Random Associations

Ugh. Insomnia. And it’s the fuzzy-headed kind. Trying to head off a cold, I took a tablet before bed that has zinc and valerian in it. I slept soundly for about five hours, and then that was it. Sometimes I can starting listing the countries of the world, and I’ll fall back to sleep before I can fill a continent, but tonight I got through all of them, and here I am, still awake. By the time I got through South America and was working my way through Africa, I knew I was done for. And now, it’s only half an hour until my alarm goes off, so I might as well start the process of waking up.

Today in Creative Writing, we’ll look at the pictures and poems that people put together with their random words. I showed several of my own on Friday as examples, so I don’t know if I’ll put up pictures like this one. I just pulled fifteen random cards from my word tickets and arranged them together. I’m not sure I like the line “dance wanderer combust.” The flow feels wrong, like I’m packing too many syllables into it. I like the word wanderer on its own, but in some contexts, that “-erer” can sound like a car with an engine that won’t turn over.

I hope my students are feeling the sense of freedom from prescribed meaning that I am feeling from working with word pools. We’ll get into intentional meanings soon enough, but it’s a nice breath to begin the semester with nonsense and random associations. It’s been an odd experience for me, a little risky. I feel sort of vulnerable, like I am letting my students in to my own personal crazy. I keep worrying that they’ll start rolling their eyes, that they won’t get it. And this is so deeply connected to the way my brain works that I feel like I might feel a greater sense of personal rejection if they can’t get into it. Enough of them have sent me fantastic random word projects, however, that I am feeling less anxious about it.

Gratitude List:
1. The shadows that swoop through the woods behind the house when vultures are flying in front of the sun.
2. Random meanings plucked from odd associations
3. Even though sleep was short, I did get some good solid hours of deep sleep
4. The ones who work for justice
5. Warm blankets

May we walk in Beauty!


On the way to and from school, on the days when we’re all in the carpool, we listen to audio books. Lately, we’ve been listening to Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle. Her writing is clever and witty without being chummy or manipulative, her stories are compelling, and she can introduce characters who make you wince and cringe, and then make you love them with a deep and unswerving loyalty. It’s narrated by Will Patton, who can create a character with the smallest shift of tone in his voice.

Yesterday, just as we got to school, we came to a little phrase, “the muzzy mist.” I don’t think I have ever heard the word muzzy, but it grabbed me. It means indistinct, befuddled, unclear. In Creative Writing, we are creating Word Pools, collecting words that interest us, and then doing interesting things with them, like taking pictures of things that we label with them, or making poems and short stories with them. So “muzzy” went right into my word pool.

Here’s a little poem I wrote with using “muzzy” and several other words in my word pool. The idea is to push ourselves to use words in different ways than we normally do. I found myself breaking up the sense of sentences with greater ease than normal.


Today I am
a muzzy fuzzle,
brain a-muddle,
all verhoodled.

Yesterday I
was eagle-eyed,
a green rogue,
and wild divine.

Sharp I was, sharp as dash
but now I am dangerous blood,
with an elephant on my chest.

Last week, we introduced ourselves to the class with Acrostic Poems about our names. Some students simply chose a different adjective for every letter of their name, and these were beautiful and tender. Others wrote poems with longer lines and phrases beginning with the letters of their names, and these were elegant and flowing. Some even allowed themselves to practice a little enjambment, breaking up the flow of a phrase across a line. In one of my classes, the first four of us to read ours used the word Anxious for our A. I wonder what the implications of that are. Here’s mine. I used my whole name:

Every time I
Look in the mirror
I see someone different:
How can I be all these things
And one person at the same time?
Names and rhythms,
New and intricate rhymes
Work within me.
Each one of us is
An ocean, a
Ecology of Adjectives,
Revealing layers of human attributes.
Kindness and
Revolution can
Exist in tandem.
Individual truths are
Defined by complex webs
Experiences within me.
Reality is many-faceted.

Gratitude List:
1. Weekend!
2. Clear moments that remind me that I am where I should be. Teaching can be rough, especially in the fall and winter, especially when the grading piles up, especially when I am feeling inadequate. Sometimes I wonder if I am where I should be. And then there are weeks where it all aligns, where I can see how even the really challenging bits have led up to a particular moment. How I am changed and transformed by this work. How I actually have some internal characteristics and skills that make this a good fit. (So synchronous: my sister just sent me a text at this moment that added one more little golden thread to this sense of rightness.)
3. A little bit of snow
4. Getting it done
5. Words. Word pools. Word hoards. Word spews.

May we walk in Beauty!

List Poem(s)

I managed to get a list poem written this afternoon while I was sitting by the pond watching the boys play.  Let’s call this one

June Afternoon
A List

Sun dapple on pond, sunlight and shadow on lily pads.
Ivory lotus lilies frozen in time and sunlight
in the corner where the cool spring feeds the pond.
Undulating shadow-shine of water
reflected on the low arms of cherry and of maple.
A dozen damselflies loop and dart and hover,
sun flickering through their shining wings.
A dragonfly bends an iris-leaf lance and settles into a sunbeam.
Muddy merchildren splash and babble in the shallows.
Yeep of startled frog, booming glumph of granddaddy croaker.
Percolating pop of pollywogs sipping through lily pads.
Wispy white clouds in the small circle of sky seen through green.
The constant swish and whisper of Cabin Creek,
the chatter of the little falls,
the shush and hustle at the narrows.
Sweet scent of crushed pond fern and honeysuckle.

And here’s a free-association word-list I found in my journal from 4-10-12.  I think I ought to do a word pool every week or so.  It’s such fun to come back to.  Why did I put those words together, but for the sounds, or the feeling in the mouth, in the brain?

Word Pool
A List

frazzled creeper
window column
prodigal peeping peachfuzz
windows uptight
limpid pirate
pyromaniac reverberation
amethyst exclamation
liminal window minimal
review teleportation manual
vermilion intellectual
vapid estimation
vapourous mossy mist
insipid limpid
crestfallen intellectual
vibrant (stuck on vee)