A year and a half ago, I wrote this about Laura Walker’s book Follow-Haswed: “The poems themselves feel like volunteers, offering lyrical ‘ports in the storm’ available in our most seemingly prosaic reference works, if only we had a consciousness to liberate them onto a new page.” You can read my full review here: http://www.quarterlywest.utah.edu/iss_80/iss_80_talestory.html
Today, for your assignment, you will be “liberating” one such poem. You have two options–one if you have access to the Online Oxford English Dictionary, and one if you don’t.
1–You have access to the Online OED: Go to the welcome page. Select “Advanced search.” In each of the two search boxes, type a word you’ve been thinking about. These two words will be the title of your poem-in-progress. When you hit “Search,” you’ll get a word list containing all the words that have both of your search terms in their definitions. You’re shooting for a manageable list, somewhere between 100-200 words, in my experience. Add or subtract search terms until you get a list in the hundreds, or a list that you can keep in your mind at once. Then, write a poem using as many of the words on the list as possible, and as few other words as you can get away with (preferably none).
2–You do not have access to the Online OED: Go find a print dictionary. Choose a spread. You can choose it on purpose or just open the book to whichever page it lands on. The first word on the page, plus the last word on the page, will be the title. Then, do an erasure–pick interesting snippets from the spread to make your poem.
3 thoughts on “Find the Poetry Hidden in Your Dictionary: Laura Walker’s Follow-Haswed”
This sounds very fascinating and also challenging. Did you try it anywhere? Would love to see what it looks like.
Hi, C.C.: Here’s a poem I wrote using “Frankfurt” and “Kitchen”: http://pbq.drexel.edu/barbara-duffey-the-frankfurt-kitchen/
And one using “strand” and “beast”: http://www.tinderboxpoetry.com/strand-beast