NaPoWriMo Day 24: Alexander Blustin – Release

Today Alexander Blustin shares a useful technique for writing poems out of nonsense:

This is a prompt from Patrick Widdess’s Poetry Non-Stop book, and it is one I find difficult, but actually the word itself points to a good general method for tackling a difficult prompt. What I’m going to suggest is that you release yourself from making sense. This is a great way to generate original ideas, because when we become hung up on whether something makes logical sense, we become limited by the conscious mind which can be very stuck in its ways.

  • Firstly, time yourself for ten minutes and write about anything, absolutely anything, for that length of time. This is just to get the words flowing.
  • Secondly, choose a standard poetic form. This won’t be your ‘real’ poem; it’s just an exercise to generate material. Depending upon how familiar you are with poetic forms, it could be as simple as a limerick, or something more involved like a triolet or a ballad or perhaps a sonnet.
  • Thirdly, fill up your chosen form with anything that pops into your head, working quickly and not censoring yourself. Write total nonsense. The only rule is that whatever it is has to fit the meter and rhyme-scheme of the form. Whatever you do, don’t try to make sense or to communicate; all you’re doing is extruding random word-filler into a template, as quickly as you can.
  • Fourthly, look back over your random poem and see whether it sparks any ideas for a real poem. If so, great; off you go. If not, write another random poem, perhaps choosing a different form, and repeat this process until something jumps out and grabs you.

This was the method I used when I first met the prompt in Patrick’s book. I have taken to using this book during a couple of 30-day months every year, since it is a really convenient way of cornering myself into generating new material every day, and I can then spend the rest of the year editing this into usable poems.

In the case of ‘release’ I started with a few minutes of random writing, during which a garlic press just so happened to pop up, and then I tried writing out an acrostic on the word release. Next, I very quickly wrote down a completely nonsensical sonnet in which the garlic press also happened to feature. Now, at that point, the line ‘he rinsed the neighbour’s garlic press’ occurred to me. I then realised that the concept of release was relevant to the idea of ‘getting out’ of one’s social background through adopting the cookery of a desired social group. The following villanelle was constructed accordingly.

This poem appears in the March 2022 edition of the light verse webzine Lighten Up Online and I wish to thank the editor Jerome Betts for his very helpful feedback.

Getting In

He rinsed the neighbour’s garlic press.
Funny how things come about;
Funny how some things progress.

Better not to leave a mess –
The owner had impressive clout.
He rinsed the neighbour’s garlic press;

Better not to cause distress
To those who lent it for his trout.
Funny how some things progress.

How has he got to this address,
When all those years they kept him out?
He rinsed the neighbour’s garlic press;

Pretentious food, but nonetheless
He’s learnt it wafts away their doubt.
Funny how some things progress;

The pungent odour of success,
The rules one simply cannot flout.
He rinsed the neighbour’s garlic press.
Funny how some things progress.

Alexander Blustin

Alexander Blustin’s light verse has previously appeared in Lighten Up Online, Light Quarterly, The Bell and in audio form on the Poetry Non-Stop blog. His heavier verse has appeared in Popshot and elsewhere. From October 2012 to July 2014 he ran a weekly poetry stall on Cambridge Market (UK), with a particular focus on work from local Modernist and experimental publishers.

Please share your responses to today’s prompt either in the comments or via email. The best submissions will be featured in future podcasts.

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