Friday, January 28, 2011

Linguistically Limited

Recently, as a getting-to-know-you activity, and because the students are getting ready to write an identity essay, I asked my English 101 class to write a Six-Word Memoir. This isn't my brainchild. Ernest Hemingway's version is probably the most quoted. Though his wasn't memoir, I think the idea was that you could embody all the necesary elements of fiction or story in six words: "For Sale: baby shoes, never worn."

The online magazine, Smith, continues to provide a cyber nest for those who feel compelled to try to encapsulate their experiences. While the entries aren't pouring in as they initially did upon the launch of the project, they still trickle in HERE. And the newest entries seem to have morphed from trying to capture a lifetime to trying to capture artistically the moment or the day.

There have even been books published which compile the 6-word offerings of the everyday Joe as well as well-known writers. And you certainly can find the cinematic versions online via YouTube.

These are the versions I came up with:

"Vintage girl in
the modern world"

"Wore her heart
on her sleeve"

"She always noticed
the little things"

"She taught; they
taught her more"

"Yoga mind even
off the mat"

"For art she
purposely made messes"

"Collaged mind
collaged heart
collaged soul"

"Hummingbird heart
Eagle eye
Ostrich body"

"She whispered often
to the animals"

"Poet at heart
not on page"

Some have described the six-word memoir as like Postsecret, but with less angst. I see them as freeform Haiku. Or perhaps they fit the bill as A River of Stones material or perhaps the abbreviated version of Three Beautiful Things projects. Ultimately, they are impractical, yet I'm tempted to continue this as a daily project, perhaps an art journal project. I think it would be beautiful to look back on 365 of these little bits in which I tried to sum up what resists summing up.

...So, which six words would YOU choose?


  1. Good Idea, must do, waiting anxiously....:)

  2. So hard to choose - poetry is where you find it...Jae

  3. Great exercise for the students.
    happiness enfolds us,
    hatred divides us.
    I am not very good at micropoems, in fact I started the "river of stones" and have fallen completely behind. Today is the last day and I am 11 poems short, agh! I however have still been writing every day. Just not the stones.

  4. for me, reality is frequently inaccurate.