Friday, April 5, 2013

30d30w: the fifth word


secret whistles
fiery code

For those who are just tuning in, welcome to the 30days30words cumulative, collaborative poem!  To keep things simple for busy people this National Poetry Month, I posted a single word on Monday and each day have invited all comers to suggest the next word in the poem.  We'll continue like this throughout April, one word at a time, until I've selected 30 words in total and we have a finished poem of some surprising form and function.  I hope many of you will stop back in often to toss your lexical petals into the April gale!

Thursday's suggestions redirected the flow of the poem again--already.  Where I had begun to envision a birthday secret whistling fierily along somewhere, or a birthday full of secret whistles and fiery somethings, yesterday's choices sifted out along rhythmic lines and I found myself favoring the three one-syllable words--"song," "breath" and "code." (Thank you, Tabatha, Linda and Kate.) 

The first two pick up on the musical meaning of whistles and both have their place in a birthday scenario, but code does something different--it connects back to secret in an intriguing way, so that the business of making your wish as you blow out the candles might take on an incantatory quality--as though you have to encode your breath to get your message to the cosmos.  A further upshot of this choice is that birthday is now serving as a title and whistles has now morphed from a verb to a noun!

After only five days, I'm finding this a powerful and fascinating exercise that's taking me down to a depth I hadn't expected (so much for a mini game).  With the Progressive Poem (hosted by Irene and at Doraine Bennet today), each poet contributes a whole line, and while there is much mystery and surprise, the "premise" of the poem develops rather faster.  In this word-by-word version, these early days may be the most fascinating, as I try out players' suggestions, inventing and reinventing the premise without knowing where the total poem is going, what the "point" of the poem will be. 

As I consider each word and its direction, I'm asking, "Whose is the voice?  What age is it?  Are there other characters? What is the setting?  Does the poem speak of This Moment Right Now or does it refer to some past or future experience?"  Each new word selection transforms the answers to these questions, subtly or radically.  For example, in not choosing "-suiting" for Word Two or "seductively" for Word Four (both interesting suggestions), I deliberately aimed the poem at younger readers, avoiding goofy nudity or any hint of that kind of seductive.  (Have you listened to this song about whistling?)

This is an exercise that I rarely do in my own composition, I realize with some shock.  As I'm writing, I think in syntactic chunks that move me toward some overall notion of what I'm trying "to state or express or convey."  I do use a thesaurus sometimes to remind myself of shades of meaning, but hardly ever do I give each individual word the attention that I'm giving them this week. (And do PLEASE go visit No Water River to enjoy a cabaret of poets reciting their contributions to the Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School on video, including me and my buddy The Saurus!) 

My attention is also heightened as I try to respect the intent of each contributor's choice--what was Petrina thinking when she offered "iguana"?  What abundant secrets was Laura imagining when she conributed "abound"?  How will the poem be different if I choose fiery breath over fiery code?

For me the word geek at least, 30days30words is turning out to be Beyond Fun.  Thanks to all who have participated, and YOU are welcome too!

Check in on all the poetry parties that are happening this month by visiting the round-up with Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge!


  1. creates

    (Love the discourse, Heidi-such fun to hear your thinking!)

  2. Maybe it's time to insert speaker??


    love your thoughts, Heidi!

  3. By the way, I love the video at No Water River with you and your buddy "The Saurus"--what a great friend to have!

  4. Fun and intriguing plan you have here! A little internal rhyme might be's my suggestion:


  5. Thanks for sharing your thought processes, Heidi! And I loved your NWR video.
    hmmm... a word to toss today:


    Happy Poetry Friday/Month!

  6. Loved your video! It's as fun for US to watch this unfold and hear your thinking.

  7. I am enjoying this so much! Thanks for sharing your creative process - both in gathering the words and talking through your choices and development. Great stuff!

  8. This is such a fun process. I'm enjoying your thoughts, too.



Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!