Twenty Little Poetry Projects Exercise

Done in response to Jim Simmerman’s ‘Twenty Little Poetry Projects’ exercise, which you’ll find pasted below. Scroll down to go straight to the poem.


  1. Begin the poem with a metaphor.
  2. Say something specific but utterly preposterous.
  3. Use at least one image for each of the five senses, either in succession or scattered randomly throughout the poem.
  4. Use one example of synaesthesia (mixing the senses).
  5. Use the proper name of a person and the proper name of a place.
  6. Contradict something you said earlier in the poem.
  7. Change direction or digress from the last thing you said.
  8. Use a word (slang?) you’ve never seen in a poem.
  9. Use a piece of false cause-and-effect logic.
  10. Use a piece of “talk” you’ve actually heard (preferably in dialect and/or which you don’t understand).
  11. Create a metaphor using the following construction: “The (adjective) (concrete noun) of (abstract noun)…”
  12. Use an image in such a way as to reverse its usual associative qualities.
  13. Make the persona or character in the poem do something he/she could not do in “real life.”
  14. Refer to yourself by nickname and in the third person.
  15. Write in the future tense, such that part of the poem seems to be a prediction.
  16. Modify a noun with an unlikely adjective.
  17. Make a declarative assertion that sounds convincing but finally makes no sense.
  18. Use a phrase from a language other than English.
  19. Make a nonhuman object say or do something human (personification).
  20. Close the poem with a vivid image that makes no statement but that “echoes” an image from earlier in the poem.


The sky was the white

Of a blank sheet of paper.

A Rain God was writing clouds all over it,

Wet, dark, rumbling clouds that smelt like ash

And tasted of fire.

The sea looked rocky,

Just like Janice’s plane ride to Paris.


To be honest,

The sky was truly more of a pallid gray than anything,

But it was the king of grays,

The kind that goes around begging Rain Gods

                  To scribble all over it,

But I digress;

It is the clouds we should be concerning ourselves with.



Were looking rather like they’d fucked their way

Up to the top of the sky;

Which is, of course, why most of them

Were congregating around the shore.


The great sorrow in joy

Is that one never knows when it’ll end.

Icarus knew this;

He was martyred by the sea

For the simple crime of wanting, and failing, to fly.


The clouds are now discussing the Fall of Man;

Not the first one, of course,

But the one they’ll be plotting

Once they’ve gathered enough strength in numbers.


The artist knows that,

Knows that soon,

The world will end,

Blisteringly soon.


We all know,

As well,

That all of this can be attributed

To temporal eddies in the timestreams

Of the clouds.


C’est la vie,

Or so I’ve heard it said.


C’est la vie.


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