Tuesday, August 21, 2007

On Scrabble and Poetry

I have been playing Scrabble ever since I was a little girl. When I was young I played with my Mom and grandmother. My grandmother always won, but she also cheated. We all knew it, but no one was ever brave enough to dispute her invented words or creative arithmetic. Whenever I visit with my Mom now, we play at least one or two games every night. For a while, the games were very one-sided. (I hate to lose and for several years, I rarely lost. I'm sure I was no fun to play with!) Now that my Mom has become a Jumble expert, I lose as often as I win.

Why write about Scrabble and poetry? Lately, I see a lot of connections between the two, particularly when the right words just don't come. At least once during every Scrabble game I find a word in my tile rack that I can't let go of. That one word is all I see no matter how I rearrange the letters. Usually this occurs when there is simply no place to position it on the board. It seems to take forever to find another to play when that one pesky word is burned in my brain. The same thing happens when I write poetry. Sometimes I cannot find just the right word to express the image I want to convey, yet once I've chosen a word--the wrong word--I can't get past it. Does this happen to you?

The other day I was reading the dictionary (yes, you heard me) when my husband asked what I was doing. "Searching for new words," I said. I have now started a list of words with interesting meanings and sounds. Perhaps I should take this new obsession even farther and emulate Max in Max's Words, cutting words from newspapers and magazines and sorting them into categories. After all, this will not only leave me with an expanded pool of words for poems, but also a collection of new words for Scrabble.


  1. I have a nerdy confession to make. Last night I made a special trip (25-minute walk, both ways) to Barnes and Noble to buy a nice, big, hardcover dictionary. And I love it. Best purchase in a long time.

  2. Have you played Scrabble online at Scrabulous? Check out http://www.scrabulous.com - it's a great Scrabble site :)

  3. Hi Heather,
    Nerdy purchase? Never! I buy a new dictionary every few years.
    I hope you got a good one.

  4. Thanks for this post...I have been compiling a list of books that will support my students with "word study" in first grade. I am off to reserve this at the library!

  5. Oh, no: I get the nerd award. I have a three-floor house, and so I have to make sure that I have a nice, hardcover dictionary on every floor for easy reference. It's a total indulgence, but I use them all the time.

    Tricia, For me, I get the same feeling in my head when I'm writing that I do when I'm doing crossword puzzles. It's something about the connections firing off, the way they happen.

    I have the same problem with Scrabble of getting fixated on particular words and not wanting to let them go. I also have a tendency to play words I like rather than going for the words that will get me the most points. I have a friend who's a competitive Scrabble player, and I can tell you that she has no such trouble. She can also anagram in her head, a skill of which I am inordinately jealous. I can anagram, but I need paper and a writing implement to do it.

    When I find new words I really like, I write them and their definitions on post-it notes and put them on my desk. Sometimes I write them into my journal. I'm definitely one of those people who needs repeated exposure in order to begin incorporating new words into my speech/writing.


    (Yes, yelling it in excitement)...