In somewhat of a crossover from The Interactionality projects I'm working on, I offer, as prompt, a couple of lines from Phillip B. Williams's Thief Of The Interior: You cannot love a god/that you fear.
This week is a two-step prompt.
1: What's the worst cover you've ever heard of a song you love.
2. What's the worst advice you've received from someone whose advice you usually respect - or - what surprisingly good advice have you received from someone you normally wouldn't trust.
Can you work these two things into one poem?
Being a fan of a band, or an artist, or a pop culture franchise has grown increasingly tough in the age of The internet. In addition to finding out that your heroes may have horrifically out of touch opinions, there's also the disappointment of finding out that many of the fans, who you might imagine you have things in common with, reveal a surprising prejudice. Whether it's misogynist sci-fi fans, racist comic book readers, homophobic hanggliding enthusiasts, or anti-Vegan photographers, someone is making your fandom look bad.
Address this portion of your fandom however you are inspired to address them. Consider explaining how they're impacting the thing you love.
Everyone has nightmare stories about their local transportation service, whether it's a late subway train, an exploding bus full of chickens, or sitting next to a colicy baby on a plane.
What about the sunshine? What about the moonlight? What about the good times? What about the boogie?
Surely you've had at least one positive experience with commercial traveling. Tell us about it!
When I was eighteen, I worked in a record store, and at a YMCA camp, and was a full-time student. I was experimenting with having a life, and thus, didn't provide myself much time for things like "hairuts" and "intelligent decision making". I was at work one day when I realized I had scheduled a date, and my hair looked like someone had covered my hair in superglue and dumped a large bucket of red fur on top of me. So I hopped over to the salon next to the store and asked the person working if she could cut it so that it was about an inch off, all the way around. After some perfectly reasonable shearing, she then took out an electric razor, I assumed to shape the hair on the back of my neck. Instead, she began to shave a one-inch line around my head. I asked her to stop and explain what was happening to my head, and she couldn't. So I re-explained what I'd wanted, and she resumed shaving a one inch line around the side of my head.
As I left, the woman behind the desk, who had clearly seen that this hairdresser wasn't really up to communicating with clients yet, asked me not to put on my hat (which I was clutching) until I was out of the parking lot.
I then went home and gave myself a crewcut. It was the shortest haircut I'd had since I was a baby. From that day forth, I was always really specific with barbers and stylists, and didn't try to do anything fancy with my hair.
When my father's wife died about ten years later, I was shaving my hair short for her funeral when the guide fell off my razor and shaved me to the skin. I saw no other option but shaving my entire head. It was winter, and very cold. I was tired from traveling to the funeral, and couldn't figure out why I was colder than usual (no hair) so I appeared more introspective than usual, which my family seemed to register as grief, but was actually just selfish contemplation.
Have you ever had a haircut that has either changed your life, or changed how other people perceived you? Was it an awesome haircut? A terrible one? Did it actually have an emotional affect on you past the day you received it?
If reincarnation is real, what would you most like to come back as? Given the life you've led, what do you think you're most likely to come back as, whether you like it or not? What do you think other people will believe you will come back as?
How about your loved ones? What will they come back as? Have they seemed to come back to you as something else already?
Today doesn't just feel like the longest day of the year, it is the longest day of the year. What did you do with your longest day?
Imagine what you wish you could do with the longest day of the year. Imagine that somewhere, some version of you is able to do precisely the things you wish you could. Now you, being you, meet idealized Solstice You at a bar or a coffeehouse or a bookstore or wherever you choose to relax today. Solstice You starts telling you all about the wonderful day they've had. How do you react? Do you become friends with Solstice You, or are they now your mortal enemy?
When you were in high school or college, did you ever sit down on the first day of class, get your notebook out, and spend five or ten minutes before realizing you were in the wrong class? Ever go into a conference center where a bunch of unrelated meetings were taking place and discover what you thought was a creative writing workshop was an AA meeting? Was there a night you woke up married with two children and remembered that you're a terrible role model who is incapable of monogamy?
Write about a time you were in a place you were not qualified to be in. How did you get out of the situation? Or did you go with it until you became qualified to the be there?
Wikipedia Wormholes are addictive.
I'm an enabler.
Choose an event or subject you are an expert in. Find a link to something in the Wikipedia entry that you didn't previously know. In that article, find another link. Keep doing this until you are at least six entries away from where you started.
Write about this new information as though it is something you are an expert in. You can either do the research (outside of Wikipedia, even!) or just make shit up. It's your life.
Do not connect it to the original subject you looked up. Don't even reference it.
BONUS PROMPT: Ok, but, like, how DID you get from your area of expertise to this new information? Give us a guided tour through your six or more pages of information.
However Do You Want Me? However Do You Need Me? How? However Do You Want Me? However Do You Need Me?
The house I'm staying in during this vacation has a private pool. Having a private pool was one of The Most Important Factors in choosing a place to stay. On previous trips, when I didn't make a private pool a priority, I was sad to discover that most pools are closed at the times I wish to swim. I, then, discovered that the pool was colder than I'd imagined and had to pay for the pool to be heated.
To justify these expenses I made it a point to go swimming in that eventually warm pool Every Night I stayed there. So between ten p.m. and five a.m., you could find me floating or swimming in that pool for at least half an hour.
One of my co-vacationing friends always drives to the nearest Krispy Kreme before entering the vacation home. We don't have Krispy Kremes in Massachusetts at the moment (due to a poorly thought out 7-11 deal in the early 2000s), so whenever he is within an hour or so of the sugary confections, he picks up a box or two for everyone to enjoy.
When you take a break from your everyday routines, do you develop a new ritual or rituals? Tell us about it/them.
I love water parks. I'm working on a prose piece about this, so I'll refrain from a wax poetica, but I am an enjoyer of water parks.
My favorite go-to-water-park for this vacation recently closed, and while it's scheduled to reopen while I'm down here, I'm not too keen on braving the long lines for a new attraction in a tourist town.
I mentioned this to a friend, and he suggested, rather than scope out the new park, he knew a way to sneak into a long-closed park and experience it as a sort of water park graveyard.
It definitely smelled like death.
I'll probably be sharing my experience about the waterpark graveyard soon. In the untilwhile, is there an activity or place that you love that might one day disappear? What will it be like when it's abandoned?
I'm on my way to a nice, relaxing vacation. It is my first vacation in several years, and I need it to be relaxing. Naturally, all signs points to this going horribly wrong. Paychecks not showing up, the house I booked turning out to be unavailable, weird credit card hiccups. You know, 21st century American clockblocking.
I'm sure it will all work out, because if it doesn't work out, that will be Awful, and part of my nice, relaxing vacation is to not have to deal with Awful. Power of positive thinking, right?
But remember that time you used the power of positive thinking, and everything fell to shit anyway? Tell me about it. Maybe we can exorcise the possible impending Awfulness by laughing or shaking our heads at Awfulness Past.
Cowardly lion jokes abound in the story of Moto, a lion at a New Delhi zoo who, for his tenth birthday was gifted by zookeepers blowing bubbles at him. His response is to leap up afraid, like a cat. The zookeepers then laugh and upload the video of the lion to Youtube, where millions of people laugh at this huge, fearsome animal scared of a tiny soap bubble. Like, LOL, right?
But who doesn't have an irrational reaction from time to time? Whether it's fear or unwarranted pride, or sexual arousal during that cartoon about fire safety, we all have responses that defy logic from time to time.
What mundane thing petrifies you? Or what tiny event brings you inexplicable joy?
I have intentionally built up a reputation as a bitter poetry listener who is eager to critique others' work. I rarely do this publicly, since the point is never to shame the poet. Often the offending poets are either young or new to a scene, and loudly rolling my eyes at them isn't going to help anyone. Or else the poet has been on the scene long enough for most listeners to realize that they have no shame, so why bother bringing up that their rhyming, meterless poem about how their spouse never leaves the toilet seat down, or how airline food is totally gross, am I right? is awful.
If I turn to a poet at the bar and say "Whoever gave that poet a rhyming dictionary, and told them that 'I want to insert my rutabaga into you but I'm afraid I'll break ya' was an acceptable line needs to be put on some sort of government watch list. Keep your eyes peeled for anyone enthusiastically clapping so we can report them." I'm doing it to make the other poet laugh, to stress that I enjoy their work more than the unfortunate thing happening on stage. I'm also saying it out loud as an affirmation that I should never do the thing I'm bashing.
I'm always trying to make poetry better. Not just my own, but other peoples'. And not out of benevolence or wisdom, but as self preservation, as I'm generally paid to be in a room where poetry is happening, and I'd rather it not be terrible.
The Tips From The Bar page was Simonne Beaubien's idea. I've enjoyed doing it because it keeps me thinking about what types of poems I like listening to, be it content-wise, structure-wise, or thematically. I'm never disappointed when a poet comes to the mic with a poem inspired by a Tip From The Bar, even if they completely ignored half the prompt, or if the prompt came from another member of the community. I'm always glad when someone tries something out of their usual comfort zone, or uses their signature style but writes about subject matter that they don't usually tackle.
Every time I think I'm finished giving prompts for a while, I google the term "poetry prompts" or "poetry slam prompts" to see who else is out there giving tips online, and, y'all, it's bleak and trite.
For every Rachel Mckibbens, Nicole Homer, and Scott Woods blog of creative, well-thought out prompts, there are a thousand well-intentioned middle school teachers with pages that offer unhelpfully vague prompts such as "write about your family" or "write from a different perspective than your own", or else they throw four columns of words at you every week, encouraging you to send in your best poems using the words "screwdriver", "vicar", "volcano", and "sumptuous", but to "keep it PG" because they know what sumptuous thing you're going to be volcanoing on the vicar's face after he's done using that screwdriver to assemble your Ikea bed or whatever, and they don't want to know about it.
Where was I?
Right, I'm trying to keep the prompts on this page complex enough to not be super repetitive but also open-ended enough to allow poets to be creative enough so that if four poets show up with work from the same prompt, they're not all going to be doing terrible things to that vicar.
This week's prompt is to Google "poetry prompts" or "slam poem prompts" or something similar, and find a sight that either bores or enrages you. Write to the author of the page about why it missed the mark for you. DON'T SEND IT. It won't make anyone feel better. But share your unsent letter with others, to acknowledge that you respect them more than the person who created the page you're mocking. And to affirm to yourself that you will never make those specific mistakes.
BONUS PROMPT: Write a poem from one of the terrible prompts that is so awesome that you have to wonder if maybe that prompt wasn't so bad after all.
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.
Write Or Die
Scott Woods's Twitter Prompts
Rachel Mckibbens' Prompt Blog
The 30/30 Prompt Blog
Asterisk And Sidebar Prompts