Think of someone you know quite well, or at least well enough that you know how they speak and some of their mannerisms.
Now, produce your notebook or laptop or phone or the back of a bus ticket and begin to create a list of similes related to aspects of this person e.g.
Her hair was like a web holding her thoughts in..
Her tongue was like a knife for slicing bitter fruit…
Her house echoed like an empty heart.
Try to write at least some of them while in the company of this person. Your aim should be to write ten to twenty similes. Once you have gone as far as you can read it through to see how accurately you have portrayed the person. Then, pick one line to use as the first line of a poem about that person. Feel free to use or amend any of the other lines… or not.
What you will find is that the very act of carrying out this exercise will force you to concentrate on many aspects of this person and may well open up avenues to explore.
Additionally, good similes (and indeed metaphors) are things to hoard. You may end up using something in another piece.
A variation of this exercise, which may be useful to those who have absolutely no friends or family, is to take out your notebook in a bar, cafe, airport, on the bus or tube and carry out this exercise on a stranger. Take your time. Study their clothes and accessories. In true Sherlock Holmes style use the clues you see to produce your collection of similes.
I find shoes an interesting place to start. Footwear often gives a fascinating insight to character dependent on the style, age and the amount of wear and tear going on.
I once wrote a whole sequence of poems about people sitting directly opposite me on the tube, and although only one or two of them eventually got to the first base of being tagged as ‘this might be an interesting’ it was a worthwhile exercise, and one I may pursue again.
Cryptic crossword clues.
It has always seemed to me that cryptic crossword puzzle clues have a strange poetry of their own. By their very nature they are both surreal and mysterious, being an abstruse definition of a seemingly unrelated single word or phrase.
Your mission – should you choose to accept it – is to find a cryptic crossword puzzle and choose a clue to use as the first line of a poem. It might be additionally interesting if you were to solve the clue and use the word as the subject of the poem.
Please let me know how you get on. I plan to do a follow up post about my results.
Some examples, to get you started
Humming end of song through a small glass (5)
Spaniard has to pass over square to get money from bank (5)
a bit brassy my mum would have said (4)