Exquisite Corpse

Adjective Magnet Words
Adjective Magnet Words (Photo credit: Evelyn Saenz)

Some games are flashy interactive affairs with super graphics and addictive content that makes you want to play for just..a…little…bit…longer, whilst others, hmmm, not so much. Exquisite corpse sadly falls into the latter category but, before you look away wondering why on earth I should mention it, let me explain my reasons. First off it was invented (or maybe ‘adapted’ would be closer to the mark) by the surrealists in order to ‘channel spontaneous artistic ideas’. The surrealists’ main man, Andre Breton, thought that games in general, and games especially like exquisite corpse, were invaluable for tapping into one’s innate artistic abilities (won’t it be fun telling everyone that you tapped into your innate artistic ability before dinner?). The technique got its name from the very first round of play, “Le cadavre / exquis / boira / le vin / nouveau” (The exquisite corpse will drink the young wine). Contrary to a lot of opinion the surrealists actually knew a great deal about art, and especially about the connection between psychology and art, and they had a Manifesto for goodness sake, so cut them some slack.

If you play exquisite corpse you sometimes feel a genuine sense of tapping into something significant, something monumental even. The clouds part and you feel as though you might just be looking into the mind of God. But then again sometimes you will come up with something supremely silly that starts you giggling and before you know it you’re rolling about at the idea of a quivering noodle stroking a voluptuous moose.

Trust me, you’ll know what I mean if you play it.

How to play:

  1. Get a dictionary. Yes, the one under the leg of the computer table is fine, you won’t be needing the internet for this one. Look up an adjective, a noun, a verb, another adjective and another noun. This is the slow method so, to get some momentum going for a faster game with your family/friends, pick out several words, write them onto small separate bits of paper (one word per piece), and place them into separate groups according to whether it’s an adjective, noun or verb.
  2. Choose your 2 adjectives, 2 nouns and your verb (without looking) and write them out as following:
  3. The Adjective, Noun, Verb, Adjective, Noun.  You may get something like; the delicate swan cuddles wary babies. You can adapt the verb to be past or present tense and you might need to add something after the verb like ‘the’. You can play about with the thing when you’re finished.
  4. Do the same again 4 times = poem.

Alright, you may not be looking at the next entry for the Oxford Poetry Anthology but it might be better than you thought, or maybe it will just start you giggling while you’re standing in line at Tesco.

P.s. do let me know what you come up with, whether it’s genius and is headed for the winner’s list or whether it makes me laugh in Tesco. In fact, especially if it’s the last type.

Have fun.

Anonym: André Breton, 1924
 André Breton, 1924 (Wikipedia)

Try a similar version online: http://harpojaeger.com/projects/exquisite-corpse/

Published by Jill London

Hi, I’m Jill, a writer and teacher living in the UK, usually behind a desk but sometimes on a sofa with a book or a film. I began writing at around age three, legibly by five, although I didn’t write any stories until I was older. Aged eleven, I began writing children’s fiction, mostly middle-grade fantasy and I’m still doing it to this day. I have had stories published online and in My Weekly magazine. The best bit about writing is when ideas pop into your head (from the writing fairy presumably?) and everything starts clipping together like a jigsaw puzzle. The worst bit? When you start to get the feeling there's a piece missing from the box...

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