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GET Poetic ! The Newspaper
article [ Creative ]
Using the Newspaper to Help Create Poetry

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by [CBaker ]

2003-12-30  |     | 

GET Poetic ! Using the Newspaper to Help Create Poetry
by Charles Baker

Imagine this--you're at home, in your pyjamas, feet up on the coffee table, as you leisurely page your way through the Sunday paper. All the while, you're actually working on your poetry!
The newspaper can be a treasure trove of ideas for your poetry. Here's why, and how:


Headlines cram an enormous amount of information into a small space. They also eliminate unnecessary "deadwood", like "a", "an", "the", "am", "is", "are", "was", "were", "that", and "which".

Sounds a lot like poetry, doesn't it?

Here are a few exercises you can try:

1. Take a sampling of headlines BEFORE you read any of the articles. Make a list. For the October 17th, 2003 edition of the Vancouver Sun, one headline I wrote down, "Homelessness: We are not unique", led to the creation of a powerful poem called "Homeless":


Under a broken sky,
the day dark and gloomy with light,
she casts a skinny shadow,
drives life into a corner,
shelters herself in a temporary
booth of boards--

It is the end of the beginning.

She feels the darkness
rising, the melancholy
fate of the place exploding
in a cave of echoes.
Her heart holds
remnants of hiding places,
secret rooms and hidden tunnels,
but few accounts of what really happened.

No one wants to know.

So she keeps quiet and has nightmares,
daymares, life-and-death struggles,
a slave of circumstance,
vanity, stubbornness, cruelty, failings.
she flees with whatever she can take
and escapes the buildings
that flow around her.

Innocence begins to crack.

Driven by anger and hatred,
and the revenge she so desperately seeks,
she walks out of her life.
and when she comes to die,
she discovers that she has not lived--
It is the beginning of the end.

What were some of the other issues mentioned in the same edition of that paper? Drug raids, a deadly bomb attack, slave children, a nuclear bomb test, a ferry crash, a downpour that broke rain records, and marijuana laws. Can you find something to write about here? I think so.

2. Manipulate the headline. Do something to it. Find synonyms, change words, change word order . . .the possibilities are endless. To show you how weird it can get, take a look at a poem I made entirely from a headline I manipulated a bit. It's called


Overfishing of hundreds of thousands of BC-bound sockeye (by Alaskan fishers)
Overfishing of hundreds of thousands of (BC-bound) sockeye
Overfishing of hundreds (of thousands) of sockeye
Overfishing (of hundreds) of sockeye
Overfishing (of sockeye)

Using parentheses to "net out" parts of the headline meant that the form added to the meaning as well. If you center the poem above, you get a great "down the drain" effect that shows the results of overfishing. With every line, a new part disappears (but the headline that remains still makes sense. At the end, O is what we're left with--no more poem, no more fish.

These are just a few ways to use headlines to get started with poetry. I know they've added topical poems to my collections, and there is always fresh material to work from every single day you pick up your newspaper. GET POETIC!

Charles Baker is a husband, a father, a teacher and a writer from Coquitlam, BC, CANADA. His poetry and prose have appeared in a variety of publications, both in print and online. He also writes a weekly column for Universal Personality, a Christian publication, at

copyright December 2003 C Baker

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