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Open 45: Negative Capability

This poetry prompt is based on "Today I Didn't," a poem by Terry Ehret from her booDog and bone clipartk Lost Body.  As you can quickly see, it's a structure in which you describe what-is by describing what-isn't. This example by a boy in juvenile detention is about a dozen years old, but I still remember the powerful voice.

I Didn’t

I didn’t wake up when I felt it was a good

time.  Today I didn’t wake up in my comfortable

bed.  Today I didn’t eat what I wanted to
eat.  I

didn’t go to McDonald’s and order
a large orange

juice and two hash browns. 
Today I didn’t smoke a

satisfying Marlboro Light.  I didn’t go to Stop-N-Go

and beg the clerk to
sell me a pack of cigarettes. 

Today I
didn’t watch TV.  I didn’t watch X-Files

or The Simpsons.  Today I didn’t
wear a nice shirt.  I

didn’t wear my
favorite Gap or Polo shirt.  Today I

relax on my hammock and swing back and

forth while getting dizzy.  I didn’t listen to the radio

and find the
similarity between the song and

experiences in my life.  Today I didn’t drive to the

mall.  I didn’t pick up my friends.  I didn’t even

hang out with my friends.

I didn’t curse out the staff.  I didn’t
bother to

get upset over their demands. 
I didn’t get upset

over their comments. 
Today I didn’t go to Special

Class because I didn’t do any of the above,

would cause me to go.  I didn’t sit
in an isolated

room for thirteen hours. 
I didn’t feel as if I were

about to die of boredom.  I didn’t throw a chair or

table due to
receiving a black mark.  I didn’t get

slammed against the walls, on the floor, not even

against tables, or in better
terms, get restrained.  I

didn’t get
handcuffed to the door of the Special

I didn’t get hog-tied and thrown into Time

Out.  I didn’t cry out of my fury.  I didn’t cause any

problems that would have
caused me to spend my

46th day in the Special Room.  Today I didn’t have a

bad day.


If you try this exercise, feel free to share your link with the rest of us.


Filed under: Writing Exercise

2 Responses - Comments are closed.

  1. christine says:

    Heartbreaking. This poem is a great lesson in showing not telling. I like the exercise too.

  2. Very powerful. I like the idea of “not-telling” what happens as a way to show what happens. Kinda one of those “this is not something we talk about” topics.

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