Diary of a Poet

Dive Into the Wordpool

I discovered wordpools in Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge’s Poemcrazy. “I collect…hats, coins, cougars, old Studebakers,” she writes. “That is, I collect the words. Pith helmet, fragment, Frigidaire, quarrel, love seat, lily. I call gathering words this way creating a wordpool. This process helps free us to follow the words and write poems.”

When I read this, I’d been writing poems a long time, but the idea of collecting words to spark creativity was new to me. That a poem might be lurking in some random words—surge, hit, new, kiss, overallfork, innocence, bumblebee, fingers—was exhilarating.

Around this time, the late 1990s, Magnetic Poetry kits appeared. I received many as gifts. They came in sheets, requiring the recipient to detach the words from each other. I’ve lost count of how many kits I processed this way, only to find the words I’d carefully separated uninspiring. Staring at a refrigerator covered with words that someone else selected did little for my creativity. 

The best wordpools I make came from the newspaper: history, fringe, inspection, pattern, risk, untangle, or subject-specific writing, as in these words I found in an article about waterfalls: cascade, erosion, drop, plunge, plummet. I’ve also had some luck creating wordpools from my own writing. Some examples: “Object Lesson” began with cart, plastic, warning, children, words I found in one of my journals from 2018. I pulled ocean, explanation, distant, feet, trick from some of my unpublished poems; those words became “The Reflection of Visible Wavelengths.”

Like Wooldridge, I like to attach words to inanimate objects. For example, I propped “solitude” against my desk lamp. A jar of sea glass received “lighthouse;” a roll of masking tape, “clean,” a picture of a butterfly, “visitor.”

I made a wordpool from the titles of books on the shelves by my desk, and came up with the following phrases:

            steal the good life

            ideas make birds

            I collected, rhyming

            new seeds don’t cry

            the beautiful survivor

Creating poems from wordpools never gets old. It feels like play, because it is. It’s the best kind of nerdy fun.

More fun with words:

Check out Poemcrazy, now in its 30th printing.

William S. Burroughs on the Cut-Up method: “All writing is in fact cut ups.”

The history of magnetic poetry began with a sneeze.

Categories: Diary of a Poet

10 replies »

  1. Loved this post Erica!!! I so loved reading Poemcrazy way back when and I too have been using the inspiration from word pools/word banks (I also use it for small snippets and phrases too)!! Some of the greatest joys have been the times when I’ve found an entry for the word pool/ word bank and before I can even get it entered it has inspired a poem!! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and views on Word Pools!!

    • Dear Susan,
      Just wanted to thank you so much for giving us Word Pools! I’ve caught some wonderful poems out of my word pool and you deserve high praise for showing me how to have one!! Will be looking forward to your new book!!!
      Chuck Lindholm – The Reluctant Poet

  2. You’re welcome, and thank you, Chuck, for the thank you, I need all the oomph I can get to finish this bebe, like poemcrazy, a project taking years and years. I understand all reluctance! With love, Susan xoxoox

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