Poetry Tow Truck #6: Lean on Me

Not me, literally. Your bookshelf.

Well, not literally your bookshelf, either.

Today’s exercise leans on some of our most prized possessions to help us draft. Take a look at your bookshelf (or the stack next to your bed…or next to your couch…you get the idea). Write down six to ten titles.

Make your choices carefully – titles that are evocative but not too specific work best. For instance, right now, I am looking at Susan Messer’s Grand River and Joy – that would be a good choice. I am also looking at New and Selected Poems by Stephen Dunn. Wonderful book, but not a good title choice for our exercise.

Here’s a sample list from my shelf:

Grand River and Joy – Susan Messer

Rant – Chuck Palahniuk

Migration – W.S. Merwin

The Boys’ House – Jim Heynen

Living After Midnight – Lee K. Abbott

A Season Inside – John Fienstein

Our Choice – Al Gore

Try to incorporate the titles into a poem draft. If you need to change the form or tense of a word, feel free. As with the iPod exercise we did in January, you can challenge yourself to keep the phrases intact, or you can use the words individually, making the titles more of a word bank.

Here is my attempt from the list above. Title words are in blue:

The boys came ‘round after midnight,

ranting about hating the city, how living

here meant nothing anymore. We swooned

at their rebel joy, planned our migration

to somewhere truer. We’d camp beside

a grand river and finally build a house

after living for a season in the open air.

But the joy would disappear in the bickering,

the difficulty of the labor. We would get cold.

Our hearts would harden. Once inside, we

would realize the folly of our choice, how

nothing really changes. And we would find

our way, maybe not home, but somewhere.


14 thoughts on “Poetry Tow Truck #6: Lean on Me

  1. Love the prompt, and love seeing what’s on your bookshelf. Love the poem, too, with its mix of sweetness and reality.

    I have done this and assigned this exercise in my poetry workshop, and got a poem out of it that was published in The Poetry Porch!! We all looked at book spines wandering through the bookstore where I work, and I got a series of titles from mass market mysteries. Wooee!

    • Kathleen and Kristin- what a wonderful idea to do this at a bookstore or book fair! I am always looking for things to do at home on my couch, but this would be a whole different thing, to collect titles from libraries, fair, bookstores. Great twist!

    • Try it – it’s really fun. And I have written some interesting pieces from this exercise – although I’m not crazy about the sample in the post! Trying to do the exercise as I write the post seems like the fairest way to present it, though.

    • Pamela – I feel that way about many exercises – they are draft-inducing, which is always the point. Keep writing and writing and something will come – revision is a necessary part of the process, and you can’t revise if you don’t draft!

  2. Pingback: Ten Titles, joined together « The Gray Cat's Detour

  3. Since I had the chance to pick the titles (unlike the iPod’s choice of song titles) it seemed only right to try to keep them intact.
    That’s my way of saying: ignore the fact that it doesn’t make much sense; it’s got some okay bits.

  4. Pingback: lean on me | lost in translation

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