We’d like to thank Gail Carson Levine (gailcarsonlevine.com) for sharing this writing exercise. Gail is the leader of our Find Your Poetry Muse workshop. Thanks, Gail!
Here’s what she said about the following exercise:
Last year I asked people to write poems using anaphora, which is the term for recurring beginnings of lines. As an example, here is a sample from “From a Litany” by Mark Strand:
FROM A LITANY BY: MARK STRAND
There in an open field I lie down in a hole I once dug and I praise the sky.
I praise the clouds that are like lungs of light.
I praise the owl that wants to inhabit me and the hawk that does not.
I praise the mouse’s fury, the wolf’s consideration.
I praise the dog that lives in the household of people and shall never be one of them.
I praise the whale that lives under the cold blankets of salt.
I praise the formations of squid, the domes of meandra.
I praise the secrecy of doors, the openness of windows.
I praise the depth of closets,
I praise the wind, the rising generations of air…
Strand’s recurring beginning, obviously, is “I praise.”
Try using anaphora in a poem of your own to warm up your poetry muscles. Most poems that use anaphora don’t use it to begin every line. The poet sets up the repetition to get a rhythm and a pattern going, and then, whenever the phrase or word reappears, there’s a lovely echo.