Jeanann Verlee's Prey presents a series of poems about predators and their prey. It's a an exquisitely articulated chronicle of trauma. It's a fantastic book, but it was difficult to come up with a suite of prompts to represent the poems without the fear of inducing trauma on anyone following the prompts, or ignoring the necessity of the subject matter of these poems.
I've tried to be as true to these poems as possible without making this too emotionally difficult for people following the prompts.
1. The Curse. Imagine a curse that would substantially alter your life in a negative way. How would you navigate yourself in a world where that curse was happening to you?
2. He Wants To Know Why Sometimes In The Face Of Conflict... What do you do when you're faced with an uncomfortable moral conversation or situation? Do you ever sit back and evaluate why you have that response? Is there a historical logical reason? Do you wish your instinctive responses were different?
3. Ode To My Mother's Backhand. It's easy to write praise poems about the people we love, and poetically burn down the houses of those who hurt us. Unless you've been invited to a roast, I don't recommend writing a take down of someone you love. Instead, try and write something positive about something who hurt you. Feel free to stay away from major trauma, and maybe focus on someone who just slightly annoys you or who has caused inadvertant chaos in your life. Maybe someone who cut you off in traffic, or the acquaintance who unknowingly said something terrible about a person you care about.
4. Secret Written From Inside A Snake's Mouth. What is something you swallowed that you need to get out of you. Again, you can choose to go the traumatic route, but it can also be a guilty pleasure, or a secret that you've been holding on to for years for no discernable reason.
5. The Happy House. If the childhood home you lived in has been sold in the last twenty years, odds are good the real estate agent has put pictures of it online. Google Maps can show you what the outside and the yard look like now. Compare what you remember your house being like (feel free to use photos if you have them) with the way your house looks now. Don't involve people in the poem in any way, just use the physical changes in the house to tell the story.
6. A Good Life. Choose a villain. It can be a villain in your life, a famous villain of history, or a fictional character. Stripping away all judgement, present us with the basic story of their life. Don't remove any of the horrific acts they've committed, just don't use adjectives or metaphor to influence how the audience feels about them. Let the barest bones of their story give the audience everything they need to hate or fear this person of their own volition.
7. The Hunter, His Weapons. Is there a type of weapon you are an expert in? Or, at least, have some experience with? A gun, a knife, a bow and arrow, your mouth, a hammer. Without using an act of violence, tell us about this weapon. Is there anything positive you can do with it? Why are you so familiar with it?
8. Unkind Years. Ask a simple question. Between the subject and the direct object, present a series of scenarios or alternate questions that render the question irrelevant.
9. The Sociopath's Wife Meets The Wheel Of Death. Using a magician's tool as a metaphor, tell a story without a magician.
10. Secret Written From Inside A Coyote's Mouth. Waiting can be excruciating. What is the thing you felt you waited the longest for. Without ever telling your reader if the wait was worth it, describe how you waited.
11. One Winter While Unemployed. Definitively turn down a job offer.
12. Rearrangement Poem For The Mansplainer. Find a speech or internet comment or article that falls somewhere in the spectrum of making you uneasy to being filled with rage. Rearrange the words to completely alter the meaning. Don't change the tenses or leave out words. Let it be jagged. As long as it presents a new message. Either a complete change in the narrative, or a condemnation of the original meaning.
13. Frat Boy. Tell us a story about a time where you restrained yourself from committing violence or showing anger. Tell it from the perspective of the person whose actions you had to restrain yourself from responding to.
14. Casanova Comes To Dinner. When you write a poem, if you're lucky, you reach a point where you create a devestating line, which becomes your favorite part of the piece. Or, maybe you get an amazing line in your head, and that's where your poem comes from. For this experiment, freewrite something poetic, but feel free to give it more of a short story or essay feel than a poem. Make it at least a couple of pages long. The longer, the better. Now chop away every line that doesn't devestate you. It's ok if it feels choppy. Don't bridge the lines in any way. Just be left with your favorite parts of the poem.
15. The Summer Of Supplemental Income. A person walks into the room. You, initially find the person attractive. But the closer you look, the more frightening the person appears. Take us with you on this journey of observation.
16. Commodity. Write a pantoum about how things have changed as you've aged.
17. Question For The Boys Who Watched From The Window. Write out a dramatic scene on any subject. Include as much sensory memory as possible: sights, sounds, very specific images. Also use a variety of similes and metaphors to describe the events. When you feel satisfied with the story, go back and remove all the subject sentences, all of the "likes" and/or "as"es that you used for similes. Edit out everything that isn't an image or sensation.
18. Pack Hunt. There was a slam season a few years ago where everyone who ended up making the team representing our venue had, at one point, presented a poem in which a dog died. Injured or dead pet stories are always devestating. So, tell us a story about a pet in which it was never in any peril. And, please, let the animal be alive at the end.
19. Scene Written From Inside A Falcon's Mouth. Tell the reader about a time where you acted uncharacteristically. Look deeper into the situation, and see if you can discover that, maybe, at the core of the story, your uncharacteristic act is absolutely an essential part of your character.
An ongoing conversation between writers and the text that they're reading.