by Brian Rock
I love writing poetry for children. I love the way an unexpected rhyme can take a linear story and turn it on its ear. And the best way I’ve found to tap into my poetic muse is with a strategy called clustering, as developed by Dr. Gabriele Lusser Rico.
To cluster, you write a single word in the center of a blank page and circle it. Then as fast as possible you draw lines outward from that word and write as many related or rhyming words as you can think of, circling each one. After a minute or two of brainstorming, stop and assess your page. See if you can make connections between the numerous circled words in seemingly random array on your page.
For instance, my poem “Fishful Thinking” began with the single word fish. From that word I “clustered” the related words ocean, shark, fishing pole, and swim. I also clustered the rhyming words dish, wish, swish, fishes, delicious. Looking at my clusters, the finished poem practically leapt off the page!
Dr. Rico explains the relationship between the right and left hemispheres of the brain as the key to clustering. Her book, WRITING THE NATURAL WAY explains the process in greater detail and I recommend it heartily for anyone seeking to channel their poetic muse.