Dive in! The Power of Wordpools


I discovered wordpools in Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge’s Poemcrazy. “I collect…hats, coins, cougars, old Studebakers,” she writes. “That is, I collect the words. Pith helmet, fragment, Frigidaire, quarrel, love seat, lily. I call gathering words this way creating a wordpool. This process helps free us to follow the words and write poems.”


When I read this, I’d been writing poems a long time, but the idea of collecting words to spark creativity was new to me. That a poem might be lurking in some random words—surge, hit, new, kiss, overallfork, innocence, bumblebee, fingers—was exhilarating.


Around this time, the late 1990s, Magnetic Poetry kits appeared. I received many as gifts. They came in sheets, requiring the recipient to detach the words from each other. I’ve lost count of how many kits I processed this way, only to find the words I’d carefully separated uninspiring. Staring at a refrigerator covered with words that someone else selected did little for my creativity.


The best wordpools I make came from the newspaper: history, fringe, inspection, pattern, risk, untangle, or subject-specific writing, as in these words I found in an article about waterfalls: cascade, erosion, drop, plunge, plummet. I’ve also had some luck creating wordpools from my own writing. Some examples: “Object Lesson” began with cart, plastic, warning, children, words I found in one of my journals from 2018. I pulled ocean, explanation, distant, feet, trick from some of my unpublished poems; those words became “The Reflection of Visible Wavelengths.”


Like Wooldridge, I like to attach words to inanimate objects. For example, I propped “solitude” against my desk lamp. A jar of sea glass received “lighthouse;” a roll of masking tape, “clean,” a picture of a butterfly, “visitor.”


I made a wordpool from the titles of books on the shelves by my desk, and came up with the following phrases:


steal the good life

ideas make birds

I collected, rhyming

new seeds don’t cry

the beautiful survivor


Creating poems from wordpools never gets old. It feels like play, because it is. It’s the best kind of nerdy fun.


More fun with words:

Check out Poemcrazy, now in its 30th printing.

William S. Burroughs on the Cut-Up method: “All writing is in fact cut ups.”

The history of magnetic poetry began with a sneeze.

5 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

The Pulse Of Arterials

by Charles Farrell Thielman The Pulse Of Arterials Urban pistons rush orders, the overcast on inbound windshields, pools on my studio floors. How to bevel pain into art my long handled brush carries s

Sails Rigged, The Ocean Roils

by Charles Farrell Thielman Sails Rigged, The Ocean Roils Scars stitched across the plains’ hardtack silvered by the ragged light of a pure crescent I stand on a cliff edge, blue highway turn-out How

Canter Into Storm

by Charles Farrell Thielman ~ kokua ~ Storm Raked Manes Gust spun boldface crosses an intersection April plants a rainbow, spires to urban canyon Arch of colors on a gray blue squall arm Rain drapes a