A Writer’s Notebook: Magnet poetry

Caveat emptor:  This is not good poetry. Blame the magnets.

My velvet yesterday surrounds
today in translucent smoke, you
in corduroy angling for another
cut of tea, steam a prisoner
behind your glasses, the naked smile
that tugs one side of your lips,
the memory of the porcelain morning
light over the ocean. We never
liked giving up the days, prefer not to wake
but to let each twilight melt into dawn.
Once, we lingered, liquid around
the needle of midnight. Now,
we are bellows, blowing our memories
into our mornings and blushing as
we hope they take hold, flower.
Every color delicious, every flavor
transient, every breath of steam
from the the cup, our miss.

Call me a quasi-Dadaist at heart, but I love magnet poetry. The poetry itself is often terrible (I make no claims for the quality of this poem), but but process of stringing together words is fun, and the relatively random act of pulling words from a box can produce some surprising combinations of images.  I’ll let you judge which of the images in this poem you might like, but for my tastes, I think there are nearly as many cool lines as there are corny ones.

And that’s where the practical side of this exercise comes into play:  If you ever find yourself wanting a unique way to express an idea or describe an emotion, pulling together random words can help break you out of your habitual phrases.  Maybe the magnets don’t really provide anything useful themselves–that’s okay.  The point is, they force you to think differently, and they can help you put ideas together yourself that you might not have combined otherwise.

Don’t have a magnet poetry set?  Don’t worry–you don’t have to rush out and buy one:  The Magnet Poetry website provides a cool online tool for making your own magnet poetry, complete with “metal tray” and side box for sorting all your words.  (For this exercise, I used the “Poet” kit, though I confess I love vocabulary of the “Genius” kit best of all.)  Or, you play it old school and just cut up a newspaper like the Dadaists used to do–but I’ll do that in another exercise, so more on it another day.

Published by Samuel Snoek-Brown

I write fiction and teach college writing and literature. I'm the author of the story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, the novel Hagridden, and the flash fiction chapbooks Box Cutters and Where There Is Ruin.

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