Random word poetry


Today my creative writing students and I talked about juxtaposition–the art or act of placing two (usually abstract) things beside or near each other.

When we create, we form something new. Sometimes the thing that is “new” is a thought that arrives after seeing something in a new light. Placing two things together that don’t ordinarly sit side by side makes us re-focus. We create new meaning. We create.

Years ago I bought a magnetic poetry board and placed it  on my desk. Whenever students came up to talk to me, they couldn’t help but sort through the words in the dish and place their chosen words side by side on the magnetic board to create a poem.

I have seen minature magnetic poetry boards, but I have never seen them affordable enough to buy for individual members of a class. I decided to make my own. I bought a couple of packs of unlined index cards and asked students from another class to write down both mundane and creative words on the cards. I mixed the cards in a bag and then threw them out in an open space so that the students would have easy access.

When I said go, the students grabbed 20 random cards. Then they took their cards to a lonely spot against the wall in the hallway, and they wrote a poem in their hookbooks (to be later put up on their blogs). Students were allowed to use as many of the 20 words as they wanted, but they had to have at least four lines of poetry, and they couldn’t just list the words randomly down the page.

Do these poems have to make sense?

Every time I do this exercise, students always ask me this question. The answer? Of course!

But what makes sense to the writer may not immediately make sense to the reader. We place the words side by side for a reason. Our juxtaposition is important to the meaning. The readers may have to study the poem for it to make sense to them–if it ever does.

Life is like that. We are given random situations, and it’s up to us to make sense of them.  We can’t choose the details, but it’s up to us to put the details of our life side by side to create some kind of meaning. It may not make sense to others, but it should make sense to us.

I took the words that were left. Here is my attempt at random word poetry.


New York guitar.

The pain marker.



Door knob

Shout through



Write beautiful music.



The trademark “game” Magnetic Poetry is still around. Check this link to purchase your own copy: http://magneticpoetry.com/ . According to the website designers, most of these games are for adults. However, there is a special edition for writers under the age of 18. Adult writers can also “play” the game online. Please share your poetry in the comments section.

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