Tell us about a time a seemingly innocuous object nearly led to your unexpected demise.
Ever been caught in a couch, and had to call 911, only for the EMTs call The Fire Department to get you out? Have you ever been President of The United States and nearly be assassinated by a pretzel?
Tell us about a time a seemingly innocuous object nearly led to your unexpected demise.
Several years ago, I wrote a blog post that involved a fictional feud between penguins and polar bears. A Very Angry Biologist shot off a Very Angry Email about how penguins and polar bears live on opposite sides of the planet, literally.
Recently, however, a boy held his penguin shaped backpack against the glass at The Pittsburgh Zoo, and, sure enough, a polar bear tried to attack it.
A penguin, however, is not a backpack. Even if you stuff one full of textbooks and camping supplies.
Who hasn't been a polar bear attacking something that appeared to be something you were diametrically opposed to before you understood its purpose?
Write about a time where you were wrong to attack a person or an idea. Did you then apologize for it, or did you troll on through to the other side?
Several months ago I wrote: "For tonight's Tip From The Bar: Armed man arrested after rescuing puppy from house fire. True story, provide link." Alas, I can not find a source for this. What I did find is possibly more awesome:
"Man High On LSD Rescues Neighbor's Puppy From Imaginary House Fire".
Choose one of these phrases and provide a backstory for how it came to pass.
We all have pieces of ourselves that embarrass us, whether they be physical, emotional, or conceptual. Write about the piece of yourself you would take out to a secluded area and bury. Not forever. You are not digging a grave for this part of yourself. You're going to bury this shallow, somewhere near a landmark you couldn't possibly forget. This way, you can go back to this place often, dig it up and examine it while you're alone, or with someone you trust.
Some of the architects of slam claim that Group Pieces, where more than one poet gets on stage at the same time and performs, is a unique feature created by the format of slam. They, apparently, have never heard of plays or sketch comedy before. Someone should buy them tickets to see A.R. Gurney's "Love Letters". It's not a perfect play, but it's better than any group piece ever performed on finals stage at The National Poetry Slam.
As opposed to a generic group piece, where two to five people get on stage and loudly yell in tandem about things that the entire audience already agreed with before all the shouting started, I suggest writing a collaborative piece. Find a person or people whose work you like and write something where you learn things about each other (and not that you both think Trump is an incompetent president, something more personal and unexpected). Hopefully, you'll end up with a dialog that enlightens you and an audience.
Every couple of years some out-of-touch New Yorker writer, or some bitter, unsuccessful poet, writes an article about how poetry is dead. And, as much as poets should ignore them, the people who write these articles are either so amazingly ignorant, or else such trash writers, that we can't help but analyze how the article is wrong. It's especially fun when you know the person who wrote the article, and you think "Of course they think poetry is dead, every time they open their fetid mouth on stage, flies appear. Their poetry was dead on arrival, but some of the rest of us are doing just fine."
I remember reading several articles during the Great Boy Band Boom of the late 1990s that announced that rock and roll was dead. Really, journalists are just eager to declare as many things as possible "dead" before people realise that journalism is, not dead, but certainly corrupt and irrelevant.
Write a premature eulogy for an art form that is doing just fine, thank you very much.
Inspired By An Acquaintance Who Once Stood At A Urinal Next To George Clooney & Didn't Know What To Say
Celebrities are just like us, I've heard. They eat, they sleep, they poop, they accidentally text embarrassing photos to corrupt journalists. It's completely possible that you've run into someone totally famous as the two of you went about your daily routines, and, presumably, you both survived.
Write about a time when you crossed paths with a celebrity and how it did or didn't affect your life.
Or, write about a time you THOUGHT you crossed paths with a celebrity but it turned out to be another schmoe like us.
OR, write about a time you interacted with someone you thought was a schmoe like us, but it turned out to be a celebrity.
Believe it or not, some people prefer live music shows to live poetry shows. Some people even watch recordings of artists performing before an audience on platforms other than Button Poetry. It's true.
Many a shift at work I've heard coworkers and customers discussing various musicians whose concerts are up o Youtube, discussing various aspects of their performances. Choose a musician, or comedian, or, if you're going to be like that, poet, who has multiple concerts or, at least, clips from multiple performances up on Youtube (or Vevo, or w'evs). Take two clips from very different points in their career and compare and contrast them, go into detail about which you prefer and why.
For example, you might pick a Tina Turner concert from her Private Dancer Tour (1985) and one from Poland in 2000.
Most of us make art in response to things we are justifiably angry or upset about. Or love poems about people. Those are also a popular thing. But for this prompt, try and find a thing that brings you irrational joy. Not a person who does a nice thing to you, or your very adorable puppy, or that vibrator that curves just the way you need it to. Maybe you're the kind of person who enjoys watching golf on television (weirdo), or a person who spends hours in the park feeding pigeons...to panthers.
Tell us about your irrational joy, we really need it this year.
BONUS PROMPT: The Cantab staff doesn't want anyone standing on the stairs, or in front of the stairs. And constantly reminding people about this is mad exhausting. So we're spreading the absolutely true fact that The Cantab Stairs are fucken haunted. And we want you to join in our quest. Maybe standing near the stairs curses you to die alone, not even surrounded by cats. Maybe the closer you stand to the stairs, the more likely you are to have your credit card stolen by Central Square rat kings. We don't claim to be fully knowledgeable about The Cursed Cantab Stairs, but we value any piece of writing you can devote to this subject. Unless you're pro-stair standing, in which case, I, personally, curse you to a year of listening to the horrible upstairs band butchering Smells Like Teen Spirit and Don't Stop Believing.
In the fine tradition of current "news" outlets, our impending government, and toddlers, focus on something in your life that has gone awry and blame all your problems on a person or inanimate object who could not possibly to be blame for your current predicament.
Several years ago, I had a roommate who mispronounced the word "vague" as "vagoo". It was just one of those words that he'd read for years in books but never connected it with the word "vague", even though he must have heard it pronounced properly in real life.
I found it fairly amusing, so I never told him, even though he used the word about once or twice a week. Eventually, we were at a party with a group of friends and he used the word and got hardcore laughed at for mispronouncing it. He was justifiably annoyed that I'd never corrected him in previous conversations.
There are certainly words in my past that I've pronounced wrong based on how I read them in books. Ironically enough, I pronounced "pronunciation" as "pronounciation" for years.
This got me thinking of the Trevor Noah line about how Americans can't claim the word "zebra" is pronounced "zeebra" because we don't have them in our country, and how people will still argue with him about
For this week, write about a word you or someone in your life pronounced incorrectly for a long amount of time
Describe the "recent events" that led to the need for this sign.
We're coming up to the time of year when most people are exchanging gifts to celebrate a holiday or a season or the beginning of a new solar cycle or the fact that someone's parents missed their birth control around April Fools Day. Mixed in with all the utility socks and oranges, and the extravagant gaming systems and new phones, are bound to be a few clunker gifts that you definitely didn't ask for, and certainly don't need.
Write a letter thanking the person for this object you never knew not to know you didn't want. Be as polite or snarky as you deem necessary.
This setlist from an unknown band was waiting for me by the lights when I entered The Cantab this evening, and I thought it lent itself to a fantastical narrative.
Try and find a setlist from your favorite or least favorite band, and craft a poem or a piece of fiction around the titles on said list.
No, there are no bonus points for using Insane Clown Posse, Sugar Ray, or Menudo.
We've all held terrible jobs, or jobs we weren't qualified for from time to time.
When I'm writing something about a place where I've worked, I tend to focus on the places where I stayed for so long that the job either became dull routine, or else something I loved. But rarely do I hear someone talk about a job that they were almost immediately dispatched from, either by being fired, or quitting in a rage.
Tell the world about the job you held for the shortest amount of time and how and why it became No Longer Your Job.
So many prompts involving parents sound more like they were envisioned by the psychologists of violent criminals rather than poets trying to inspire other people to write.
This time, put your angst aside and focus on your parents' occupations or fields of interest and those seemed to define or contradict the type or person they (a)(we)re.
In hopes of getting more people involved in the Interactionality project, April Penn suggested that I create prompts based on the books I'm reading for the project.
To get my mind prepped, I went back to August and came up with 31 prompts associated with the poems from the month. Consider this a page of Super Bonus Prompts:
Sharon Olds via Valerie Loveland 8/1/16:
Revisiting An Old Friend
Write about a book that once very important to you. Reread it. How has it changed? How have you changed?
Sharon Olds 8/2/16:
(When you begin a poem with a line or stanza written by someone else and then delete it, it is a Ghost Line or Ghost Stanza.)
For this poem, begin with the following stanza from Sharon Olds's "Late Poem For My Father":
When I love you now,
I like to think I am giving my love
directly to that boy in the fiery room,
as if it could reach him in time.
Langston Hughes 8/3/16
What Happens To A Rhyme Scheme Deferred?
Try writing a poem using the rhyme scheme and meter of Langston Hughes's "Harlem"
Jennifer Knox 8/4/16
Sudden Color In A Blinding Field Of Beige
Take a line from any Jennifer Knox poem and write a poem using that line as a title. It's ok if it morphs into something else and you decide the title doesn't work with the finished product, but start with the title and see where it takes you.
James Gendron 8/5/16
The Opposite Of Poetry Isn't Necessarily Oppression
James Gendron writes some unusual poetry that I quite enjoy. He gave an interview with thefanzine.com where the first question they asked him is "What is the opposite of poetry?" What would your answer be?
Daphne Gottleib 8/6/16
Forcing The Interview
Find a public figure, writer, or musician you'd like to interview. Come up with a reasonable amount of questions (ten to twenty if you're ambitious). Now find interviews with the person, or consult their writing/lyrics and use them, probably out of context, to answer your questions.
Anne Carson 8/7/16
Either Poetry Can Change Your Life Or It Can Not
A local poet recommended Anne Carson's Autobiography Of Red to another poet friend. When the friend return it, he was asked "What did you think?" He replied "It didn't change my life." If a poem or poet has changed your life, write about it. If not, explain why you think poe(m)(t)s haven't changed your life.
Anne Carson via April Penn 8/8/16
From her interaction with Anne Carson's Autobiography Of Red, April notes
Geeze you’re even better than if we hired Richard Brautigan
to write his version of Where the Wild Things Are.
Imagine one of your favorite childhood books rewritten by one of your other favorite writers.
Kim Addonizio 8/9/16
Conversations With The Book
Take a conversation you've recently had someone. Include the details of where you've had the conversation, and the context for it. Now remove what you actually said and replace it with lines by another poet. Also use that poet's lines to fill in your conversational partner's words.
Kim Addonizio via Lauren Yates 8/10/16
The sonnenizio was originated in Florence in the thirteenth century by Vanni Fucci as an irreverent form whose subject was usually the impossibility of everlasting love. Dante retaliated by putting Fucci into the seventh chasm of the Inferno as a thief. Originally composed in hendecasyllabics, the sonnenizio gradually moved away from metrical constraints and began to tackle a wider variety of subject matter. The sonnenizio is 14 lines long. It opens with a line from someone else’s sonnet, repeats a word from that line in each succeeding line of the poem, and closes with a rhymed couplet.
This is an invention by Kim Addonizio to explain a form she made up. It's a fun form, though. Try writing your own sonnenizio.
Juan Felipe Herrera 8/11/16
Write a poem constructed using stage directions. Whether they are the only element of your poem, or just a part of it is up to you.
Richard Siken 8/12/16
Smells Like Smells Like Teen Spirit
Write about how someone's cover song has impacted your life.
Paul Guest 8/13/16
Audio Commentary Of The Damned
Watch a movie you've seen before, but not recently. Watch it with the volume off, and no subtitles, and write visual descriptions of what's happening. Not necessarily plot points but your commentary on what's happening on the screen.
Sherman Alexie 8/14/16
In What I've Stolen, What I've Earned, Alexie writes poems with 14 parts. They are not based on rhyme, even length, or meter. There is only a loose concept of couplets. Borrow his form to create your own poem.
Sherman Alexie via Ariel Baker-Gibbs 8/15/16
Many poets spend time doing metaphorical unpacking, and I'm not saying you can't do that, too, but for this poem, start with removing things from a suitcase.
Nikki Giovanni via April Penn 8/16/16
Riding The Ellipses
Nikki Giovanni...often writes...using ellipses in place of line breaks...you can try this...if you'd like...or...take a piece of writing containing many....elliptical phrases...write lines in place of the ellipses...of things you imagine...belong between the phrases...now keep your words....and replace the original words with ellipses
Jeffrey Macdaniel 8/17/16
I broke my word so many times, it became
a handful of crumbs I sprinkled at my father's ankles
whenever I needed money.
Nicole Terez-Dutton 8/18/16
A Catalog Of Places You've Almost Been
Write about a trip you've almost taken, or, about a place you tried to get to unsuccessfully.
Kevin Young 8/19/16
Eat This Prompt
Write about a particular food that is important to you. Not an ingredient but an entire dish. Something either you like to prepare for yourself or a favorite dish prepared for you. Explore why it is important to you and how it relates to someone in your life.
Kevin Young 8/20/16
Take a poem you've already written, and write an entirely new poem using as many of the words from the original as you can but, you know, in a wildly different order.
Corrina Bain 8/21/16
Erasures are poems where you usually take someone else's writing, and erase a large portion of the words to create your own poem. For this experiment, take one of your own pieces of writing and, without changing the order of any words, erase words and entire phrases, leaving blank space where those words and phrases used to be.
Martin Espada 8/22/16
This Is The Year
The eponymous opening poem of Martin Espada's Imagine The Angels Of Bread sings a song of hope for the future. You do not have to be optimistic, but write about how you imagine the world will be changed in the coming year.
Leigh Stein 8/23/16
Dispatches From The Future
One of the prompts I see used frequently is writing a letter to yourself when you're younger. It's a neat prompt. This time try writing a letter from your future self helping you through your now.
Leigh Stein Via Kelly J Cooper 8/24/16
A Theory Of Dementia Involving Helmets
Write about either the fear or lack of fear of a hospital visit you've experienced.
Patricia Lockwood via Andrew Campana 8/25/16
Mawwiage Is What Bwings Us Togethuw Today
I married the three jars of sauerkraut in the closet,
I married the bacteria fermenting them,
I married their lids rusting shut,
Begin with a specific item from a relationship (you can do this prompt even if your'e single!) and how you were "married" to this item. Now zoom in and in and in (and back out, if you choose) on how this item is a metaphor for your relationship.
Patricia Lockwood 8/26/16
The Gender Stereotypes I Was Born To
The last line of Patricia Lockwood's Motherland, Fatherland, Homelandsexuals is
I was born as a woman, I will talk you to death
Deconstruct a stereotype of the gender you were assigned at birth, and how it does not fit you.
Yusef Komunyakaa 8/27/16
I Apologize For The Eyes In My Head
Choose a part of your body complicit in something you now view as a mistake. Write an apology for its role in the experience.
Jim Daniels 8/28/16
I love work poems. Write a poem about the job you held for the briefest amount of time, and why you left/were fired.
Mark Doty 8/29/16
Choose three things in your life that have a particular image or theme recurring. Write a poem for each of these times and then stitch them together using the structure of a fugue.
Justin Chin 8/30/16
Create a short conversational phrasebook where you translate common phrases from an industry, or subculture you belong to.
Justin Chin 8/31/16
Fine Print Warnings
Write a series of side effects that might occur after using a common or mundane item (Chin uses a bookmark). Feel free to make shit up.
On my way to work the other day, I saw a kid riding a scooter. This shouldn't have triggered my "Look again!" reflex, but it did. Something was...off.
On second glance, I noticed the kid had a parakeet hopping around his shoulders. It wasn't trying to fly away, nor was it moored to him in any way. It was just a parakeet thrilled to be outside and traveling via shoulder scooter.
Pay attention to your surroundings for a day and try and find the most unexpected person or thing. Explain it without actually speaking to the person, or asking anything about the unusual thing.
The Museum Of Broken Relationships is a real place. Or, at least, as real as a place in L.A. can be.Write about an exhibit in an unlikely museum, i.e., The Museum of Stolen Office Equipment or The Museum of Lost Teddy Bears.
Or just write about your wing in the Museum of Broken Relationships.
Find a song of piece of media that asks a rhetorical question.
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