Thursday, February 4, 2010

Word Replacement

by Santee Frazier :

This morning the DWC blog brings you an exclusive writing exercise from visiting author, Santee Frazier. Please join us on Friday for Santee's reading, 7pm at the DWC!

When I find myself not moved by voice, memory, or music, instead of staring at the computer screen, I type out one of my favorite poems. The act of typing accomplishes two things: you get to know the formal considerations of the poet (how they navigated the page), and you gain an intimate relationship with the text. After I have typed the poem I look for artistry, meter, phrasing, etc.... I really don't spend much time deciphering the poem being that interpretation plays little or no role in how this exercise conducts itself. From there I find all of the nouns in the poem, writing out a list, then I pull out my dictionary and begin replacing only the nouns (I usually don't replace the verbs being that I want to keep the structure of the poem).

This exercise will yield varying results depending on how much effort goes in the act of replacing the nouns. I find the best results come when I spend a great deal of time researching then replacing the nouns, rather than using the first word that pops into my head (usually a synonym pops up, boring). For instance using words related to anthropology will drastically change the poem’s meter and tone.

First start out with a short poem, and then slowly build up to something longer (the longest I have tried was Jorie Graham's "What the End is For"). Most of the poems will not be keepers, but the exercise helps build skill set and sharpens your abilities to glean poetry for reasons other than explication.

Rather than becoming frustrated and abandoning your daily writing ritual you can practice this exercise. After a few tries you will notice interesting things happening when the words juxtaposeand begin creating language.

Santee Frazier is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. He holds a BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts and an MFA from Syracuse University. His poems have appeared in American Poet, Narrative Magazine, Ontario Review, and other literary journals. His first collection of poems Dark Thirty was released by the University of Arizona Press in the spring of 2009.

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