to get eleven of the twelve I drew. I just couldn’t find a way to use bugaboo and I do love that word so!

    Witchery bugaboo absurd whisper azure cascade
    lantern bobolink harangued knack quibble blithe


    This azure sky was such a hue that only
    witchery could shape that whisper of blue.
    Such an absurdly blithe sliver of pale that
    cobalt and indigo and teal harangued
    from cloudy dais all day in steamy cascades
    of jealous rage till Sapphire sweetly interjected,
    “Please, oh, please, don’t quibble.”
    She had a knack for bringing peace
    and in the periwinkle stillness that ensued
    a bobolink sang a happy tune
    by the light of a phantom lantern moon.

  5. Late to the party. LOVED this. Thank you!


Thank you so much for your comments! Please feel free to share your thoughts here; I look forward to engaging in conversation with you!

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