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Something Borrowed And Something New: A Poem Writing Exercise

Updated on March 25, 2017

While sorting through my books recently, I found a volume of modern poetry. Once I opened this book up and read a few poems, it was easy to determine what my next writing exercise should be. I wanted to extract full or parts of lines from eight poems by eight different poets. These lines would be added to six lines of my own. With the option to include linking words such as “because” and “will,” I was ready to create my first poem. Like my writing exercise using fifteen phrases I’ve written about in another hub, I insisted on using every phrase for the poem. How many linking words I used, however, was completely up to me because there was no reason to use them all. Instead of creating three poems under these conditions as I have done previously, I decided to change my approach for the second poem. For the second poem I made eight new lines by combining the lines extracted from the poems by others. Next I combined and altered the phrases I created for the first poem and made six new lines. Finally, I included the same options for linking words before writing the second poem.

Adding the option of using linking words helped enormously when trying to create poems which made some sense. I also found the act of combining the lines of verse to create new lines forced my brain to stretch and innovate. I’d possibly do this exercise again, though I may tweak a few of my methods as I see fit.


The eight full or parts of lines I extracted from the poems of others are:

1. “If in some smothering dreams” from Wilfred Owen’s poem “Dulce et Decorum Est”

2. “His tears are rainy weather” from Robert Hayden’s poem “The Whipping”

3. “Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.” from “The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter” by Ezra Pound

4. “I am silver and exact.” This is from Sylvia Plath’s poem “Mirror”

5. “He met a pilgrim shadow” from “Eldorado” by Edgar Allan Poe

6. “The art of losing isn’t hard to master” from Elisabeth Bishop’s poem “One Art”

7. “Essence of winter sleep is on the night” from Robert Frost’s poem “After Apple-Picking”

8. “make promises to me” from the poem “after minor surgery” by Linda Pastan


The six phrases I created:

1. Bewildered Isabella was wandering

2. Distressed pumpkin patch

3. What was that?

4. The unfolded silence

5. Not today, maybe next Tuesday

6. In Salem, Oregon

The linking words I could use:

because, of course, before, will, in, it, is, until, he, with, without, the, his, hers, and, for, into, a, past, of

The first poem:

After Dreaming

His tears are

rainy weather without

the unfolded silence.

What was that?

He met a pilgrim

shadow; of course essence of

winter sleep is on

the night.

Bewildered Isabella was wandering past

two small people,

without dislike or suspicion.

The art of losing isn’t hard

to master if in

some smothering dreams of a

distressed pumpkin patch

in Salem, Oregon.

Make promises to me: not

today, maybe next


I am silver and exact.


The created phrases for the second poem using the lines from other poems are:

1. His tears are smothering dreams

2. Make promises to two small people

3. If in a pilgrim shadow

4. Silver and exact dislike

5. Essence of suspicion

6. Art of losing sleep

7. Hard to master rainy weather

8. Exact essence of night

Salem, Oregon
Salem, Oregon | Source

The new phrases created using the lines I created for the first poem:

1. Bewildered Salem, Oregon

2. Distressed, unfolded silence

3. Isabella: What was that?

4. Wandering next Tuesday

5. Pumpkin patch was not today

6. Maybe Oregon, maybe today

The linking word options for the second poem were identical to the first, and I will therefore not repeat them.

The second poem:

More Questions Than Answers

The art of

losing sleep: if in

a pilgrim shadow,

maybe Oregon, maybe today.

His tears are

smothering dreams wandering

next Tuesday.

In distressed, unfolded silence he

will make promises to

two small people.

Silver and exact dislike

because in bewildered Salem, Oregon

it is hard to

master rainy weather without

exact essence of night.

His essence of suspicion because

the pumpkin patch

was not today.

Isabella: What was that?


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    • Julie K Henderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Julie K Henderson 

      3 years ago

      Jodah: Thank you for commenting. I am glad you enjoyed the article. I continue to think about other ways I can use lines of poetry from others as a writing exercise, so perhaps there will be future articles like this one.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Interesting process and good outcome. Well done. Thanks for sharing.

    • Julie K Henderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Julie K Henderson 

      3 years ago

      Lady E: Thank you for commenting. I hope you also have a great weekend.

    • Lady_E profile image


      3 years ago from London, UK

      That was beautiful to read, Julie and I like the photo too.

      Have a great weekend.


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