Weekly write 8
Take any poem you like and read it through once again.
The poem on the left is Wendell Berry's 'How to be a poet' www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/41087/how-to-be-a-poet
Now read it again, listening and looking for phrases which you interest you. They may include a string of words with a particular lilt, an image which stirs or surprises you, a phrase you don't quite understand ...
Copy these phrases on to separate cards or labels.
Now consider each card separately and write a responding phrase on the back of it. This responding phrase - of about the same length - could be a question, a connection, a parody, an antithesis - a rebuke, a subversion, an association, a re-wording, an exaggeration, a continuation. It could be entirely personal. It could be specific. It could be in a contrasting register - or even a different language.
This process makes implicit 'conversations' explicit.
Side one: make a place to sit down
Side two: within and without
side one: stay away from screens
side two: why? how? all screens? big screens? little screens? are there good screens? will it isolate or hibernate?
Now choose one card and, taking both phrases (those from both sides of the card - the beginnings of a 'conversation'), either or none, write freely for 5 or 10 minutes. See where it takes you.
Afterwards, read the original poem again and consider how the ideas have 'percolated' through your consciousness. You may see more than you did before.
Of course, if you are doing this exercise in a group then the multiplicity of meanings -and surprises - will be wider. With NWP Whodunit on 17 June 2017, I chose Wendell Berry's 'How to be a poet'. On one card I had picked out the phrase 'doubt their judgement' - on the back someone had written 'out their judgement'. The idea of 'outing' someone's judgement struck a chord with one writer and it led to an empassioned piece of writing.
A further example of using this exercise (T Gooda, NWP Sussex 11 May 2019):
We had a lovely morning writing at Sussex University, using a words list and words in the air to 'break the ice' that generated such gems as 'Battenberg' and 'flaccid' that reappeared in the later writing.
For the main writing stimulus we used Weekly Write 8 from the NWP website: Poetry Labels. Using 'Wendell Berry's 'How to be a poet' we selected strings of words and phrases which interested, stirred or surprised us and copied them onto labels.
Then we considered each card separately and wrote a responding phrase or idea on the reverse: a question, connection, rebuke, parallelism, etc.
Next we shared and then selected a label or two, taking both sides into consideration to work into a longer piece. The ideas certainly took us to some diverse places: dark abysses and cliff edges, dementia and euthanasia, drug-addled carers and perceptive five-year olds, and the perils and positives of no wine on Wednesdays.