oPen 8


Here’s a poem by Charles Simic. Erase all the words until you have only eleven left. If you want, you can post your eleven word poem in the comment section.

The Initiate

St. John of the Cross wore dark glasses
As he passed me on the street.
St. Theresa of Avila, beautiful and grave,
Turned her back on me.

"Soulmate," they hissed. "It’s high time."

I was a blind child, a wind-up toy . . .
I was one of death’s juggling red balls
On a certain street corner
Where they peddle things out of suitcases.

The city like a huge cinema
With lights dimmed.
The performance already started.

So many blurred faces in a complicated plot.

The great secret which kept eluding me: knowing who I am . . .

The Redeemer and the Virgin,
Their eyes wide open in the empty church
Where the killer came to hide himself . . .

The new snow on the sidewalk bore footprints
That could have been made by bare feet.
Some unknown penitent guiding me.
In truth, I didn’t know where I was going.
My feet were frozen,
My stomach growled.

Four young hoods blocking my way.
Three deadpan, one smiling crazily.

I let them have my black raincoat.

Thinking constantly of the Divine Love
and the Absolute had disfigured me.
People mistook me for someone else.
I heard voices after me calling out unknown names.
"I’m searching for someone to sell my soul to,"
The drunk who followed me whispered,
While appraising me from head to foot.

At the address I had been given.
The building had large X’s over its windows.
I knocked but no one came to open.
By and by a black girl joined me on the steps.
She banged at the door till her fist hurt.

Her name was Alma, a propitious sign.
She knew someone who solved life’s riddles
In a voice of an ancient Sumerian queen.
We had a long talk about that
While shivering and stamping our wet feet.

It was necessary to stay calm, I explained,
Even with the earth trembling,
And to continue to watch oneself
As if one were a complete stranger.

Once in Chicago, for instance,
I caught sight of a man in a shaving mirror
Who had my naked shoulders and face,
But whose eyes terrified me!
Two hard staring, all-knowing eyes!

After we parted, the night, the cold, and the endless walking
Brought on a kind of ecstasy.
I went as if pursued, trying to warm myself.

There was the East River; there was the Hudson.
Their waters shone like oil in sanctuary lamps.

Something supreme was occurring
For which there will never be any words.

The sky was full of racing clouds and tall buildings,
Whirling and whirling silently.

In that whole city you could hear a pin drop.
Believe me.
I thought I heard a pin drop and I went looking for it. 

by Charles Simic

oPen 7

Rain_window_artlebedev Here’s an exercise in erasing.  Take this poem by George Oppen.  White out all the words until you have eleven left.  Post your eleven word poem below, if you dare.

World, World—

Failure, worse failure, nothing seen
From prominence,
Too much seen in the ditch.

Those who will not look
Tho they feel on their skins
Are not pierced;

One cannot count them
Tho they are present.

It is entirely wild, wildest
Where there is traffic
And populace.

‘Thought leaps on us’ because we are here. That is the fact of the matter.
Soul-searchings, these prescriptions,

Are a medical faddism, an attempt to escape,
To lose oneself in the self.

The self is no mystery, the mystery is
That there is something for us to stand on.

We want to be here.

The act of being, the act of being
More than oneself.

George Oppen
Copyright © by George Oppen.

Open 6

J0175548  Here is another list of words.  You are open to make of them what you please. 

Silk, handwriting, sound, never, your name, hair, electrical, baby, break, duster, plates.

Open 5

Here are eleven new words for you to play with today.


If they capture your imagination, add your writing in the comments section below.

Open 2


Here are eleven words.  See what you can make with them.


Using alternate forms of these words is a-okay.  Share your poem in the comment section.

Open 1


Ready for a poetry writing exercise?  Here are eleven words.  If you’d like to make something out of them, feel free to share what you’ve written in the comment box below.


It’s okay to use variations of the words in the list.  Eventually I will reveal the source of the words in a separate post.


Lucinda Williams does a great song called Joy. Do you know that one? This song, like most of Lucinda’s, is not gleeful. But she is a blues singer.

One of my friends who teaches poetry workshops told me that he made an assignment once to a group of graduate students. Simply put, he asked everyone to write a happy poem. Not one person turned in the assignment.

Do your poems tend to monopolize one particular emotion? Do you have favorite poems that could be called joyous?