Creative challenge: turning fridge magnets into poetry

Channel your inner poet using no more than 30 random words

In each of the book bags we distributed to North Edinburgh and Musselburgh residents in June and July, we enclosed a poetry challenge. What could you create using a random selection of words? 


Several piles of fridge magnet words, divided up and ready for distribution

Earlier this summer, Edinburgh International Book Festival packed and distributed hundreds of book and activity bags to local people in North Edinburgh and Musselburgh as part of our Citizen project. The Coronavirus crisis had confined everyone to their homes, and our face-to-face writing workshops had to come to a temporary stop. We hoped that the bags, which included prompts like our fridge magnet poetry challenge, might encourage people to be creative at home.

Word magnets are often used to help people get started with creative writing projects. Individual words, sometimes even fragments of words, can be paired together, or put in any order to create a poem, a list, a joke, a declaration or a description. The words are building blocks that are easy to rearrange. There’s no crossing out and there’s no intimidating blank page to start with.

Normally, in a fresh set of fridge magnet words, there are around 300 tiles to choose from. So what happens when that pack is divided up, leaving only 30 words per person? This was part of the challenge: we wondered whether fewer words to choose from would result in more playful, experimental and creative results.

Karen Austin, who attended the Brunton Citizen Writers group run by Eleanor Thom, has very kindly shared her fridge magnet poem with us. Though she’d never done anything like it before, Karen said she found the process interesting. We love the poem and think it’s a great example of imaginative creativity.

Poem by Karen Austin reading: Her absence is dark  It is engulfing  My head is tender with want  It is a mad world  My choice to enfold not free

Perhaps reading Karen’s poem will inspire you to try something similar at home. You don’t need special poetry fridge magnets: take any leaflet, newspaper or magazine article, cut out 30 random words and rearrange them. You’ll be surprised at the way the meanings change, as long as you fire up your imagination.

Send your creations to – we’d love to see what you come up with.


Citizen is our long-term creative programme working in partnership with organisations across Edinburgh and Musselburgh, offering local people a platform to explore identity, connection, place and everything it means to live in our world right now.

Citizen is part of Edinburgh International Book Festival On The Road. It is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and through the PLACE Programme (funded by the Scottish Government, City of Edinburgh Council, and the Edinburgh Festivals, and supported and administered by Creative Scotland).


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