16 Writing Experiments
(with apologies to Bernadette Mayer) by Jonathan Mahew
- Make a list of writing experiments.
- Write a poem in which you include some reference, explicit or implicit, to everyone you know who has committed suicide.
- "Ghost-write" poems for politicians or celebrities.
- Take a book of poetry by someone else and compose poetic responses to every single poem. Try this with a poet you hate and then with a poet you love. Try writing your poems directly in the book, if you can stand to deface it.
- Compose a "Japanese Poetic Diary"
- Write an autobiography, but including only events having to do with particular "subjects" (cooking, jazz, landlords, shoes).
- Stage elaborate contests (sestina contests, memorizing contests, rhyming contests).
- Create a "neo-classical" style that is as regular and normative as Racine. The vocabulary should be fairly limited, the syntax limpid, the versification utterly smooth. Use this style as your normal mode of communication as much as you can get away with.
- Try to get non-poets to collaborate with you on grandiose poetic projects. Test your persuasive powers.
- Convince famous painters to illustrate your work or paint your portrait, or composers to set your poems to music.
- See if Wittgenstein was right: try to invent a "private language" for your sensations.
- Invent a private slang (a la Lester Young); attempt to get as many people as you can to use the words you coin. Don't use these words in your writing; rather, conceive of the invention of this language as an independent poetic activity.
- Practice speaking in blank verse as "naturally" as possible.
- Create your own avant-garde movement; make sure you officially dissolve the movement after 6 months or a year.
- Invent an imaginary city, complete with geography, history, architecture, prominent citizens, etc... Keep a sort of "bible" of all the information you compile. Then write poems set in this city.
- Write nothing but sestinas and pantoums for a month. Then "cannibalize" them, using the best lines to write other poems.