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Writing 201: Landscape

Day 9. That can only mean one thing: let’s make a list. With a pair of scissors and a map.

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Your prompt: landscape

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The space(s) we spend our days in have such profound effects on us. Today’s word prompt, landscape, invites you to explore your whereabouts and translate your thoughts into a poem. You could focus on the physical traits of a place you find particularly beautiful, or on the way you interact with your surroundings at home, on the way to work, or when you’re on holiday.

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Today’s form: found poetry

Found poetry at a glance:

  • A found poem is composed of words and letters you’ve collected — randomly or not — from other sources, whether printed, handwritten, or digital, and then (re)arranged into something meaningful.

Remember that staple of kindergarden arts, the collage? Found poetry, today’s optional form, is the language-based variety. Like a blackmail letter in a sordid crime novel, a found poem is made up of words and letters others have created. It’s up to you, the poet, to find them (hence the name), extract them, and rejig them into something else: your poem.

The classic way of going about the creation of a found poem is scissors and newspaper in hand: you cut out words and phrases and arrange them into your poem. You can then either snap a photo and upload it to your blog, or simply transcribe the resulting text into a new post.

bed time, One of the many found poems at the odd inkwell.

You could even recycle your tweets (one online tool will actually do it for you) and other social media messages and turn them into a poetic meditation on… anything, really.

That said, you can control the degree of randomness you impose on your available stock of words, as well as on the procedure you follow to create the poem.

You can photocopy a page from a book (even a book of poetry!) and select every fifth word on the first ten pages. Or repurpose one of your unpublished drafts into something new. You can even use your books to create some book spine poetry. The world is full of words: use them!

Today’s device: enumeratio

There’s a lot you can do with enumeratio — today’s suggested literary device — in your poems (want to feel especially tweedy? Pronounce it ey-nu-may-RAH-tee-yo). As its name might suggest, it basically means constructing a list, a successive enumeration (duh!) of multiple elements in the same series.

The snappy rhythm of poetic lists lets them convey a broad range of emotions. There’s defiance and indignation in this bit from Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings:

Let the whitefolks have their money and power and segregation and sarcasm and big houses and schools and lawns like carpets, and books […]

Enumeratio often entails the repetition of conjunctions like “and” and “or” — you can use them in clever ways, for example, to create internal rhymes or assonance.

W.H. Auden used enumeratio to great effect in his elegiac Funeral Blues:

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

And, sure: you can also just list all the things you love, from raindrops on roses and brown paper packages to bright copper kettles and schnitzel with noodles (personally, I’d just skip straight to the schnitzel. But that would make for a lousy enumeratio).

So, whether your poem is list-based in part or in whole, try adding some sequential punch to it with enumeratio.

Photo by NH53 (CC BY 2.0)

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