Creative Exercise #8

Concrete vs. Abstract

One of the more common criticism levied against understanding poetry is that most poems are simply too abstract to understand. This tends to mean that a piece is too personal, too subjective for a person get a coherent interpretation. Of course, building concrete images can also help organize the scene you are attempting to relate to the reader. For example, if you want to write a poem about two lovers building a concrete scene where these two lovers inhabit is key to understanding not only the two people but even the emotions of that moment.

For this exercise, take an abstract phrase/word and try to attach as many concrete images to it as humanly possible. Think about how images seem to meld into one another. This is something you have to allow yourself to do. Find words that relate (in some sense) to each other. Even if it doesn't make any sense. Here are some examples

Order — Government building, suit, near stack of papers, a bird’s nest, an egg, a fresh pigeon’s wing, a beak, the song of a finch.

Rage — Furrowed face, a father, a sister, broken glass, dent in door, the chipped paint of a wall, the rusty fire escape, the hollowed out building, an empty street.

Peace — A forest, light rain, an empty bed, an unmade bed, a bed with someone in it, someone standing in a doorway.

Hunger — Hands caked with dirt, the bent over person, bone, dust, the open manhole, the darkened room

Grace — a flowing dress, neat handing writing, a hand-written letter, moving legs, a person just catching the train as the doors close.

Most of these images tended to link with one another as they go along. You could also use this as a means to develop a scene as a whole. For example, take the last word “Grace." Looking closely, a scene could definitely be made. A woman in a flowing dress receives a letter from someone important. She must see this person, for some reason. The letter has complied them to rush out the door and take whatever transportation they can to reach the person. They just catch the train before the door close and the train departs. Of course, this would only be a framework to further develop. What type of letter was it? Why did she rush out? Is this event joyous or tragic? Well, that would be up to you to develop.

Come up with five abstract words to make more concrete. It could help you develop a subject to write about or help you think of the images you want to describe in a poem you are already working on. Either way, images are very important in a poems development. Many may disagree with that sentiment, but images are the way we come to experience the world. The images developed through all are senses are so important. Abstractions (such as the abstractions of concepts) can only take a reader so far. However, there is always an exception to the rule. Metaphor is where the concrete and the abstract marry one another.

Be sure to also comment on a classmate's post for cull credit.

23 thoughts on “Creative Exercise #8

  1. Katherine Whelchel

    Crush- blushed cheeks, red paper in the shape of a heart, an unsent text, whispered names at a sleepover, middle school dances, a little boy with a flower,

    Stress- missed assignments, fast walking, hurried glances at the door, mother of three on the phone in the store, tangled headphones, a missed bus

    Freedom-barefoot running, twirling in an oversized dress, the top of a mountain, a rushing stream, balloons let go, clocking out of work, the final descent into sleep

    Frustration- balled fists, a scream into a pillow, the word “no”, unanswered questions, red marks on an exam, an undeserved rebuke

    Stillness- settled water, 6 am, the first touch of a newborn baby, tight hugs, long-held breaths, fog in the valley, a fresh snow, the first glance of a friend after many years

    1. Aundrea Pierce


      With “Crush” I loved the little boy with the flower; I pictured my son handing his Valentine’s flower to his teacher (Mrs.Rose). “Stress” was spot on! Missed assignments feel more like a heart attack to me, hurried glances at the door was a good image too. For “freedom” I enjoyed how you emphasized the size of the dress, it makes the reader feel a sense of unrestraint. I felt “frustration” had the best abstract words, and flowed together smoothly. I could feel “stillness” most; I could actually see flashes of the images and they were quiet and still. Great job!

  2. Sierra Russell-McCollum

    Anger- Screaming match, not being heard, a failed test, being late to an interview, losing a game, getting yelled at for nothing, slamming the door

    Love- Lazy mornings in bed together, making you unch, kisses, hugs, the color red, holding hands, seeing your significant other smile,

    Relaxation- A cup of tea, taking a hike, a long car ride music blasting, finally getting home from a road trip, taking your shoes off, being alone, cuddling with an animal, watching a baby sleep

    Beach- Plam trees, beach blankets, laying out, the sun, getting tan, sunscreen, beach waves, sea salt, kids playing, sand castles, bikinis, sunglasses

    Alaska- Wildlife, lots of snow, cold weather, the northern lights, gold mining, the Alaskan pipeline, moose, bears, mountains, trees, darkness, fishing, camping, hot springs, North Pole

    Freeways- Rush hour, cars, trucks, semis, road rage, honking, tickets, police, miles of road, carpool, motorcycles, Fasttrack, car accidents, road trips

    1. Corbin Knapp

      Hi Sierra!
      Your choice of abstract lines described the words you chose perfectly. I specifically enjoyed the lines you wrote for Alaska; like wildlife, the Northern Lights, and camping. Nice job!

    2. Jessica Honebein

      Sierra I like that you included the beach, it took me into the beach! I liked all your expressions for the words and think that they fit well!

  3. Aundrea Pierce

    Protection — a shield, a sword, a guard, police, jail cell, a sturdy house, locked doors, closed windows

    Celebration — bursting piñata, people cheering and applauding, fancy clothes, sun in the sky, a full moon, bright party lights, bass from music playing.

    Safety- a hug, a sleeping bag, a baby wrapped in a blanket, surrounded by family at the dinner table, a gated community, tall brick walls.

    Desperation- pulling up a broken zipper, running late, navigating in a storm at night, searching for keys, a baby screaming for his pacifier, a desert, tumbleweeds, dried plants.

    Mystery- poems, books, a diary, paintings, a crime scene, a wrapped box placed in solitude, empty buildings.

    1. Naimy Schommer

      Love the implications in your “Mystery” piece. Reminds me of when I was a kid–I was OBSESSED with Nancy Drew books. 🙂

  4. Naimy Schommer

    intensity: Its 11:30pm. The paper you’re writing is due at midnight. Your fingers hurt but you just downed another Red Bull. Let’s go.

    relief: You press submit at 11:57pm.

    dedication: An athlete silences their alarm, sits up to rub sleepy eyes, and flips the blanket off to feel the frigid air against their bare legs. It takes two intention-filled steps to get to the closet in their small, dark bedroom, but it requires a sigh of commitment. It’s 4am, but they don’t stop to think about going back to bed as they layer workout gear over skin that’s still got indents from their bedsheets; their teammates will be at practice in 30 minutes and that’s just enough time for a protein bar.

    amiable: A coach half-heartedly tries to regain control of practice with a smile on her face after everyone erupted in giggles after a kid sang “whoever smelt it, dealt it.” She gives up and lowers her raised hands to say “said the rhyme, did the crime” with a sly wink and pauses her plan for practice to laugh with the hysterical children.

    frustrated: Your roommate returns to your shared room at 3am drunk and smelling like weed. She turns the fluorescent lights on and starts doing homework at their desk. You were sleeping.

    1. Michelle Cordova

      I love this! You did a great job at taking it to a different level and creating little micro stories! I can definitely relate to the “intensity” portion!

    2. Ben Knapp

      I like how you chose to write little stories instead of a simple list of words. Your anecdotes were fun to read, and you really took the assignment to the next level. I also like how your first and second seem to tie together.

  5. Michelle Cordova

    Euphoria- Addiction, heavenly bliss, true loves passionate kiss, an unexplainable high, the best-or worst- drug, ecstasy

    Attraction- timeless romance, flawless, poles, polar opposites, vacation, breathtaking sights, masterpiece, desire

    warmth- A lovers touch, a child’s smile, slow sips of coffee on a cool morning, spring days, comfort, gentle, happy endings

    Guilt- A kick in the stomach, nauseous, immoral, sin, self-condemnation, remorse, cheat, unimaginable suffering

    Disgust- The ultimate lie, grief, hate, cruelty, absent father, repulsed, rotten smells

  6. Corbin Knapp

    Fear – Hands raised, crashed car, lost, all alone, complete darkness , helplessness, night comes, silence reigns.

    Joy – New friends, huge smile, laughter, free food, long walk, sun sinking, a warm pet, its night, sleep tight.

    Thought- Sitting, faced scrunched, mouth open, idle hands, doodle faster, blink slowly, tap foot, deep sigh, sudden idea.

    Wonder – Eyes wide, gushing fountain, fast ride, dark mountain, blue sky, deep snow, incredible AI, about things I know, long dark nights, and twinkling lights.

    Kindness – Help someone up, encourage, give help, be needed, listen carefully, try to inspire, give someone love.

  7. Caitlyn Williams

    Freedom- Dancing alone at whatever hour, the moment when school bell rings, Summer nights with your closest friends, A blue bird flying high up in the sky, Biking at a high speed

    Comfort- A cool breeze during sunset, surrounding a crackling fire with your friends, Completed assignments, A good GPA, mom’s hugs,

    Fear- Losing your phone after going on adventures, losing purpose, darkness, sleepless nights, getting lost in the wilderness, free falling off a building, Intoxicated people being reckless, feeling trapped, don’t you forget about me!

    Anticipation- High School basketball hype, jump ball, waiting for your assignments to be graded, Report card seasons, Financial Aid announcements, Waiting for class to dismiss, Home Games, Checking the balance in a bank account, “Wrong email or password, please try again”

    Defeat/Peril- Missing a bus after running as fast as you could, not getting hired, missing an important flight, losing to THE BOSS after your 129th try, not knowing the material for an exam, 4th Quarter and your teams behind by 23 (you don’t give up until the games over)

    Celebration- Sharing your favorite dish at a potluck, catching your first fish, Spring, flowers blooming, Graduation, Promoting to your favorite position, Summer break, Reaching your goals

  8. Ben Knapp

    Boredom — twirling pencil, pacing, nothing to do, what’s for dinner?

    Expectation — loading screen, amazon box, phone ringing, almost time

    Relaxation — end of day, feet propped up, laptop, funny pages, socks off

    Procrastination — eating fruit, blank screen, ticking clock, I can finish it tomorrow

    Relief — assignments done, class canceled, free time, car starts, Wi-Fi comes back on

  9. Aubri Stogsdill

    loss- an empty cup, cold room, tear-filled eyes, deep sigh, quivering voice, empty stares, hunger pains, daydreams of yesterday, ice cream, nothing to say

    exhaustion- deflated balloon, limp corpse, coffee, heavy eyes, swimming in a storm, dark circles, “Are you tired?”, suitcases, foreign language, greasy fries, heavy backpack, sweaty brow

    relaxation- a hot cup of tea, warm socks, purple couch, big window, favorite book, chocolate, slowed heartbeat, warm blanket, cat naps, no schedule, floral patterns

    loneliness- empty seat, heavy burden with nowhere to rest, half full closet, movie theatres alone, silence, empty house, unattended party, no plans on a Friday, constantly refreshed social media, untold secrets, icy showers

    joy- teary-eyed smile, fireplace, long hugs, full stomach, movie night, sunshine, fireflies, exiting the plane, tired face muscles, corny jokes, 60’s music, the end of a hike, pink cheeks, endless giggles

    1. Caitlyn Williams

      Aubri, I really liked your choice of words to express the emotions you chose to show! Especially loss. Good job!

  10. Jessica Honebein

    Anxiety- Tons of emotion, lingering thoughts, restless body, exhaustion, fear and threat

    Heartbreak- Waterfall of emotions, sadness, pain in heart, breakups, death

    Wisdom- Older people, Professors/Teachers/Elders, Owls, Intelligence, Lots of knowledge

    Temptation- Peer pressure, Wanting to eat something sweet on a diet, Lust, Craving, Money/ Profit, Breaking the speed limit

    Concentration- Taking a test, Finishing an assignment, Soldier wires, putting a puzzle together, driving in hazardous conditions

  11. Mekayla

    Contentment- Stacks of books, feeling at peace, being in love, rays of sunlights, listening to music, accepting oneself, walks in the moonlight, listening to trees rustle, completing a task, the smell of rain, finding happiness in the little things.

    Sadness- Hollow, aching, lonely, dark, cold, sobs, silence, blue, breakups, losses, self-contempt, abuse.

    Fear- The dark, racing heart beat, being chased, no where to hide, death, loss, pain, nightmares, cold-sweats, lightning, gnarled trees at night, abandoned houses.

    Love- Laughter, understanding, tears, affection, intimate, unconditional, support, romance, adventures, hour long phone conversations, handholding, kindness.

    Studious- Attendance, sharpened pencils, desk lamp, notecards, reading glasses, cups of coffee, sliced apples, piles of books, report cards, scholarships, success.

    1. Monica Gallagher

      I like your list! I’ve never explored contentment too much and this list made me think about it quite a bit. A stack of books I can relate too and a feeling of peace in relation to that. Rays of sunlight is very much a contentment descriptor and it makes me happy thinking about it. I love how this exercise forces your brain to dig deeper into these concepts. It was hard for me, so is something that I need to work on in my writing. The smell of rain is awesome for this, again, I had not thought of contentment with it, but it makes so much sense.

  12. Leah Rego

    Failure: miscommunication, Loss of a job, bankruptcy, End of a marriage, home foreclosure

    Sensitive: grief at a funeral, a sick child, parent’s rights, gun control, school safety

    Trust: learning to ride a bike, getting married, petting an unfamiliar dog, bungee jumping, zip lining

    Friendship: helping someone move, listening when someone is upset, going to watch someone in an event you don’t care for,

    Chaos: dogs greeting their owners when they come home, the bar scene, children’s birthday parties,

  13. Monica Gallagher

    Warmth- a smile, a hug, a glance of acknowledgement by a stranger, rain on a tin roof, a fireplace in a rustic cabin

    Calm- a flat lake, the sound of silence, a flower bloomed, an empty yard, a sunrise over the mountains, sleep

    Compassion- a hospital visit, a back rub, chicken noodle soup, a helping hand, understanding opposing views, loving unconditionally

    Hope- gazing beyond the horizon, a lucky stone, a viable medical treatment, forgiveness, a good conversation, stars

    Patience- an elderly poet, an intricate puzzle, aging, my kindergarten teacher, nanny and pop pop, growing out your bangs

    1. Cassidy Kramer

      Hello Monica,
      Wow these are great! I especially love the calm one you did, and I was able to picture everything you listed under it.

  14. Cassidy Kramer

    Stress- homework, school, expectations, deadlines, time, problems, grades

    Trust- friendship, relationship, secure, secrets, reliable, close, positive

    Comfort- blanket, bed, warmth, sleep, naps, movies, Netflix, relax

    Strength- power, ability, attractive, intimidating, determination, hard work

    Fear- alone, cold, scary, shivering, wide-eyed, alert

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