One way I've learned to flex the creative muscles is to create found poetry. You find a text or texts, extract words and rework them into a new piece. Found Poetry Review has a great explanation. In short, they describe it as a "collage."
One form of found poetry is called an erasure. Start with your chosen text and strike out all but the words you want. I found it helpful to first highlight the words that spoke to me before crossing out. I chose The Certain Hour by James Branch Cabell, a public domain text found on Project Gutenberg:
Clear and warm the weather was. Without, forests were quickening, branch by branch, as though a green flame smoldered from one bough to another. Violets peeped about the roots of trees, and all the world was young again. But here was only stone beneath their feet; and about them showed the high walls and the lead-sheathed towers and the parapets and the sunk windows of Guillaume's chateau. ... It seemed to him that they were the wraiths of those persons who had loved each other at Montferrat; and that the walls about them and the leaden devils who grinned from every waterspout and all those dark and narrow windows were only part of some magic picture, such as a sorceress may momentarily summon out of smoke-wreaths, as he had seen Zoraida do very long ago.
This woman might have been a wraith in verity, for she was clothed throughout in white, save for the ponderous gold girdle about her middle. A white gorget framed the face which was so pinched and shrewd and strange; and she peered into the well, smiling craftily.
"I was thinking death was like this well," said Biatritz, without any cessation of her singular employment—"so dark that we may see nothing clearly save one faint gleam which shows us, or which seems to show us, where rest is. ... Pearls are the symbol of tears, we read. ..."Ay, the man is as cruel as my old opponent, Mourzoufle," Sire Raimbaut answered, with a patient shrug. "It is a great mystery why such persons should win all which they desire of this world.”
With the one exception of moving "desire," I left the words in order:
Clear and warm
Forests green flame
Stone beneath high walls
The wraiths who had loved each other
The leaden devils who grinned
Some magic picture of smoke-wreaths
This woman might have been a wraith
Clothed in white, face
Pinched and shrewd and strange
I was thinking death was
so dark we may see nothing
save one faint gleam
Pearls are tears.
Man is cruel desire.
It is a great mystery.
My own attempt may not be the best example, but there are truly beautiful pieces of found poetry out there. Still, I had a lot of fun writing it, and it gave me a chance to stretch a bit poetically. So grab some text and a red pen and start crossing out! Who knows what will happen?
In my next post two weeks from now, we'll talk about found poetry and fair use, as well as sources of public domain texts.
Have you tried writing found poetry? Give it a go! Create your own erasure and post it below.