The Crowdsourced Poetry Project, an Update

By , September 5, 2013 4:42 pm

You’ve seen the Facebook page, you know how we here at The University Press of North Georgia have been begging people to send us single lines of poetry, what you can’t figure out is why.  You may have missed our original article on the subject, A Sestina by Everyone, and that’s okay because I am here again to explain it all.  It started as kind of a joke, I was in a meeting with the Director and the Managing Editor of our Press and we were talking about new avenues of publishing including electronic formats and social media.  One author was mentioned who writes her novels online in a social format, writing a chapter or so and getting feedback and suggestions from her fan base before moving ahead with the story.  It’s odd really.  I couldn’t decide if that was “selling out” or a good idea. Laughing, I said “Can you imagine if poetry was written that way?”

A week later I was still thinking about it: what if poetry were written that way?  There is a concept called crowdsourcing that maintains that a group of people, specifically not experts in a given field, can have more wisdom and creativity than any one person who is an expert in that area.  This idea has been used in recent years, aided by the popularity of the internet and social media forums, in all kinds of projects, most famously in writing software and in using gaming to solve larger scientific problems.  Yes, these projects call for creativity but they are not in and of themselves creative pursuits.  I wondered if a wholly creative pursuit, like poetry, could be accomplished using this method.  It could be fantastic or it could be the worst piece of poetry ever written (except of course for any piece of Vogon poetry, which we all know is the absolute worst in the universe).  I had to find out and to that end I set up an experiment: The Crowdsourced Poetry Project.

I chose a specific form of poetry, called a sestina, partly because it will be long enough to accommodate many different contributors, and partly because it is structured only enough to give contributors direction (each line must end in a specific word), without stifling creativity (there is no specified length or rhyme for each line).  So far we, you and me and everyone else who has contributed, have written the first stanza of six lines which means that we now have all six of our end words!  They are as follows:
questions, air, hear, ears, melody, free. This is the order they appear in in the first stanza, however these six words will be rearranged six more times through the course of our poem, each time changing and gaining new meaning. The first line of the second stanza should end with the word free, and as each new line is added I will give the next prompt.  In order to make this experiment work, even if in the end it is a travesty, is to get as many people participating as possible so please go to our Facebook page to see the poem and to submit your ideas for the next line, and share it with your friends to get them in the game as well.  See you there!


For a detailed description of a sestina and how it works go to

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