I tend not to like other people’s poetry prompts. They remind me of the saccharine voices of meditation coaches urging me to go to my happy place. To me, that always sounds like a euphemism for a body part or two. If I want to feel relaxed I put on the right music, or take a long run. If I want to write a poem, it has to be on a topic that I find downright fascinating. I also thrive on having an assignment, a deadline, a thing that needs doing today and not tomorrow.
If you’re the same way, maybe my poetic to-do list will be of use to you. Some of these I have tried and need to try again, some I’ve tried and are unprintable (see #3) and some I should be doing right now instead of blogging. (Why do you think they call them prompts? Because they should be done promptly, of course!) I hope you have fun with them.
1. Write a poem from The Land of the Missing Letter, where shade trees become shad trees and you find yourself with an extra moth to feed, which would have made you bitter but now makes you a biter. For extra credit, make the missing letter consistent. And not E.
2. Consult the online i-ching (all you need is an internet and three coins, wait, you don’t even need those!) and write a poem about the fortune you receive. I like this one because you can do it any day and come up with a different result, for even if you get a repeated answer, it will likely mean something different for you one day to the next.
3. Write a sestina in honor of George Carlin, using, as end lines, the seven words you can’t say on television. As you probably know, sestinas usually require 6 line-ending words, but some of George’s words are tricky enough to repeat too often, so give yourself some flexibility. Yes, Virginia, you can substitute a cocksucker for a motherfucker. On me.
4. Riff on an aspect of this wonderful website, taglines from movie posters. Tell a story using only those sentences. Make it tragic. Make it funny. Use only sentences that start with a particular word.
Use them for a hai-
ku that actually makes
some sense, I dare you.
5. Fall in love with a litany. I have spent many hours enamored of glossaries of random things: names of American rivers. Translations of the names of Native American tribes. A list of fears. Terms for pyrotechnics. Obscure words. Words are our only raw material, and the more we have of them, the better.
There, that's a week's worth. Through the Fourth of July. Happy scribbling!