Disorder Of The New World – An Experiment


These pictures of my cat and me sharing a formal breakfast a few years ago are irrelevant but hopefully provide joy to you, my internet browsing friend. London, 2012.

Happy New Year!

The Spring term is approaching and with it, two new modules. One of those is poetry, which is frightening for a few reasons:

  1. There’s only 3 students (nowhere to hide)
  2. The reading list for the first session is longer than my arm
  3. I have never had my poetry critiqued or graded before
  4. The ‘experimental writing tasks’ we have been tasked with for the first class are bat-shit crazy.

One of the lists we were asked to pick from was reasonable. ‘Write a mirror image to a poem you already know and love’. ‘Write a sensory description of your breakfast’. ‘Write a list poem entitled Ways Of Making Love.’ The other list was less reasonable. It included suggestions such as ‘sit under a tree with a penny and some orange juice in your mouth, thinking about love, and write about poverty’ and ‘stand naked in a bucket of water by your front door; invite friends over and ignore them, simply staring silently at them through the keyhole’. Come on man, this is the kind of crap that gives poets a bad name.

So I chose one of the more reasonable exercises. It required me to do the following:

  1. Go to a bookshop and find the following sections: LAW, ROMANCE, HORROR, COOKBOOKS, GARDENING, HISTORY, CHILDREN, RELIGION, BIOGRAPHY.
  2. Pick a book at random from each shelf and turn to page 108.
  3. Read the page and write down the word you like most from the page.
  4. Sit down in the bookshop and write a poem.

So I dutifully hit up my local Waterstones and traipsed up and down the four floors until I’d found my nine sections and my nine words, then I sat down on a comfy sofa in the young adult section (cosier and quieter than the in-store Costa) and tried to write.

Normally, I come up with an idea first and the words follow. This activity was not my comfort zone, and I don’t think the results are particularly impressive. But the process was definitely interesting. At first I couldn’t see the purpose of picking the words like this – as opposed to finding 9 random words in the dictionary or from an online generator, say. But the process – of moving between sections, reading from the different genres, building the list slowly on my page – definitely had value. It allowed ideas to percolate, and got me thinking laterally about how to use the words as I gathered them.


So here are the results – a first draft, definitely, but a fun project with an interesting outcome.

Emily x

P.S. if you want to try one of the exercises for yourself, here’s the link: http://somaticpoetryexercises.blogspot.no/2007/09/written-at-jason-zuzgas-request-for.html

Disorder of the New World

By the time I turned the final page
and regained consciousness
the world had changed.

The stealthy poaching
of the day; the slow decay
of sunlight had all occurred
behind my back. And now:

I was pinned to my chair.
Handcuffed; bound to stare
into the thick dark. The thick air
of the house was throbbing:
with a silence
as heavy
as company.

Through the window
In the garden’s dark disorder
My eyes alighted
On the glittering borders
Of a watering can.

And fixed on it. Daring
Some malevolent hand
To seize it.
And then to seize me too, who:

Handcuffed; adrift
In a world elsewhere
Had not observed
the world change
around her chair.

2 thoughts on “Disorder Of The New World – An Experiment

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