My first assignment for Creative Writing 1 -- write a poem that's 3 stanzas long, 5 lines per stanza, 8-12 syllables per line, each stanza featuring assonance and governed by a different vowel sound.
And it can't mean anything.
The idea -- start thinking about process, rather than message.
The first problem -- students confused assonance with rhyme, or mostly thought that they had to use rhyme. My fault for not making that clear. So I'm having them do it again.
Second problem -- how do you write a poem that doesn't mean anything? Of course, you can't. So all too many of them ignored that part of the assignment. But it's possible to try to write a poem that doesn't mean anything.
Then what do we do with a poem that doesn't mean anything? We make it mean something. That's what we do. Our minds are meaning-generating, connection-making machines.
Stanley Fish has an interesting essay on this, although that's not really his point.
Anyway, for my next class, I'm going to bring in a famous example of a poem that was deliberately written not to mean anything, and split up my class into groups, and have them come up with meanings for it.