Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Three Random Words

poetry in Ireland
A few weeks ago I was staying up late writing and I found a series of poems that I had written at university. Most of the ones that I wrote back then were uniformly terrible, these are different because I asked for the inspiration from my friends. I asked for a few buzz-words to get me started and then had to include those words in the poem that I wrote.

Now with the wonders of social media just a few minutes after remembering how much fun these had been to do I could ask friends around the world for their ideas. I sent out a plea for three random words. The selections that I got were certainly random: they included ‘clown’, ‘hokum’ and ‘axolotl’. So going from this I wrote four poems and had more fun writing them than I have for a long time writing poetry.

I mentioned this in an email to one of my friends who had suggested ideas for the original batch of poems and he suggested that I should try to write a hundred poems and use those to get a collection together of poems all inspired by three random words.  My first thought was “well, that’s ridiculous’ followed quickly by “actually that would be a lot of fun” and then “I need help”.

Now I am fully aware that there are lots of people who think I need a lot of help anyway but I need specific help at the moment. If I am going to be able to write a hundred poems I need one hundred sets of three random words. I know an awful lot of creative people and I intend on harassing people until I get them.

My only worry is that it worked really well when people didn’t know why I was asking for three words but as soon as I say that it’s going to be for a poem I worry that one of two things will happen. One: people will try to make it too difficult just to see how ridiculous they can make them. Two: people will try and give me ‘poetry-ish’ words rather than really random words. The second is a lot less of a problem because if I wanted really random words I could use a word generator but I like the personal aspect and it’s even more fun when I know the people sending me ideas.

The plan: I am going to try to write a hundred poems based on thee random words sent to me by anyone who has the time to type the first three words that they think of, or their three favourite words – I don’t mind at all. People can certainly send more than one set of words. If you would be as kind as to mention this to people who you think would like to help me out that would be wonderful. I will put it up on twitter, facebook, around email lists etc. and even in real live conversations! The more I get the better.

I will post the poems on here and people can laugh at how I manage to get kumquat, xylophone and monkey into a poem. In case you are wondering, this is how:

"The New World"

An old man's toothless smile
as his street organ plays a
wild-xylophone lament.
The daily grind with only
a monkey to keep the company,
while he tips his hat -
hoping others will too.
As the century turns on there is
a Fortune to be made.
Tea, silkworms, kumquats and peonies
are the new Gods,
and the street falls silent.

So, there you go. Please help me!


p.s. I'll happily accept word-ideas from the comments, in emails, over Twitter, Facebook, snail mail, morse code, really however suits you best.


  1. Here's a start.

    robot, rainstorm, circumvent

    Could come up with more if you like.

  2. Brilliant - I love how diverse these are already! More are always welcome, I never get tired of writing poems this way!
    Thanks so much, x.

  3. What a cool - ambitious - idea!
    My 3 words:
    Cat, banana, fringe

    I'd be interested to follow your progress with this project, and I'll pass the word on to send you words!

  4. Thank you both for the words and for passing it along, much appreciated!

  5. Hey Vick,

    I've had a bit of a think, and I'm going to send you three words that different people have highlighted to me over the years as "ugly." I'd be interested to see if you highlight the ugliness or reclaim them:

    Jug, Grout, Moist

    Look forward to it. Will send it down the line.



  6. It does sound a lot of fun

    My words are: oranges,erratic, constantinople


  7. Sounds fun. That poem wou wrote with monkey, kumquat and xylophone is great - I could never do as great a job as you did!

    How about:
    Water, fruit, paper

    Have fun!

  8. Super idea.
    My words are:

    contradictory, flourish, nest


  9. What a beautiful and evocative poem! A miracle that you managed to work those words in. My three words are:- badger, kiosk and ocean.

    (I also added them to the thread at Etsy.)

  10. Love this idea :)

    Ukulele, ladybird, beads

    Jane -

  11. Thanks so much for all of these great ideas - I am so excited about getting to work with them.
    Yay! So much fun.

  12. Hi Vick this is such a fab idea!

    My three words are - purple, vivacious, hamster

    My Etsy shop is here -

  13. Hi Emma,
    What great words! I almost want to use them together and write about a purple, vivacious hamster...

  14. These are three of my favourite words, I like how they feel, sound...


  15. Good luck with this project - look forward to seeing the published anthology.

    How about sunshine, gloom and happiness? and/or

    Best of luck!

  16. My three words:

    synthesis, turmoil and beguile.

  17. Lovely idea! Inspired by one of favourite Kirsty MacColl songs I give you