I REACH FOR SUSAN GOLDSMITH WOOLDRIDGE’S POEMCRAZY whenever I need a dose of creative encouragement. Wooldridge invites such playful abandon with words, it would be a stiff upper lip indeed that didn’t curve reading her!
In “The Answer Squash,” Wooldridge talks about labeling objects in her home with word tickets. A squash in its basket bears the label answers, and a worn scrub brush at the sink, diamonds. Like all innovative use of language, these labels make one rethink the objects to which they are attached—see them in a new light.
And “new names seem to change people,” too, Wooldridge says, offering us a chance to reconsider our identities using randomly chosen word tickets. In “Our Real Names,” Ronnie, a young man doing time in juvenile hall renames himself thus:
Let’s talk about death.
Yesterday my name was James.
Today, it’s tossing helium dream.
Tomorrow, my name will be
Gerald Flying off the Cliff,
Inside my name is
and a lotta hope.
Try it yourself! Make a batch of scrap-paper labels and affix them, willy-nilly, or with poetic precision, on items around your abode. Take a break for a cup of tea, then wander up to one the newly-christened items and find some writing inspiration in the quirky tension between the object and its moniker.
Alternatively (or additionally), add a word ticket to your mirror. How does what the word say alter how you see yourself? Start writing to find out!