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  • Writer's pictureKaecey McCormick

Harvest of Words: A Poetry Exercise

When I lived on the East Coast, I looked forward to the abundance of fall leaves each year. My girls and I would gather them, creating wreaths, art projects, and holiday decorations.

While the change of the seasons is more subtle here in the Bay Area, there's still a sense of gathering in the air. Despite the warmer-than-usual temperatures this week, pumpkin stands are popping up and the hills are turning red and orange with the setting sun.

It's time for harvest, but the season isn't just about collecting fruits and grains—it can also be a metaphorical process, a "harvest of words," if you will. So this week, let's try a fun, light exercise that mirrors the harvest tradition!

Throughout the month of October, I'll offer several fall-inspired poetry exercises.

Keep in mind that the goal of each of these exercises isn't to create "the perfect poem" (if such a thing even exists!) but rather to enjoy the process of gathering and assembling words. You can always revise, add to, or pare down the results of your exercise later to shape a more polished poem.

Okay, let's get to it!

Steps to Harvest Words

Here's a step-by-step guide to this quick and fun harvest of words poetry exercise.

Step one: Word collection

The first phase of our harvest revolves around gathering. Much like farmers collecting different crops, your task here is to accumulate words and phrases that resonate with the autumn spirit. This step is about opening your senses to the season, immersing yourself in its essence, and picking the words that reflect its beauty and depth.

To that end, spend some time collecting words and phrases that resonate with the essence of fall. Leaf through books, magazines, or even observe your surroundings. Gather words that evoke the colors, scents, feelings, and activities of autumn.

Step two: Assemble your word harvest

With your collection in hand, the next step is to think about organization. This is your moment to review, sort, and appreciate the bounty of words you’ve harvested, preparing them for the crafting process. Here, you’ll create a rich and varied bank of words, a toolbox ready for the poetic construction ahead.

Create a bank or a “harvest basket” of the words and phrases you've collected. It should be abundant, with a variety of terms that reflect the multifaceted nature of the season. Consider your senses, and if you don't have words that reflect each, go back to step one with eye toward the "missing" sense.

Step three: Craft your poem draft

Now, the true crafting begins. Here’s where inspiration meets craft, and your words come together to form a poem. With your harvested words serving as your palette, your task is to weave them into a tapestry that tells a story, paints a picture, or expresses some emotional experience. You might consider tying this into the autumn season.

Using only the words in your harvest basket, compose a poem. Allow the words to guide you, to mix and match until they sit right with one another, forming lines that are evocative and true to the essence of what you're hoping to convey. Add "small words" as needed (articles, pronouns, etc.).

For added inspiration, consider reading classic autumn poems like Robert Frost’s “After Apple-Picking” or John Keats’ “To Autumn.”

Remember to have fun! Instead of focusing on the finished produce, keep in mind that this is an exercise—the goal is to uncover some interesting material you can later shape into a finished poem. Hold the draft lightly, and remember you can return to it in the future to flesh out the underlying emotions you're hoping to convey.

If you try this exercise, let me know how it goes! I'd love to read your words and hear about your writing experience.

Happy harvesting, and happy writing!


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