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Picking Powerful Verbs
Writing poetry is an opportunity to experiment with words. You're looking for the perfect sound and precise meaning.

Here are some tips for revising your verb choice:

1. If the words you're using don't flow in your poem, use a thesaurus to help find just the right word.
2. Are you using active verbs instead of passive ones?
3. Are your verbs original and precise (meander, skip, stroll, instead of walk)
4. Do you repeat the same verbs unintentionally?
5. If you’re using many gerunds (verbs that end with "ing"), rephrase your line and see if it sounds better.

Here's a poem with solid, descriptive verb choice.


Not A Love Poem
It's summer, and I am perched on a washing machine in a basement laundry room, bathed in yellow light, hot air, and clean smell. It's after eleven now, and the smashed heels of my pebble-worn, red-canvas shoes drum the sides of the jostling machine. A sloshing sound as my clothes are cooked and shaken, spun and cycled, soaked in three stages. I'm waiting alone.
The door slams, a short, metallic clang above me. Someone's legs take the stairs by storm and my feet stop swinging as he steps in. He slow-smiles, brown eyes rimmed in what might be silver, and turns to his clothes, lying still in the dryer. I catch sight of a red shirt asleep under striped shorts, which he shovels into a bag before slipping away.

Seven stairs and a minute later he's back and I feel like asking him to stay. Wait a while, it's lonely here, just me and the whir of wash. I forgot detergent. Is this even doing any good? My dollar twenty-five swallowed by the machine that shudders, threatens liftoff. But he's already slipping paper into a bag, lines jagged on clean pages, poetry he forgot on the counter. I count to ten six times: A minute, maybe. Wait for the machine to sputter, to stop.

—Delia S, OH, Scholastic Art & Writing Gold Award

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