Write a paean to the stalwart hero of your household: your pet. Sing high your praises and tell the tale of Kitty McFluffleface’s ascension of Mt. Couch. Let us hear how your intrepid doggo bravely answers the call to adventure whenever the leash jingles.
By the Emily Dickinson Museum. First, read this brief reminiscence of Emily Dickinson, written by her niece. And now, here is the prompt that the museum suggests:
Martha Dickinson Bianchi’s description of her aunt’s cozy room, scented with hyacinths and a crackling stove, warmly recalls the setting decades later. Describe a bedroom from your past in a series of descriptive paragraphs or a poem. It could be your childhood room, your grandmother’s room, a college dormitory or another significant space from your life.
Write a poem in the form of a review. But not a review of a book or a movie of a restaurant. Instead, I challenge you to write a poetic review of something that isn’t normally reviewed. For example, your mother-in-law, the moon, or the year 2020 (I think many of us have some thoughts on that one!)
by the empty beer bottle and the stream rushing under
the road – another cyclist goes by
the renovated barn house. Last month I wanted
to paint goldfish – I completely dismissed
the possibility of playing the trumpet again
mostly cloudy – in Lausanne a wall is sprayed
with some sort of tripes in a bottle, and plants,
and it begs questions that will be ignored
as in my balloon, I am gone for now, with Don
he would have loved the yellow fluffy dress
that shows off my strong brown legs. And the fields
stretch below the little Rochefort Castle, to the lake
here, a centaur and tree nymphs would not be
out of place, perfect climate, mostly cloudy
but the lizards still writhe under the wisteria
stirring up old leaves, and I stir old memories
and despite no sleep here goes my morning chants
so sensitive these days, like the princess
and the pea – the last nightmare
reeked of cheese and poverty
and DNA altering vaccines – somethings
that Muta would protest – in sleep I once
more roam the lanes of Grants Pen with Alfred
like his little brown skin handbag
and on the eve of the return to business
know that I did not become a performer
but let me take my cat
and let me take my time
Saffron – April 2020
PS. As an afterthought I’m adding the graffiti – I just don’t know what’s in that bottle!
You will need to fill out, in five minutes or less, the following “Almanac Questionnaire.” Then, use your responses as to basis for a poem.
Weather: mostly cloudy Flora:wisteria Architecture:renovated barn house Customs:morning chants Mammals/reptiles/fish:cat/lizard/goldfish Childhood dream:be a performer Found on the Street:cyclist Export:cheese Graffiti:tripes (?) in a bottle & plants Lover: Don Conspiracy:DNA altering vaccines Dress:yellow fluffy dress Hometown memory:Grants Pen with Alfred Notable person:Muta (Mutabaruka) Outside your window, you find:fields Today’s news headline:on the eve of the return to business Scrap from a letter: I completely dismissed the possibility of playing the trumpet again Animal from a myth:centaur Story read to children at night:The Princess and the Pea You walk three minutes down an alley and you find:empty beer bottle You walk to the border and hear:the stream rushing What you fear:poverty Picture on your city’s postcard: Rochefort small castle (châtelet)
see birds that fly high silently sweep their crawling
black shadow on the bush. So we can guess below just
how large they may be or are – could they be holding up
thumbs and fingers backlit with the sun, with the ground
as the white sheet? And of course you are the audience
perhaps they could be interested in a snack of the ants
in a line that found the chives survived from winter
who now face smaller jaws of death – so Spring
is not a guarantee of eternal summer life. It is more
than a greening in front, as the wisteria twists and knits
the yarn of its stem every year further, boasting its lilac
victory in spills and gushes. Nature reals more estate.
“I’ll be your gypsy” – how did people get along with two
out of seven days of their short lives to be? The empty
lot has what remains of a chicken or rabbit coop
and the same wisteria is determined to shroud and erase
the evidence of human enterprise until the full greening
of summer, the winter barren browns are losing
their empire to buds and blossoms in a boom
economy – everyone is trying to save their breath
in a stretch of imagination and yoga, and painting
and singing, and they cook too
much eating too
much ado about nothing – to do everything we want
these days the neighbours and their two small dogs
walk on the vineyard road – so many pebbles
and rubble, white and beige. And the sun
reflects wide on the sparse leafless
yards – low open panels – “and it all comes
down to you” in spills and gushes or strikes
more than once so maybe twice – so many
insects buzz around in brand new wings
new lives and darts – in and out of the sun
yet another bird speakers in its happy contention
to all of the above.
Saffron – April 2020
The prompt, which you can find in its entirety here, was developed by the poet and teacher Hoa Nguyen, asks you to use a long poem by James Schuyler as a guidepost for your poem. This is a prompt that allows you to sink deeply into another poet’s work, as well as your own. See below:
Next, for writing: please see the following suggestions and have them ready for a free write, selecting and using those that further your present tense engagement. Write for at least twenty minutes. You can return to this prompt and write through it numerous more times, to infinity.
Bring your perspective and verbs back to the present tense, even when addressing memory
Seek the “unforced flow of words”
Introduce all of the things that you might ordinarily deem incidental or too small for consideration
Include quoted speech (overheard, announced, in dialogue, as song lyrics)
Build your lines with associative accumulation (parataxis), move with your attentions
Introduce a swerve or observation that serves as interjection, non-sequitur
Include at least four colours
Animate the landscape or nearby object, imbue it with expressiveness of action or address
Include perceptions of the weather without, perceptions of weather within
Use a noun as verb that is typically not used that way (anthimeria): “white freaked with red”
Introduce the occasional 3- and 4-word sentence.
“Let’s make a list”: include a list of things you love
Did you remember to ask questions?
Include a hemistich line: a line made-up of two halves, of equivalent beats, hinged on a silent beat (caesura): “The world is all cut-outs then—and slip or step steadily down”
Keep writing: if you get stuck, begin again by penning a sentence that begins with the word “And…”
Keep writing: if you get stuck, repeat a word or phrase you wrote earlier and build
Keep writing: if you get stuck, perform an instant acrostic—look up and find a short word and use the letters from seeds to generate language
in round green – yellowish, reddish – all delicious
when the cows don’t pass, we clear the driveway
the pungent sugary rot of fermenting mangoes
flies, worms and all – go to compost
no need to buy a crocus bag full, Auntie Polly sends
up from Sav her famous mango curried crab
mango season is crab season
there are favourites like East Indian, Black Mango
Number Eleven, Robin or Julie. I roll the Stringy
underfoot, then squeeze out the juice hungrily
at the new Indian restaurant flourished, a rich orange
mango lassi with a dash of perfumed cardamom
to my right hand. Before my birthday treat
uptown style – Bombay mango cut in half
twisted easily into two small bowls to cup
ice-cream, and scoop up by spoon
uptown again – in the sliced off cheeks
of the Julie mango, cut a tic tac toe
and then invert like a porcupine back
hunting down items for a mango chutney
hunting down names for the vintage – is its rose
peach and melon, or papaya and bergamot?
Saffron – April 202O
PS. With a small nod to Wallace Steven’s blackbirds.
Write about a particular fruit – your choice. But I’d like you to describe this fruit as closely as possible. Perhaps your poem could attempt to tell the reader some (or all!) of the following about your chosen fruit: What does it look like, how does it feel, how does it smell, what does it taste like, where did you find it, do you need to thump it to know if it’s ripe, how do you get into it (peeling, a knife, your teeth), do you need to spit out the seeds, should you bake it, can you make jam with it, do you have to fight the birds for it, when is it available, do you need a ladder to pick it, what is your favorite memory of eating it, if you threw it at someone’s head would it splatter them or knock them out, is it expensive . . . As you may have realized from this list, there’s honestly an awful lot you can write about a fruit!
Write a poem about a particular letter of the alphabet, or perhaps, the letters that form a short word. Doesn’t “S” look sneaky and snakelike? And “W” clearly doesn’t know where it’s going! Think about the shape of the letter(s), and use that as the take-off point for your poem.
Engage with different languages and cultures through the lens of proverbs and idiomatic phrases. Many different cultures have proverbs or phrases that have largely the same meaning, but are expressed in different ways. For example, in English we say “his bark is worse than his bite,” but the same idea in Spanish would be stated as “the lion isn’t as fierce as his painting.” Today, I’d like to challenge you to find an idiomatic phrase from a different language or culture, and use it as the jumping-off point for your poem. Here’s are a few lists to help get you started: One, two, three.
Find a poem in a language that you don’t know, and perform a “homophonic translation” on it. What does that mean? Well, it means to try to translate the poem simply based on how it sounds. You may not wind up with a credible poem at the end, but this can be a fun way to step outside of your own mind for a bit, and develop a poem that speaks in a distinctive voice.