After reading through the first half of Solmaz Sharif's collection, Look, I've written out some prompts inspired by her poems. Like most of the prompts I provided, they desired outcome isn't intended to be that you have a bunch of poems similar to Sharif's. I usually glom on to a line or a concept that the author plays with. Or I might just be inspired to write a prompt based on the title that, in no way, reflects what the author wrote on the subject.
I hope you find these helpful. Feel free to Tweet links to any poems you make from these prompts to CantabPrompts.
1. Look. Due to the instant access to current events that social media provides, more current existers are exposed to information about their country than ever before, which creates a much more decisive nation, no matter which nation that is. What is The Absolute Most you would endure from your country before you denounced it.
2. Battlefield Illumination. Using just one image, contained in one sentence, tell a complete story.
3. Lay. Tell us about an uncomfortable position you were in. Physically uncomfortable, not morally ambiguous.
4. Contaminated Remains. Create a detailed warning sign that you wish existed. It can be for something serious such as Rules For Interacting With Alligators In the Wild or something less literal like Guidelines For Interacting With My Overly Fragile Male Ego.
5. Safe House. Pick a dictionary page full of interesting words. Begin each line or stanza with a word from that page. Go in alphabetical order.
6. Deception Story. The doctor tells us the needle is not going to hurt. The bus driver tells you their bus is full but the next one is right behind theirs. The check is in the mail. There are lots of little lies people tell to make both you and themselves feel better. When was the last person someone told you a small deception that you immediately recognized as horseshit? Would you rather have had them tell you the truth? When was the last time you told one of these little rot lies? Do you think the other person believed you? Whom do these small deceptions serve?
7. Special Events For Homeland Security. Advertise or describe a party for a group of people based on a profession or hobby that you would absolutely Never Go To.
8. Dear Intelligence Journal. Write a letter to a piece of entertainment or literature that has, on some level, failed you. Tell it how it could have done better by you.
9. Free Mail. How has a group you belong to been misrepresented by society? This can be your gender, your race, your favorite fandom, your occupation, people with similar physicality, your ability, etc. Don't take the easy way out with this. Get really specific.
10. Force Visibility. Is there a word whose meaning you once knew that you, however briefly, couldn't remember. Does that speak at all to you? The person who used it? The situation in which the word was used?
11. Break Up. Write two poems on a similar subject. Create a their poem by allowing the two poems to converse with one another. Maybe alternate stanzas from each. Find some way to merge them into a poem with two distinct voices.
12. Ground Visibility. Create a poem out of a series of disjointed images. Don't bridge them with narrative exposition. Allow the images to tell the story on their own.
13. Desired Appreciation. We all have misconceptions about how being a certain age will change our relationship to the world. What did you think would change after your most recent Significant Birthday. Did it? Will this keep you from putting expectations on your next Significant Birthday?
14. Inspiration Point, Berkley. Maybe you know a painter named Barack Obama or a computer analyst named Stormy Daniels. Tell us about a person who has a famous name but isn't the famous person associated with the name.
15. Defenders/Immediate Family. Tell us about an unglamorous job you performed. Something that needed to be done but would be consider either/both gross or emotionally taxing.
16. Stateless Person. Tell us about a person mostly ignored by history. Perhaps the spouse or child of someone famous. Maybe an inventor of something vital to our society. Educate us. But, you know, poetically.
17. Family Of Scatterable Mines. Make a list of five unrelated possible destinations you might fly or long-distance-drive to: tropical vacation, wedding, funeral, family reunion, moving, etc. For each destination, detail what you would pack (feel free to be surreal or metaphysical). Each trip should have its own stanza, but don't let us know what your destination is, or the reason for your trip, let us guess based on what you've packed.
18. Master Film. Life is complicated and overwhelming almost all the time, right? Was it like this for our grandparents? Our ancestors several generations back? Imagine one of your ancestors between jobs or relationships. What was that like for them?
19. Expellee. Do you remember a time when you were sick as a very young child? Did you know what was going on around you or did it seem alien?
20. Mess Hall. Late twentieth century movies about childhood and coming of age would have you believe that every time kids shared a dining hall, a food fight erupted. I must have gone to the wrong schools. Do you have any memories involving dining halls or being in a restaurant with a large group of friends/acquaintances/coworkers?
21. Theater. When were you the most frightened you've ever been? You don't need to explain why, just focus on the details of the when.
22. Soldier, Home Early, Surprises His Wife At A Chick-Fil-A. What was the most inappropriate surprise you've ever received that didn't involve trauma? Mild embarrassment is okay, but the focus of this should be something that was more irritating or amusing than emotionally damaging.
23. Vulnerability Status. What's the most ridiculous facial expression/pose you've ever been in? Were you aware that it was unusual at the time, or was it pointed out to you? What events preceded it? Was the facial expression/pose ever repeated? Have you ever seen anyone else make something similar?
24. Reaching Guantanamo. Write a series of five letters to the same person. It should be a very personal series of letters. Once you are finished writing them, go back and white out/erase/somehow obscure the personal information that you wouldn't want to share with the world at large, or remove information you think the government would classify before sending the letters.
An ongoing conversation between writers and the text that they're reading.