it's April and that makes it National Poetry Month. Many folks are committing to 30 poems in 30 days. Some folks are even writing for charity, very admirable. In the back of my head are these ideas of making a 30 poems in 30 days challenge into a true W4tB Weirdo experience.
So...after much consultation and a little help from the grand high empress of poetry prompts (Donna Vorreyer). For more prompts you should check her blog. We came up with the concept of 30 prompts in 30 days.
Number 1--First Words –
Other writers can often be our best inspiration. This exercise will require a short poem of 10-20 lines or a quote of 10-20 words. Take each word of the poem or quote and use it as the first word of each line. You must keep the words in irder and you can't skip any.
This exercise forces connections and gives an inherent cohesion to the draft, and it can be completed in just a few minutes. And, since all writers have a bank of poems and quotes that they love, this little exercise can be perfect for those times when a long session of writing isn’t possible. You could even do a series of these based on quotes or poems from the
same author. The possibilities are endless. So give it a try – and let me know how it goes!
Number 2---Channel Surfing:
Brought to You in Living Color
Let’s be honest here. I confess that I watch way more television than I care to admit. Even though I multi-task through most shows (except for favorites like Friday Night Lights or How I Met Your Mother), I have also learned to use television as a trigger for short bursts of writing.
Now, I know that many of you purists out there don’t watch television – some of you don’t even own one! But most television shows work hard to be visually appealing, and writers can always exercise their observation skills. The next time you decide to be lazy (like me!) or decide to brush up on your use of visual inspiration, grab the remote and get ready!
This exercise will work with any program, but probably will work better if you choose one where you are not particularly invested in the outcome or plot. Choose three colors and write them down. Then set a timer for three minutes and record anything you see on the screen falling into one of those color categories.
I cannot imagine a day without music. And in this age of digital music, I can listen just about anytime, anywhere. But now that my music is on my iPod instead of CDs or vinyl, I find that I often don’t know the titles of the songs I am listening to, and I am often surprised by their evocative qualities when I take the time to read them.
This exercise will use your mp3 player’s innate ability to be random. So get out your iPod, your Zen, or open up the music files on your computer media player, and let’s get started. (This prompt was originally posted at the old Read Write Poem site - if you tried it there, give it another shot!)
Step One: Put your music on shuffle.
Step Two: Shuffle your songs forward five times, writing down each title that comes up. (If you have lots of classical music, you may want to shuffle within a playlist that contains more standards/popular music titles). If you don’t listen to any popular music, you can visit Billboard online and write down five titles from one of their Hot lists.
Step Three: Incorporate the titles as complete phrases into a poem draft. You may separate the words with punctuation or line breaks, but the phrases need to remain intact. Here is my first attempt using the titles above:
Looking for an easy way to throw yourself into new thought patterns and create a draft that surprises you? Try this Up and Down technique and see what happens.
1-Choose any phrase or sentence that happens to be in your head – the title of a song, a television show, or even a common saying and write it vertically down the page. Then turn the process around and write the same phrase from the bottom up.
Then use these pairs of letters in one of several ways:
2-Write two-word lines using the pairs as starting letters for each word.
3-Start the line with a word using the first letter and end the line with a word using the second letter.
As you can see, each approach gave the same idea a slightly different twist. Once you have a draft completed, go ahead and break the pattern for revision. Draft isn’t cohesive and not salvageable as is? Pull some of your best language and free write from there. The possibilities are endless!
Today’s exercise leans on some of our most prized possessions to help us draft. Take a look at your bookshelf (or the stack next to your bed…or next to your couch…you get the idea). Write down six to ten titles.
Make your choices carefully – titles that are evocative but not too specific work best. For instance, right now, I am looking at Susan Messer’s Grand River and Joy – that would be a good choice. I am also looking at New and Selected Poems by Stephen Dunn. Wonderful book, but not a good title choice for our exercise.
Try to incorporate the titles into a poem draft. If you need to change the form or tense of a word, feel free. As with the iPod exercise we did in January, you can challenge yourself to keep the phrases intact, or you can use the words individually, making the titles more of a word bank.
Option One: Everything Old is New Again
use traditional love poem images of the moon and the sun etc, but use them in your own rhythm and syntax. For this exercise, write a love poem that uses traditional images (flowers, candy, hearts, sunsets) in completely, unique and different ways.
Option Two: The Anti-Love Poem
My two favorite lines from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 (“My Mistress’ Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun”), probably the most famous anti-love poem ever written.Write your own anti-love poem – show the faults and foibles of the one you love while showing that you care.
Option Three: Start far, far away. Then come close with details
So write a love poem that starts somewhere else and ends up close to home. And whichever love poem you try, take a moment to be thankful for those you love.
The first Channel Surfing post asked you to look at color. This one is a little different. Most television programs (unless you watch exclusively nature channels) are focused on human/humanoid characters, so sometimes we are not as observant of the settings or backgrounds as we could be.
Choose a program and watch for at least five minutes. (Or go nuts. Watch the whole thing. ) Try to take your focus away from the people, and therefore away from their clothing, accessories, etc. that dominate a scene. Look into the background and write down what you see there, as many details as you can..
Choose the items that stick int your brain and incorporate them into today's poem
Repeat Yourself: Using Anaphora
Sometimes it’s a good thing to repeat yourself. Just look at all of these famous examples of anaphora. Hey, if it’s good enough for Shakespeare, Whitman, Dickens, and Blake, it’s good enough for you.
Anaphora is a device where a word or series of words is repeated at the beginnings of lines or phrases to create emphasis. (One of my favorite poems with anaphora is Miracles by Walt Whitman.)
If you clicked the first link above, you noticed that anaphora is not only used at the beginnings of lines of poetry, but also in prose. So your job today is to use a repeated phrase in a new poem draft
Use one of these photographs to inspire your writing today and take you to a place far away from the everyday.
Today’s prompt is a little crazy, so bear with me. I tend to write short poems, which you know if you have been here before reading my drafts. These poems often end up between twelve and fourteen lines, which some may call “modern” sonnets. Following the prompt below, write your own 14-line modern sonnet with these rule
1. Maintain the traditional ten-syllable line requirement of an Elizabethan sonnet.
2. Include the directed words/images/ideas in each listed line.
Line 1 – A line from a familiar prayer or song
Line 2- the name of a fruit or vegetable
Line 3 – At least one three-syllable word
Line 4 – a line of dialogue
Line 5 - an auditory image
Line 6 – specific name of a place
Line 7 – pop culture reference
Line 8 – a fear or something forgotten
Line 9 – a favorite childhood toy
Line 10 – an imperative
Line 11 – a household object
Line 12 – an alliterative phrase
Lines 13 and 14 – rhyming couplet
For today, try to write about an injury, one of your own or one of someone close to you. Go as deep into this as you are comfortable – a serious injury may be difficult to tackle, but it may also yield powerful writing; a minor (even humorous) injury could be successful in a completely different way.
Choose a word – any word. Or have someone choose one for you.
Go to Online Etymology Dictionary at http://www.etymonline.com. Place your word in the search box, and you will get a list of related words.
Use all or some of the words that appear underneath your initial word choice to create a poem draft.
Write a poem based on this phrase "the last time Jonathan said that, somebody died."
Write a poem in letter form to a fictional character from a concerned party. This could be a fan letter, a letter to a friend, a dunning letter, author's choice
We are going to write, for lack of a better term, backward sonnets.
Here’s how it works: all of the rules of a sonnet stay the same except for one: the rhyming words come at the beginnings of the lines instead of at the ends.
It maintains the structure and syllabic form of a sonnet, but loses the end-rhyme, sing-songy-ness that all but the best sonnets seem to have at some point. It also messes with your head a little bit to have to rhyme first words.
There are certain words in the English language that sound just plain ugly to me. Fork is one. Chunky. Oyster. I am sure that you have your own pet peeves when it comes to the way words sound. We also hold negative associations with words that have hurt us or that we link with unpleasant experiences. Wound. Pig. Stupid.
Today, I will ask you to take one of your “ugly” words and transform it into something beautiful. There are several ways to approach this.
Write an ode to a word/thing you find abhorrent. Find its beauty somewhere and praise it. If Pablo Neruda can make socks sounds wonderful, you can do that for a fork. Or whatever your word is.
Make a long list of words you do not like. Then use all/some of them in a poem about someone or something or some place that you love.
Make a list of words that sound beautiful to you. Undulate. Cocoon. Superfluous. Fluid. Using this list of lovely words, write about something ugly or unpleasant. Make the vile beautiful.
Quiet as a mouse. Proud as a lion. Sour as a lemon. Sweet as sugar. Blah, blah, blah. We’ve heard it all before. Cliches can be the bane of a writer’s existence. So today, we are going to make them work for us.
Make a list of clichés – try to have an even number. Or, go ahead and use the list provided below.
proud as a peacock
sour as a lemon
sweet as sugar
bright as the sun
quiet as a mouse
black as ink
hite as snow
solid as a rock
Now, mix the beginnings and the endings of the clichés to create new similes. Go through the list more than once to get some that you like.
These new images might be surprising (sour as snow), pleasant-sounding (sweet as a peacock), or even strange (proud as ink.) Choose one or several of these new images and use them as a basis for a new poem, maybe even a haiku or a small stone of observation.
Today, we will write a poem that goes against our natures and create an evil twin.
Answer the following questions as honestly as possible:
1. Are you a morning person/night person?
2. Do you prefer the mountains or the ocean?
3. Coffee or tea?
4. Planned-out or spontaneous?
5. Nostalgia or trendiness?
6. Prefer cold or hot?
7. Fruit or Vegetables?
8. Fast car or practical car?
9. Star Wars or Star Trek?
You get the idea. You can add of as many other opposite types of questions as you like. But now that you’ve answered honestly, try to write a poem about yourself (or a speaker who is like you) that uses the OPPOSITE of all the things you would have honestly chosen. For instance, I would have to try and write about how much I am defined by early mornings in the mountains with a cup of coffee (which would not be bad, but not my first choices…)
Rain can be tricky for poets. It certainly creates a mood, but it also creates a temptation for some over-used cliches – the sky is crying, tears raining down someone’s face…you get the idea. Writing about rain can be playful (Langston Hughes’s “Let the rain kiss you”), meditative (“Spring rain/leaking through the roof/dripping from the wasps’ nest” – Basho), funny (Richard Brautigan’s “It’s Raining in Love”), or melancholy (“Strange how hard it rains now/Rows and rows of big dark clouds/When I’m holding on underneath this shroud/Rain” – Patti Griffin).
The Beatles said, “Rain/I don’t mind.” Do you? Take some time to consider the rain in a new way today and write about it.
As someone who pays a LOT of attention to how words sound, I have always had a soft spot for homophones. So today, we will explore several ways to play with these sound-alike words.
1. Go to www.homophone.com. On the left sidebar, you can search homophones by starting letter. I was amazed how many were listed, including many I would not have thought of on my own. (Just in the “A” section, I found able/Abel, aerie/airy, ante/aunty, and away/aweigh.) Spend some time with these lists and write down some pairs that seem interesting or appealing to you.
2. Try to use at least one set from your list in a poem. Or use more than one set. This is the easy version.
3. For more of a challenge, since homophones naturally rhyme, try to use them in a rhyming form (a sonnet, a villanelle, etc.).
4. If you are feeling a little crazy, try choosing six of the homophones as your end words for a sestina. I recently wrote a sestina where one of my end words was whores. (Don’t ask.) In the stanzas that followed, I used homophones to make it work – hoarse, horse, hoar – all the way through the poem. As a matter of fact, homophones can be your best friend in writing a sestina. If you have an end word that can keep the same sound but completely change its meaning, the sestina is much easier to complete.
Sew, as you start to right yore poems, halve fun with homophones – don’t bee sow Sirius. (See what I did there? Huh?) And if you don’t, please don’t comment on my spelling errors…they ARE purposeful. :)
Balloons. Bubbles. Planets. Cheerios. Rings. Merry-go-rounds. Hula Hoops. Superballs. Bowls. Oranges. M & Ms. Skittles. Lifesavers. Life preservers. Frisbees. Clocks. Drums. Cupcakes. Donuts. Wheels. Tires. Bracelets.
Round things rule. And circles are also symbols of connection, of cycles, of continuing. So today we will use this simple shape to inspire a poem in one of four ways.
1. Make a list of round things (or use the one above.) Choose two or three of the items that come from different “categories” – for instance, I would consider balloons, bubbles, hula hoops and Frisbees all part of a “childhood” category. Write a poem that features these images.
2. Write a poem about a cycle: the water cycle, circadian rhythms, crop rotation, animal migration, lunar phases…you get the idea.
3. Write a poem that circles back on itself, either in language or in ideas. For instance, start and end a poem with the same line. Or start with an idea and follow it through free association until you can get back to the original thought, perhaps slightly altered. (Here is a sample of one type of circle poem, written by a teenager.)
4. Get inspired by Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game.”
Madras. Checkered. Variegated. Houndstooth. However you name it, plaid has been a fashion staple for years.
Today’s prompt will use the crossed paths of plaid to inspire a poem. Follow the directions to weave a new draft!
1.Write four lines of text. Here is an example:
A slice of citrus light illuminates a single spot in the still pond,
one lotus, pink, blooming like a first kiss.
My eyes adjust to the morning dim, all goodness and promise,
nothing to cloud my mind, new-birthed from sleep.
2. Pick two or three vertical lines downward through the poem and write those “lines” out horizontally.
slice lotus eyes nothing
light blooming morning mind
spot kiss goodness sleep
3. Weave the new abstract lines into lines that will be placed in between the first four – then put them in place.
A slice of citrus light illuminates a single spot in the still pond,
each petal a slice of silk. The lotus, alone, eyes nothing – just
one lotus, pink, and blooming like a first kiss.
My eyes adjust to the morning dim, all goodness and promise,Round red
the light a blooming lotus. This morning, I don’t mind the light,
nothing to cloud my mind, new-birthed from sleep, drawn
to this spot, this invisible kiss, this goodness before I sleep.
4. If you want to get really crazy…Go through and choose two or three more vertical lines. And repeat.
If you are not crazy, then just play with the draft you got from the first time around!
: Life, the Universe, and Everything
42 is an interesting number. It was the number of hours Juliet slept after drinking her potion. Alice in Wonderland has 42 original illustrations and rule number 42 requires that all mile-high people must leave court immediately. An episode of Doctor Who entitled “42″ is shot in real time and lasts 42 minutes. And, most importantly, Douglas Adams chose the unassuming number as the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything in his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. So let’s try to write some poems based on this little number.
1. Choose one, simple, unassuming word. Fork. Grass. Dog. Chair. Whatever you like. Then write a poem where this one simple word becomes the answer to a difficult problem or question.
2. If you are age 42 or older (I’ll never tell), write a poem about something memorable that happened during that year in your life.
3. Be a modern-day Juliet. Without all the dying. Imagine that you sleep for 42 hours straight. When you wake up, what will you have missed? What part of your life will have passed you by while you slumbered? Use your imagination.
4. Doctor Who can time travel in the Tardis, his spaceship that takes the form of a police box. Write a list poem full of 42 things that you would do if you could time travel.
POV....write a poem from the point of view on a inanimate object. A doughnut, couch, coffee table, bird house, Christmas tree. The object becomes the speaker, taking on human qualities, remember not to be cliche. Doughnuts are not happy because they are tasty. Chairs do not all have the same personality.
Being someone whose idea of a good, stiff drink is a cold Diet Coke, I am often amused by the pervasiveness of alcohol in our social culture, and I am espeically amused by the names of cocktails. For today’s poem, use a list of drink names (this is just one of many you can find online) and copy down 5 or 6 phrases. Here are 6 of my favorites from the linked site:
Milk of Amnesia
Try to write a poem using at least three of the phrases but NOT as the names of drinks.
If you want a bit more of a challenge, write the poem ABOUT drinking, but still using the phrases in another context.
Back to basics for this week’s prompt. Children learn their ABCs at earlier and earlier ages, but the alphabet is still the center of what we do as writers years later. There are several ways to write an abcedarian poem that you can read about at the link. Today I will give you three options.
Write a long poem where each stanza begins with a different letter of the alphabet. For a super-duper challenge, use as many words as you can with that starting letter in the stanza without getting too Dr. Seuss-y!
Write a shorter poem where each line starts with a new letter of the alphabet.
Pair up alphabet letters (AB, CD, EF, etc.). Use these pairs to start lines. For example, the AB line would have to start with an A word then a B word.
Have some fun going back to basics – and show that alphabet who’s boss!
Choose a title/subject
Write a poem where the first letter of each line spells out the title/subject
From the periodic table, choose a line of at least 6 elements in a row in any direction: horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. Write those letters/sets of letters vertically down the side of your paper. Use those letters as inspiration for the first word/words of your lines.
Option One: Abduction
Television shows like South Park and rock bands like Blink-182 and The Killers have all taken on the subject of abduction with great success. Imagine being abducted – it doesn’t have to be by aliens. You could be abducted by spiders, or cardinals, or friends from high school. How do you react? What happens? How are you changed when you return?
Option Two: Other Worlds
When we think of aliens, we often think of other planets, other worlds that have evolved far away from ours and usually with advances in technology that we do not yet have. For this poem, imagine living in a world that is either utterly advanced in technology or one that has no technology at all. How does either of these scenarios impact relationships? Education? Culture? Start with an imaginative spark and see where it takes you.
Three little words...we'll not so much
Pick a Place, a single word, ans a phrase, or have someone do it for you. Write a piece incorporating those three elements. If you are feeling ambitious write it in form.