Friday, February 25, 2011

LitSoup: Clip and Swap poetry

The inspiration for this month's LitSoup comes from's poetry writing exercises for groups and partners. One of the exercises is called "Clip and Swap":
Take an existing poem and jumble the words up so that they make no sense. Each writer in the group will take the jumbled words and use them to compose a brand new poem. Then, compare the poems among the members of the writing group.

This was a more difficult challenge than I anticipated. I was disappointed at the little response I had gotten — until I sat down to write my own poem and realized why.

In honor of Black History Month, I selected pieces by African-American poets, and I selected to rewrite one by E. Ethelbert Miller. (Learn more about poems and the African-American experience at

Original poem:

The Things in Black Men's Closests by E. Ethelbert Miller

on the top shelf
of the closet
in the hat my father
wears on special occasions
it rests next to the large jar
he saves pennies in

his head is always bare
when i see him walking
in the street

i once sat in his bedroom
watching him search
between sweaters and suits
looking for something missing
a tie perhaps

then he stopped
and slowly walked to the closet
took the hat from the shelf

i sat on the bed
studying his back
waiting for him to turn
and tell me who died

My interpretation (not nearly as good as the original):
pennies and heaven
my father saves pennies
he finds while walking on the street
i went with him when he walked
always watching his search
slowly studying him until he rests
between his searching he stopped and sat
to tell me stories from way back
then he took me looking with him

the large jar of copper sat next to me
on the floor in the closet in the bedroom
waiting to turn in to something he wears
like suits and sweaters or something for the special occasions
or perhaps a hat for on top of his head when it is bare
i see the shelf in the closet
with a hat and a tie
and the shelf over the bed
with memories of those who died
whom i am missing

-- Cheryl Sadler | | @nhcheryl

This post is part of a LitSoup, a new regular monthly feature on The Book Club compiled of contributions from the newsroom. Send an e-mail or tweet with your suggestions for future LitSoup topics.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home