P&W Prompt 10: Nothing But the Kitchen Sink

This week’s Poets & Writers’ prompt:

Choose a cliched phrase (“fit as a fiddle,” “think out of the box,” “running on empty,” etc.) and turn it around. Use the new meaning created by this reversal to fuel a poetic meditation.

I struggled with this prompt not because of the prompt itself, but because of the subject matter that has been weighing on me lately. As I’m sure you are all aware, Japan is in the midst of one of the most devastating natural disasters in history. Coming up with a cliche to turn around was pretty easy – I almost immediately when to “everything but the kitchen sink” and flipped it to “nothing but the kitchen sink.” There’s a good site you can go to if you need inspiration for cliches: Cliches: Avoid them Like the Plague.

So, having my cliche in hand, and knowing that the Japanese situation was heavy on my mind, I immediately decided to attempt to NOT write about it. Maybe you’ve tried this before – it never really works for me. If something is filling my brain, it’s going to come out on the page. There’s just no avoiding it. But, just for fun, I thought I’d show you some of my failed attempts at NOT writing about Japan. Here’s the first:

Continue reading

P&W Prompt 9: Spring Ritual

This week’s Poets & Writers prompt:

Flip through the dictionary and randomly choose 10 words. Write a poem with each word in every other line.

Sigh. Yep. Here we go, another random word prompt. I chose 10 random words from the dictionary but opted to not do the “each word in every other line” part because that just seemed ridiculous to me. Instead, I just wrote a poem using the random words. What I decided to do when revising that first draft was to say “screw it” to the random words and just try to make it a good poem. And I think this overkill of random word prompts is actually getting me somewhere. The idea, always, is to start with the rules and then break them as quickly as possible. Being a rule follower (I am, I really am), I’ve historically tried to stick as close to the prompt as possible. This time, I didn’t. And maybe that’s the point.

Continue reading

P&W Prompt 8: Photograph, Pittsburgh 1972

This week’s Poets & Writers prompt:

Write a sonnet, a fourteen-line poem made up, typically, of three stanzas of four lines, and a fourth of two lines, or a couplet. Use the following rhyme scheme: In each of the first three stanzas, rhyme the first and third lines and the second and fourth lines (a, b, a, b, c, d, c, d, e, f, e, f); and rhyme the lines of the couplet (g, g). For a traditional example, see Shakespeare’s “From you have I been absent in the spring….”For a contemporary example, see Denis Johnson’s “Heat.”

Aye, aye, aye! The dreaded sonnet. What this prompt doesn’t tell you (and I can’t for the life of me figure out why) is that sonnets are also traditionally written in iambic pentameter (hence the “aye, aye, aye!”). I switched up the form slightly to four tercets instead of three quatrains and used an ABA, BCB, CDC rhyming pattern to mimic Frost’s “Acquainted with the Night” – a poem I have no illusions about ever being able to write but love desperately. Continue reading

P&W Prompt 7: Abject Recipe

This week’s Poets & Writers prompt:

For one week, collect words and phrases you encounter throughout the day from signs, advertisements, menus, overheard conversations, radio programs, headlines, television, etc. At the end of the week, write a found poem, using these snippets.

Here’s what I came up with:

objectum-sexuality; Camille Paglia; abject; documentary; hava nagila; spicy black bean soup; cayenne; sazón goya; erika eiffel; amazon jungle; tena, ecuador; illegitimate and unenforceable

Continue reading

P&W Prompt 6: Memphis Blues

**I’m slightly behind on the P&W prompts – this is the sixth which should have, technically, been posted last week. I have no excuse for such behavior except to say that my closets are completely, beautifully, and happily organized! I’ll try to get caught up by doing the 7th prompt this week as well.

This week’s Poets & Writers prompt:

Choose a poem that you’ve written and rewrite it in its reverse, making the last line the first, etc. Revise this version, creating a new poem.

I figure: what better poem to put through yet another revision than Memphis Blues? So, I went in search of the 47 versions I had of the poem to realize that it was one of the many (including my entire, more than 200 page, dissertation) items that were lost in the computer crash of ’09. That crash, by the way and completely as an aside, led to my switching – forever and ever, amen – to a mac. I may, in fact, write a post dedicated to my teenage crushing all over some awesomeness that is my macbook.

But that’s another story.

Continue reading

P&W Prompt 4: What You Focus On When He’s Away

This week’s Poets & Writers prompt:

Make a list of objects. One thing should be from your desk, one from your closet, one a body part, one a thing you covet that belongs to someone else, one enormous, one slippery, and at least one that makes an odd or evocative sound. Now, describe each using a simile. Do this twice for each one. Using as many of the similes as you can, write a poem with a title such as “Checklist to Survive a Nuclear Winter” or “Things That Have Nothing To Do With Grief.”

So, I started (obviously) with the list and corresponding similes: Continue reading

P&W Prompt 3: Choosing Childlessness

This week’s Poets & Writers prompt:

What is something you are afraid to write about in your own poems, either because it is too personal, or because you feel it is cliché?  Create a character–a swarthy bum, a baker, a dog–and write a narrative poem in which your character addresses this topic. Let the fact that the poem isn’t really about you be freeing.

Now – this is a pretty tricky prompt.  Because, just because you’re writing in character, if you’re writing about a topic that you feel is too personal…you’re still writing about a topic that you feel is too personal.  Nonetheless, I attempted it.   Continue reading

P&W Prompt 2: War-Zone Show and Tell

This week’s Poets & Writers‘ prompt asks us to write poems of erasure:

Write an erasure poem:  Rip out one or two pages from a magazine or newspaper.  Read through them, underlining words and phrases that appeal to you and that relate to each other.  Using a marker or WhiteOut, begin to delete the words around those you underlined, leaving words and phrases that you might want to use.  Keep deleting the extra language, working to construct poetic lines with the words you’ve chosen to keep.

Continue reading

P&W Prompt 1: Parting In Winter

Here’s the first of what I hope will become weekly installments of new writing in response to the prompts offered by Poets & Writers Magazine. I selected a poem by Robert Hass titled “To a Reader” from his collection, Praise. Here’s the prompt again (for those who may have missed it):

“Choose a favorite poem written by somebody else, type a copy of it, delete every other line from the poem, and write your own lines to replace those you’ve deleted. Next, delete the remaining lines from the old poem so that only your lines remain. Read what you have, and revise it, adding new lines to fill in the gaps.”

Continue reading