poem index

Play Exquisite Corpse

Year

2004
Play Exquisite Corpse

Exquisite Corpse is a collaborative poetry game that traces its roots to the Parisian Surrealist Movement. Exquisite Corpse is played by several people, each of whom writes a word on a sheet of paper, folds the paper to conceal it, and passes it on to the next player for his or her contribution.

In order to write a poem, participants should agree on a sentence structure beforehand. For example, each sentence in the poem could be structured "Adjective, Noun, Verb, Adjective, Noun." Articles and verb tenses may be added later or adjusted after the poem has been written. The game was also adapted to drawing, where one participant would draw thehead of a figure, the next the torso, etc. The name "Exquisite Corpse" comes from a line of poetry created using the technique: "The exquisite corpse will drink the young wine."

The only hard and fast rule of Exquisite Corpse is that each participant is unaware of what the others have written, thus producing a surprising—sometimes absurd—yet often beautiful poem. Exquisite Corpse is a great way to collaborate with other poets, and to free oneself from imaginative constraints or habits. Remember, many of the most effective phrases or metaphors are those that are most surprising. So get a couple of friends and try writing an exquisite corpse.

As an example, the following is an Exquisite Corpse composed by the intrepid Academy staff using the sentence construction Adjective, Noun, Verb, Adjective, Noun.

Slung trousers melt in a roseate box.
A broken calendar oscillates like sunny tin.
The craven linden growls swimmingly. Blowfish.
A glittering roof slaps at crazy ephemera.