BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — In the presence of one of the great living poets, Melody Cobine was undaunted as she stood to read her just-penned poem written in what U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera called the 20-second explosion form.

“One day, she grew and she didn’t know what to do … her head was in the clouds … the clouds taste like salt,” the improvised poem began. Then, the end. “She got to share drinks with the stars. But the moon was an alcoholic.”

Herrera, the nation’s 21st poet laureate and the first Latino, asked Cobine about the unique and flurried writing experience.

“It was like my mind puked on the paper,” said Cobine, one of 40 Bloomington high school students who joined Herrera for a poetry-writing session Friday afternoon on stage at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.

Others stood to read their explosion poems. Herrera focused on the last lines, encouraging the young poets to “find interesting words with edges” and at the end of a poem, “make it wild, go way out there at the end.”

“… does he care or does he drink it up like sunlight?”

“… the propaganda wall of my tie-dyed mind was awake again.”

“… apples, saffron, flowerpots, mandarin oranges.”

“Very nice words, interesting words,” he noted. “Word curiosity has a major place in poetry. I get words from old Popular Science magazines and from books about ancient things, like Chinese lattices.”

He encouraged the students to write as fast as they could, even to make up words, to delve into their creative wells. Indiana University poetry students had been visiting the high school students’ classrooms for weeks in advance, getting them familiar with and comfortable composing poems of all sorts.

“Write as fast as you can, until your fingers hurt,” Herrera advised. “Then, keep on going. One more line. One more phrase. It could even be a question. Keep on, you can’t stop. Write until your hands fall off, ’til the time runs out.”

Cobine said she has an affinity for the written word, “and I think poetry is a great way to express feelings. You just have to put it out there. Keep writing.”

And she did.

And the reporter writing the article observed.

Blue, light blue, glitter blue nail polish chipped off mostly

Black ink spills out of Bic pen

Tiny letters form

On paper bright yellow as the sun

Interesting words like the poet said

Two elastic hair bands black as ink encircle her wrist above the pen

Circulation cut off?

Pen pauses

One more minute

More words

More words

More words

“Fifteen seconds!” Herrera warns. Time was running out. “Try something radical at the end.”

Source: The (Bloomington) Herald-Times,

Information from: The Herald Times,

This is an Indiana Exchange story shared by The (Bloomington) Herald-Times.