Internal Comparison – The Goal

The new year is coming, and my plans for 2020 are shouting loudly in my ear. It’s like riding on a bus crammed with middle-schoolers – everyone has something they want me hear.

One goal for next year is making my morning poetry time more active. Right now, I read a poem or two and then sit in front of the blank page and wait as if I’m bird-watching. This has worked, in the sense that I’m writing, but not in the sense that I’m growing as a writer. I want to push harder toward writing speculative poetry & expanding my voice.

Right now I’m reading a thick collection of W.S. Merwin poems, and let me just say…dang.
Merwin’s poetry is a great way to feel like a hack! So. It’s time to suck it up and fail forward. That means poetry exercises.

One of the most challenging ones I know is the Internal Comparison. The goal is to take a sentence you find somewhere (or make up), and write a companion to it. Something that does NOT complete the story or advance the narrative, but which deepens and explores.

It’s hard. I kind of hate it. And that means I need it.

The sentences I used today are lines from poetry chosen randomly. Two from Merwin, and then two from Edna St. Vincent Millay (because she’s public domain). I’m sharing my terrible examples because that’s how we all learn, and it keeps me accountable. Going into the new year, I want this to be a regular feature on the blog, not something I do as if I’m visiting the dentist (meaning only in emergencies).

Just to clarify: I’m not writing a poem here. The goal is to write a sentence that reflects or echoes or deepens or crystallizes the original sentiment or meaning or emotion.

  1. With open arms the water runs in to the wheel

    My alarm wakes me with a song.
    I catch the seven o’clock bus.

  2. A ghost has risen out of the earth

    the boy has your eyes
    I can’t shake the memory of your smile

  3. She had a horror he would die at night

    I learned to whistle when I was seven
    Check the stove twice before leaving

  4. A wall a man may see across, but not attempt to scale

    I like to visit the shoe shop and try on fancy high heels
    He bought a lottery ticket every paycheck, and sometimes won ten dollars.


Okay. See, I told you I’m terrible at these! But, a few at least connect and feel alive in their own way. I like the first one and the fourth one best. The second one is awful. The third is disconnected, I don’t think I reflected the sense of the original at all.

The goal is to do these every week. The plan is to share them here to show you how it’s going and maybe inspire you to work on whatever you are avoiding because you suck at it. We can grow together! Or groan together. Both. Both is good.

I appreciate having this space to hold me accountable and to commune with others who are working toward improving their craft. Thank you for reading!

2 thoughts on “Internal Comparison – The Goal

Leave a Reply