Thanks to Zack Parsons (passed down to me by Victor Infante) for this exercise.
So, we're going to inhabit a Tom Waits song for a bit. If you don't know Tom Waits, well... google is your friend. If you don't like Tom Waits, um... go find another exercise and come back tomorrow?
For the exercise, choose a few items from the following list:
1) An unshakeable love for a woman you knew once, but only by her first (or her stripper) name.
2) Give yourself a nickname that sounds like it came from a baseball player (or hockey player, or even boxer) from the early 20th century. Mugs Molloy, Zippy Doolittle, Hack Thompson, One Eyed Malone. You get the idea.
3) Find yourself waking up either standing up in front of a tenement building, on the pool table in a bar (preferably named Red's, Hoochie's Bar & Grill, The Velveteen Piano Lounge, or something similar), or talking to the Devil who is talking to you either a) through a megaphone b) about some bullets he'd like to sell you c) from the bottom of a whiskey glass or d) through the whisper of trees surrounding the barn you slept in last night (oh yeah, and there's a ratcheting sound somewhere in the background).
4) You're overseas somewhere. Probably in a sleazy bar in Singapore, on shore leave. Somebody's been cheating at dice. It might be you.
5) The only methods of transportation available to you are: a) an old Caddy filled with newspapers b) a train going anywhere but here c) joining the Merchant Marine or d) through that smudgy looking funhouse mirror, where everyone's face is reflected as the devil's.
6) The only possessions you have left are the love letters from the girl you only knew by her first (or stripper name), something you'd find in a junkyard but in your eyes it's a sign the world really means something, and/or a broken down instrument you might have bought or stolen from the world's smallest pawn shop.
7) No matter where you go, or what you do, there's a small, jazzy ensemble following you around, playing the hip theme song of your broken down life.
Now go write a poem. You don't have to use all of the items (Seth), but hey, it's your poem. Go after it.
For bonus points (spendable in our online store! which, doesn't actually exist.... kinda like the points...), feel free to check out the playlist below and listen to it loudly as you're writing.
You can also check out Zack Parsons' article Warning Signs That You May Be Trapped in a Tom Waits Song at somethingawful.com. Or read Circus by Tom Waits.