In the Words of Wilford Woodruff

I took a writing class a few years ago in which I was given an interesting assignment. In it we were to take a published journal from some historical figure and write poems using the exact words in their journal. The proceedure was merely choosing passages and erasing words while rearranging the remaining words into stanzas. It was called an “erasure” poem. I chose Wilford Woodruff since Waiting for World’s End was on my reading list anyway. I had fun “writing” these poems among others.

At a Large Rock on the Shore of the Salt Lake

We here made a halt,
(found the most beautiful white
salt that I ever saw lying in bunches
on the shore where the water dried away)
and all went into the
salt water

Which was quite warm
and was impregnated with as much salt as
possibly be dissolved in water.

It was so strong that
if a particle got into the eyes, nose, or mouth
it would strangle & put one in pain.
No person
possibly sink in it.
A person would float & roll

On the top of the water like
a dry log & while standing
to our waist in water we
could not get our knees to the bottom
but would rise to the top–a cork

& we made up our minds at once
that our great
Salt Lake ought to be added
as the eighth wonder of the world.


School of the Prophets

I attended and heard
many interesting remarks
made upon the subjects of Astrology

and it was decided that Astrology
was in opposition
to the work of God.

Hence saints should not be engaged in it.
I went down to the field
& spent the night.


I am a children's librarian. I have 2 kids. I have a professor for a husband. I obsess about writing and about making things.

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5 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    Brooke, what a fun assignment! I want to do an erasure poem sometime.

    I love the way your “School of the Prophets” ends.

  2. Mike says:

    I like the School of the Prophets poem, too.

    How are the words drawn from the journal? Is each line of the poem a different phrase from the journal?

  3. Brooke says:

    You can see that these ones are more prose-like in form–except that I’ve broken them up into line breaks. I really didn’t rearrange much of his wording. In fact, the School of the Prophets poem is word for word from his journal entry dated Feb. 3rd, 1868. For the Salt Lake poem, I took a single passage and rearranged a lot, took out words, but it essentially says the same thing. Some of the other poems I compiled out of phrases or sentences from multiple entries.

  4. amelia says:

    i love this idea too. i think i’ll try it with some thoreau. or emerson. or darwin. it sounds fun.

  1. January 31, 2016

    […]  I clicked on History in the top menu, navigated to the beginning of the database, and found this delightful post, a couple of poems created by Brooke in 2006 based on the diaries of Wilford Woodruff. Under the […]