Poetry/Creative Writing Ideas – Adverb Poems

This can be an active exercise where pairs work together to compile their poems. It is another idea that encourages exploring and discovering the accident of meaning.

Adverb Poems

The aim of this unit of work is to get you exploring other types of writing created by the ‘accident of meaning’. You will be relying on an element of chance in structuring your own writing.

Your poem will be called Commands With (Optional) Adverbs which is based on an idea by the inventive poet Adrian Mitchell. Here is an example:


Tackle that (drearily) running footballer

Spin out a (sleepily) woven thread

Hold on to your (sarcastically) fleeing bird

Strip this (beautifully) rotten chair leg

Eat the (mischievously) oozing sausage

Collapse that (sloppily) folding chair

Bandage his (caustically) running sore

Slide on the lake’s (hotly) frozen ice

Shout at the (splendidly) stupid dogs

Spice up the (outrageously) dull punch

Grip those (indignantly) turning wheels

Cultivate every (hurtfully) growing turnip

Spin on a (pointedly) unusual spot

Invigorate the (spasmodically) sleeping child

Flatten the (superficially) uneven soil

Writing the Poem

First stage: This is best done in pairs. Part of the fun of this exercise is the ‘accident’ and ‘surprise’ of creating lines that have unusual, often poetic meanings.

One person will be responsible for writing a set of commands, between 15 and 20. The second person will be responsible for matching these with a set of adverbs. You should keep these a secret from one another. A command is an instruction to do something. An adverb is a word that usually modifies a verb and sometimes an adjective or another adverb. Here are some examples of commands and adverbs:

Commands                                       Adverbs
Tackle that running footballer          Drearily
Spin out a woven thread                     Sleepily

The command should begin with a verb and then either have another verb or an adjective to describe its subject:

Verb                   Adjective                 Subject
Collapse   that    folding                         chair

Verb                    Verb                         Subject
Grip          those   turning                       wheels

Most adverbs end in ly and it will be easiest and most interesting for your completed commands to look for these.

Final stage: When each person has completed their individual task, cut out the commands and the adverbs. Turn these face down on to the table. Then, by alternating between each pile, turn over a command and then an adverb. Each time this is done, write out your new command containing its ‘optional’ adverb. There should be some unusual and lively ideas produced by this random process!

Extension: You can alter this process by putting your adverb at the beginning of each command so that it qualifies the opening verb. Or you can produce two adverbs for each command:

Mischievously eat the oozing sausage
Hurtfully eat the indignantly oozing sausage

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