Friday, August 10, 2012

ENG 313: First Day Exercises

Dear fellow creative writing teachers, 

I'm getting pumped to teach my ENG 313 class. So pumped that I pretty much blanked on what I wanted to do on the first day of my Process Writing (Poetry and Flash Fiction)course (this tends to happen in the overwhelming state of the beginning of the semester). In case anyone else has this problem, I wanted to share what I came up with as possibilities for your creative writing classroom. Thanks to for Erin Belieu's wonderful poem, "Last Trip to the Island" as inspiration for my Mad-lib poetry exercise.

Enjoy -

Icebreaker #1 Exquisite Corpse: 


A little history about the Exquisite Corpse writing exercise:
“Among Surrealist techniques exploiting the mystique of accident was a kind of collective collage of words or images called the cadavre exquis (exquisite corpse). Based on an old parlor game, it was played by several people, each of whom would write a phrase on a sheet of paper, fold the paper to conceal part of it, and pass it on to the next player for his contribution.
The technique got its name from results obtained in initial playing, "Le cadavre / exquis / boira / le vin / nouveau" (The exquisite corpse will drink the young wine)” (

Directions: Get into groups of 5 or 6. Someone will volunteer to begin the second line of the "story." The first line has already been provided for you, so please work off that.  You can look at ONLY the line just before your turn – do not try to reveal the poem to yourself. Don’t think too hard. Don’t try to make too much sense. Just write quickly when it’s your turn. Each team will have 10 minutes – you will pass the paper and write until time is up! Then, we'll share.

Icebreaker #2: Mad-lib Poetry
In this class, you will be doing a lot of collaborative writing. Here’s an exercise that will stretch your thinking of the “word” and connect with your peers based on your ideas about language.

Mike, Jenna
Lehua, Tom, Steve
Rachel, Kai
  1. Take out a sheet of paper and fold it into thirds, so that you make three columns. Title the first column “SOURCE,” the second column “VARIATION,” and the third column “MATCH” Number lines 1-15.
  2. When I say a word, write is down in the first column. In the second column, you will write down the first word that comes to mind. We will do this 15 times.
  3. Now, find others in the room that made the same word-connections as you. For example, if I said, “rose” and you wrote down “bush,” it’s your job to find other people who wrote down “bush.” The name of this person(s) will go in under the third column, written on the line that corresponds with the SOURCE and VARIATION.
  4. Who do you have the most matches with? Find those people and get into a group.
  5. WRITE A GROUP POEM: Now that you found your group (you may be alone!), you must write a COLLABORATIVE poem, using the words on your sheets. The words on your sheets will act as your word bank. Choose words together and fill in the blanks to complete the following poem:

(Source text can be found here)

You're mad that I can't love the (noun),

but I've come to this (noun) landlocked
and some bodies feel permanently (adj.).
Like any foreign language, study it too late and
it never sticks. Anyway,

we're here aren't we? —
(gerund) up the sand, the water churning
its constant horny (noun), an openmouthed heavy

breathing made more unnerving by
the presence of all these (noun, pl), the toddlers

with their chapped bottoms, the fathers
in gigantic trunks spreading out their dopey
circus-colored (noun).

How can anyone (verb)
near something so worked up all the time?

I know the ocean is (adj),
but the hypnosis, the dilated pull of it, feels

impossible to (verb). And what better reason to
(same verb as above)? I'm most comfortable in

a (noun), a yellow-eared patch
of (noun), whose quiet rustling argues for
the underrated valor of discretion.

And above this, I admire a certain quality of
sky, like an older (type of person) who wears her jewels with
an air of distance, that is, (adverb),
with the right attitude. Unlike your (noun),

there's nothing sneaky about a field. I like their
(adj.)-girl frankness. I like that, (verb) in the dirt,

I can hear what's coming between the (noun).

By Erin Belieu

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