I’ve been struggling and haven’t had the ability to get the words in my head out. So, while sipping coffee this morning, I picked up the random Edna St. Vincent Millay collected works poetry book sitting on the shelf of the cafe. And the urge to write hit me…not my words, but hers. It’s a technique I learned in my high school English class, an exercise where you use ONLY words that already exist, or, in this case, first lines or titles of poems that already exist. You can’t change the lines or titles but you, the author, gets to put them into an order you want, to make a new poem. It’s similar to the Hindu idea of shruti, which is the belief that sacred text is simply just writing down the words (usually a rough translation) of the words that already exist in the Universe somewhere.
So, with an inability to write my own words, here are the re- The Collected Works of Edna St. Vincent Millay
-found poem from The Collected Works of Edna St. Vincent Millay
Some Things Are Dark,
look how the bittersweet
Intense and terrible I think, must be the loneliness.
This should be simple; if one’s power were great.
This is mine, and I can hold it.
How innocent we lie.
Ashes of Life.
So, if you’re at a loss for works, or want to write poetry but are unsure of where to begin, try this exercise:
1) find a book of poetry (anthology or collected works) either in person or online
2) write down the titles or first lines (usually those are listed in the back) that speak to you. DON’T think about what you want the poem to say, just pick titles that you like or sound cool to you. Make sure to copy the lines exactly as you see them.
3) Once you have a list of titles (or first lines), start organizing them into an order that speaks to you. You are allowed to add commas/punctuation or words like a/an/the to string the lines together to make them work with each other.
4) Re-arrange any of the lines as necessary.
5) Marvel at your work! Make sure when you title it, to give credit that you ‘found’ this poem within a larger body of work!