Twenty Little Poetry Projects, by the late poet, Jim Simmerman

This is the exercise my students completed for class.  It’s fun.  Everyone should try it. 


1. Begin the poem with a metaphor.
2. Say something specific but utterly preposterous.
3. Use at least one image for each of the five sense, one after another.
4. Use one example of synesthesia (mixing the senses.)
5. Use the proper name of a person and the proper name of a place.
6. Contradict something you said earlier in the poem.
7. Change direction or digress from something you said.
8. Use a slang word you’ve never seen in a poem.
9. Use an example of false cause-and-effect logic.
10. Use a piece of “talk” you’ve actually heard (preferably in a dialect.)
11. Create a metaphor using the following construction: “The (adjective)(concrete noun) of (abstract noun)…”

12. Use an image in such a way as to reverse what you normally think about it.

13. Make the person or character in a poem do something he/she could not do in “real life.”

14. Refer to yourself by nickname and in the third person.
15. Write in the future tense, such that part of the poem seems to be a prediction.
16. Modify a noun with an unlikely adjective.

17. Make a declarative assertion that sounds convincing but makes no sense.
18. Use a phrase from a language other than English.
19. Make a nonhuman object say or do something human.

20. Close the poem with a vivid image that “echoes” an image from earlier in the poem.

Here is a link to the poem, “Dear,” which I had published from following this exercise (loosely) in Bellevue Literary Review.  While I’m at it, here is a link to Jim Simmerman‘s, “Moon Go Away, I Don’t Love You No More,” which follows this format exactly, and provides good examples of each the twenty projects, should you want to check it out.

About Sarah Cedeño

Sarah Cedeño received her BA and MA in Creative Writing from SUNY-Brockport, and her MFA in fiction from Goddard College. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, Hippocampus Magazine, The Bellevue Literary Review, Literary Mama, and Redactions. She lives in Brockport with her husband and two sons and teaches writing at SUNY-Brockport. View all posts by Sarah Cedeño

5 responses to “Twenty Little Poetry Projects, by the late poet, Jim Simmerman

  • I’m a poet and I knew it! « Squeaky Shoe Stories

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  • E-Poetry—Simmerman Style | rOTAKU 日本製アニメ

    […] Twenty Little Poetry Projects, by Jim Simmerman […]

  • deborahj

    Dear Sarah, Thanks so much for the “like” on my post… I had to take a break from the novel – it’s meandering off into virgin territory and I have no idea where I’m going with it…. I’m going to try the “TWENTY LITTLE POETRY PROJECTS” just to force my brain to do something out of it’s comfort zone… xo d

  • Not quite 20 – 29apr14 | versalimity

    […] Today’s NaPoWriMO prompt “is called the “Twenty Little Poetry Projects,” and was originally developed by Jim Simmerman. And here are the twenty little projects […]

  • Erich Hasychak

    The socialisation impact of the context is so highly effective
    that despite having differing beliefs about mathematics
    and its teaching, teachers in the same college are often noticed to undertake comparable classroom practices .
    September 5-sixteen, 2011 Grade VI pupils, Trainer

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