Here is an imitation of Jennifer Knox’s “The Opposite of Crunchberries” that my friend and creative collaborator, Chip Corwin, and I wrote:
The Opposite of The Alphabet
The opposite of The Alphabet is
a stylish pullover.
The opposite of a stylish pullover is
The opposite of Brussels sprouts is
The opposite of fuzzy dice is
The Ivory Coast.
The opposite of The Ivory Coast is
a monster truck rally.
The opposite of a monster truck rally is
The opposite gel pens is
The opposite of a cinderblock is
a ventilation shaft.
The opposite of a ventilation shaft is
The opposite of a bloodbath is
a water landing.
The opposite of a water landing is
a retarded butterfly.
The opposite of a retarded butterfly is
The opposite of applesauce is
the General Lee.
The opposite of the General Lee is
an 18% tip.
The opposite of an 18% tip is
a perp walk.
The opposite of a perp walk is
a steamer trunk.
The opposite of a steamer trunk is
Jose Canseco’s jockstrap.
The opposite of Jose Canseco’s jockstrap is
a whale song.
The opposite of a whale song is
spurring a tumbleweed
away from unwanted octuplets
toward The Alphabet.
And here’s how we composed it:
First, we did a fair amount of prewriting. For some time, we simply–and playfully–brainstormed, trying to come up with interesting nouns. When we were stumped, we threw out topic areas (such as politics, abstractions, professions, etc) which might inspire some more specific thinking. In this way, we developed an initial list of approximately 80 nouns (and noun phrases). (That is, a list of nouns approximately 4x longer than the list of nouns actually selected for the poem–it’s good to have lots of choice!)
Then we went back over the list, free-associating with the nouns we had already dreamed up in order to come up with new nouns. We would ask ourselves, “What is the opposite of The Village People [a noun from our initial list]?” And one of us answered, “A filing cabinet.” “What is the opposite of a pillbox?” “A mallrat.” And thus our list doubled in size.
We then considered the structure of Knox’s poem, noting that it seemed to start off slowly, orienting readers to its wildness, and then how it really took off, only to then, after an extended final grouping of nouns, circle back to the original noun. We largely patterned our selections on this method of organization.
However, we also tried to gain energy by pairing up some interesting nouns. (Note: we did not feel beholden to the pairings we made while free associating.) We liked pairings that shocked us, or made us laugh, or felt deeply–if oddly–right.
I then typed up the poem. Voila!