Writing Exercise 22.2

If you missed my previous post, please go back and read Sue Weaver Dunlap’s poem, “Place Names” from her new collection, A Walk to the Spring House.

Reading “Place Names” prompted me to think about some of the wonderful place names near where I live.  For this writing exercise, begin by making a list of location names near you. Or if not near you, consider making a list of location names that are important to you for one reason or another. You might even consider looking at some historical maps in case some more-interesting names have been replaced over the years.

Historic map of the Copper Basin region of Tennessee, referenced in yesterday’s post.

“Place Names” should probably be considered a narrative poem because the story of the bear hunt leads the reader through the locations. But because the names of the locations are so musical and interesting, the place names tend to rise above the narrative, and for this reason, “Place Names” feels a bit like a list poem.

Caki Wilkinson’s poem “Flyover Country” is an actual list poem. There’s no narrative structure in this poem although the epigraph “Between Memphis and Bristol” does a lot of work. I love this poem in part because Wilkinson includes my home town, Speedwell, but also because of the sound and culminating meaning of the poem.

Once you have created your list of location names that are meaningful or relevant to you, you can think about how they might work as a poem. I love a well-designed list poem like “Flyover Country,” but use Sue Weaver Dunlap’s poem as an example for how to give your own poem a narrative structure.

There’s a writing exercise to be found here for prose writers too. Think of the narrative that holds the place names together in “Place Names.” Think also of the original essay by Horace Kephart. And there’s always the question of how these place names originated. Who bestowed these names. A little research might go a far way.

2 thoughts on “Writing Exercise 22.2

  1. Denton,

    Would you permit me to use your prompt in the upcoming Poetry Chapbook Workshop session I’ll be leading next weekend, Feb. 19-20? I’ll give you full credit. Sue is in the group and doesn’t object to being the “subject” for a prompt.

    Thanks for all the work you continue to do in promoting poetry, and many thanks for agreeing to lead the fiction workshop sessions at TMW. Yours was a frequently mentioned name from board members when Carol asked for suggestions after Pam had to step away due to her health concerns.


    Liked by 1 person

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