Yesterday’s exercise was hard for me. Did you try it? I felt really excited when I saw all the words reversed, but then I had trouble making them into anything anyone could read. Maybe I had trouble letting go of the original poem.
Today, let’s use repetition to get us into the poem and add power.
True confession: I spent years avoiding repetition–not wanting the same noun or verb to appear even twice in the same poem. I still strive to avoid inadvertent repetition. But today’s exercise is not about that.
Repetition is comforting to the reader or listener (“Ah, I know this! I’ve heard it before!), and I find it’s also comforting when writing, because it provides an automatic scaffolding on that blank page.
First, let’s try anaphora: try repeating a short phrase, especially at the beginning of lines. Yes, it can be a list poem, or very much like one–or not! One example of a poem using anaphora is “A List of Praises,” by Anne Porter. Or “October (Section 1),” by Louise Glück, where the repeated word is “didn’t.” And then there’s “Jubliate Agno,” by Christopher Smart and “Jubilate Agno,” by David Lee.
Some words to get you started:
If (or If not)
Or choose a word that already appears once or twice in your poem. Celebrate it! Use it again! How far can you stretch it?
Then, can you add a refrain, a line that appears two times, or more? My favorite example of a poem that uses a refrain is “Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100,” by Martin Espada.