Thursday, May 28, 2009

I Collect Words

winter garden

I'm not going to reveal that to you, she said.

My nine-year-old could just have easily replied, I'm not going to *tell* you. But somehow she's become a collector of words, and she isn't shy about using them.

In a marvelous little book called Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words, Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge encourages us to create 'wordpools', collections of words we find here and there, to help 'free us to follow the words and write poems.' This is apt advice not only for the would-be poet but for the writer in general.

Words, after all, are like faces... they look you in the eye or avoid your gaze, smile or frown, raise eyebrows in surprise or blink back tears. They are distinct, arresting, memorable, except when we use the same ones over and over. Not that we can't tell a good story using common words (and sometimes too many unique words are distracting). But consider the difference between...

sit, perch, settle, sprawl


see, observe, spy, peek, glimpse, view, squint


red, crimson, vermilion, scarlet, cranberry

This week I invite you to begin a word pool. On your fridge, in a box with note cards, in a journal or even on the sidebar of your blog. Collect words from conversations, the dictionary, street signs; collect words for their sounds, even if they are words you coin (swizzle, swazzle, swittle). If you're feeling adventurous, you might stir those words into a poem or vignette that begins, middles or ends with the phrase 'I am' (choose a sound, a song, an animal, a number, a food, a tree, a piece of furniture, whatever, says Wooldridge) and see what your words reveal.


I am fizzle
fazzle pizazz,
snap crackle...
slide your hand
past my red belt
take me by the
ribbed neck
set teeth on edge
flick fluted tin
and, pop!

Photo by Gail Nadeau. Used with permission.

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Blogger Missy K said...

I love this "word pool" idea. Having a deep and broad vocabulary, all that nuance and variance of expression is one of the best by-products of being a reader to me.

And now it is fun to hear my boys experiment with the feel of words, the subtler uses of them, especially the words they have only met on the page.

7:54 AM  
Blogger beth said...

I, too, love this idea, LL. I find lately that I'm searching, searching for a better word to convey a slightly different shade of meaning than the one I've hit upon and sometimes feel the frustration of not being exact in my expression.

9:16 AM  
Blogger Marcus Goodyear said...

Super cool poem. I have the unfortunate habit of biting my fingernails, which means I sometimes (don't tell the dentist) use my teeth to pry up the tab on a coke can.

Wonderful density of sounds in this poem.

But best of all it is fun. There is a severe shortage of fun poetry in the world.

10:14 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

Absolutely, I will accept the challenge of the word pool. This exercise is exciting because I so want to make my written words more fun.
The poem is fun! And it worked, I would love to have a coke. :)

10:19 AM  
Blogger Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...

This poem fizzes and sparkles...
carbonated words bubbling up good things... I like it!

Word pool... happening today on my fridge (ooooh.... can I do that? I like clean, uncluttered fridges... but I think I like words better!)

What better way to begin the summer than with a dip into a word pool?

Love to you, word-waterer....
All's grace...

11:12 AM  
Blogger RissaRoo said...

I love this idea! Word Pool. Pour in words, watch them splash and sparkle in the sun, stir them around to get the temperature just right...and dive in!

11:43 AM  
Anonymous Monica said...

My 4-yr-old Byron: "Mommy, I need to go to the bathroom, but I'll do it independently." (not "by myself")
Titus, at age 3: "spectaculous"
I'll be on the lookout for more! How fun to turn it into a poem!

11:44 AM  
Blogger Cheri Bunch said...

I love to hear big things come out of young'uns.
Thank you for sharing this delightful post! Excuse me for now, I have some words that I need to capture before they get away!
; )

11:47 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

You just keep giving me reading material after reading material! I will have to get this one next...and not done with Hazo or the I have brought out my old Maya Angelou to share with the boys, and a silly poet/story-teller/artist named Brian Andreas that I discovered in Baltimore many years ago (they love him). And, oh yes, I ordered Given by Wendell Berry when I ordered The Gift.

So many books, so little time.

And now I discover a label for this word-collecting thing I have always loved to do. My first entry? A phrase: "notoriously nonremunerative" from the introduction to The Gift.

4:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think i will start with a wordpuddle and work my way up.

5:40 PM  
Blogger SimplyDarlene said...

While my five-year old son stretches the legs of his vocabulary, he humorously waters his own pool...

"Let's read the destructions, mom. I don't think you are doing it right."

"Oh, please put some of those yummy arctic-chokes on my pizza."

I, too, have kept lists of distinct words and phrases over the years. You never know when you may need to use "I would take kindly to some vittles" or "seems like a piddlin' waste of time." ;-)


6:05 PM  
Blogger sarah said...

I have collected words in the shy back pages of my journals for years now. It is not so much a resource as a way to become more aware of the words around me, their beauty, their unique lures, as I am always looking for something new for my collection.

Your poem was fabulous.

10:23 PM  
Blogger Dianna Woolley said...

Word Pool -

adventuresome reflecting
upon alphabet couplets

a splash of exhilaration
is promising more
than just a digit dipped effort

I love your idea!

11:40 PM  
Blogger Jennifer @ said...

Love your fizzy poem ... and the cool word pool idea.

At last night's supper table, my 7-year-old daughter came up with a game of each family member sharing his/her favorite word.

Hers was this: "EEEE-viiiil" (said with squinty eyes and sneer).

Perhaps with the word pool, I can redirect Lydia to words with less darkness attached. ;-)

10:57 AM  
Blogger sojourner said...

i love poem crazy! i almost recommended it to you a while back :0) - i've posted my RAP which is an old poem i wrote perhaps back when i first read poem crazy

1:38 PM  
Blogger Jennifer @ said...

Off-topic: My (your) "Stone Crossings" was hand-delivered just now, at the front door of this Iowa farm.

Back cover says it's a book "meant to be read slowly."

Must I?

I'm eager to dive in ... but instead will *try* to sink in sloooowly.

2:07 PM  
Blogger Stacy said...

I love this idea. Words can be so much fun. I did post a poem this week. Hope you have a wonderful weekend filled with much joy.

6:56 PM  
Blogger don't eat alone said...

Poemcrazy has been a favorite book of mine for many years. You did her word pool idea very proud.


8:59 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes. Certainly how it sounds is important. Nice poem.

As for word pools, I get words by reading, but I wish I could read more. I'm used to making everything simple, because I think from a pastoral mindset.

I'm sure though that I can learn some helpful things from you here!

11:18 PM  
Blogger David K Wheeler said...

As I read your post, and as I write this now, there is a mound of paper scraps in front of me. They rest here after I hurriedly jot down the right word or phrase in the midst of a conversation or stroke of insight. "Word pool"--also, "word mountain."

Thanks for reminding me of the useful tool this is, not just something better left to the recycling.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Leaon Mary said...

Laura I LOVED reading about word pools and just checked out that book at Amazon.
I'm going to start my own word pool on my blog.

8:16 PM  

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