(Slightly) Mad Lib for Poetry

Have you ever told someone a story about your life and been able to recall the outfit you were wearing or the smell from what was cooking on the stove at the time?

One of the most important lessons I learned about writing came in a Screenwriting course and can be applied to any type of storytelling or creative expression. The specifics of something are what make it universal.  For example, if somebody describes to you their hometown in detail down to names of side streets, you may be able to picture yourself somewhere you have never been. Most of this magic comes from the fact that you too have come from someplace you can remember so very well. We are all made up of many details; these are the things that make a story, character, or setting seem authentic.

With this in mind, I have selected five poems that have words and phrases which I think can be easily interchanged using your own creativity. For example, “Driving to Town Late to Mail a Letter” by Robert Bly turns into “__________ to Town Late to _____________” by YOU! I have made worksheets that include the original published poem followed by another copy with fillable blanks to pen in your own words. I would suggest using an adjective to replace another adjective in the line and so forth. But try and play around within those restrictions: a proper noun for a noun, a past tense verb for a present tense one, or just a word that doesn’t really make much sense. The possibilities are endless in each and every line, and that is one of the most exciting things to learn about poetry!

Lost by David Wagoner

Driving to Town Late to Mail a Letter by Robert Bly

Otherwise by Jane Kenyon

Poem for the Family by Susan Cataldo

When Death Comes by Mary Oliver


2 comments on “(Slightly) Mad Lib for Poetry

  1. I enjoyed all five of these poems, thank you. I especially liked “Otherwise” and “Poem for the Family” as being evocative of mindfulness, something I value. Your choice of poems tells me something about you, Monica.

  2. Thank you, Dana! Reading “Otherwise” for the first time gave me the idea for this exercise because the repetition in it is just so powerful and simple. I also believe mindfulness is important and that reading/writing poetry is a great way to strengthen it within ourselves.

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