Books Magazine

Splintered Snow

By Ashleylister @ashleylister

“A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination.”
― William Faulkner

Not wanting to emulate a certain poetic cuckoo (meta-emulation?), I will credit David Riley with the idea for this exercise.  He put me on to the Faulkner quote and I believe he was inspired by a workshop he had himself attended.  Good ideas are like the rabbits of the metaphysical world.

This exercise is intended to help you to turn your observations into kick ass poetry.  If you follow the steps with due diligence you are sure to end up with some shiny words.  1) Choose an object.  This can be anything you can see with your eyes at this moment, e.g. the Sun, a yoghurt pot, a train, a painting, your left hand.2) Observe the object as it is right now.  Make note of the following:

  • colour, detail - texture, shape
  • setting, surroundings
  • season, time, light/shadow
  • movement or action
  • sound
3) Consider your experiences of this object. What do you recognise?  What does it remind you of?  What is it similar to?  

4) Imagine.  What might happen to the object? What is it thinking? What might you do to the object?

5) Shape the words.  Let's write renga!  Using the table below, create a poem in the Japanese renga style.

Syllables/sound units

Observation – e.g. colour, shape

Observation – e.g. setting, time

Observation – e.g. light, sound



Here is my attempt:

Pencil Shaving

Torn sycamore fan 
Sleeps in desk's twilight clutter 
White screen, hum of fan
Shrinking tree-snake's rough skin sloughed 
Blown away like splintered snow
Splintered Snow
OK - take it away poets.  Write me some renga!

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