Suite Of Ruin A series of prompts based on Tony Hoagland's first book, SweetRuin
Perpetual Motion. Many writers I know, and several non-writers, often fight their urge for wanderlust. To drive aimlessly, to schedule a poetry tour that they know won't make them money, to follow a band around the nation, to find cheap airfare and fly off to a country in which they don't even know the common language. What inspires your wanderlust? Do you fight it and win? Do you have a good on-the-road story? Does wanderlust not affect you directly, but influences the life of someone you care about? Tell us about it.
2. Poem For Men Only. Masculinity is tough, huh? Between Mens' Rights Activists, and the men who struggle against that stereotype, your average open mic listener has spent entirely too much time listening to men talk about masculinity. So take a break for this prompt. Write about a female or non-binary inventor. If you are female or non-binary, write it however you wish. If you're male identified, then completely remove yourself from the poem. Don't talk about how the female or non-binary inventor inspired you or changed your life or what her love life was like, write a list poem about them, or find an angle that never mentions the inventor's beauty or courage. Tell us about the invention. Try to avoid mentioning men at all.
3. Oh Mercy. Writing on the moon is So 20th Century. If you wanted to use a legendary, non-traditional way to send a message to someone, how would you do it? No, not by using The Internet or television, Mitch. Give us something as big and attractive as the moon.
4. My Country. If you're American, what horrible but very American thing have you done in your life? If you hail from another country, what thing have you done that's considered a negative stereotype of someone from your nation.
5. One Season. What's the worst thing a friend has ever called you? Why did it bother you? Were you able to keep being friends?
6. The Delay. Let this set of lines from the poem serve as your inspiration: "some of us would rather die than change. We love/ what will destroy us/ as a shortcut through this world/ which would bend and break us slowly/ into average flesh and blood./ I close the book and listen to the noises/ of an ordinary night."
7. Sweet Ruin. What's the most destructive thing you've ever done that you're willing to talk about in public? Tell us the story with a particular focus on the images and environment around you, rather than the just the emotions and rationalizations.
8. Proud. Apart from the incident from the last prompt, what's your biggest regret? Does it speak to the sort of person you are? Again, tell the story with a focus on the details of the physical place around you, rather than what was going through your mind or heart.
9. Second Nature. Surely, we've heard people talk about what they were in past lives. And, sure, reincarnation seems just as realistic as either an afterlife or a void of existence. But forget about your reincarnated past. Tell the world about your future lives. What will you do? Will it be reward or penance for the life you're living now?
10. Carnal Knowledge. In his poem, Tony Hoagland talks about being 18 and kissing a girl who'd just had his penis in her mouth, and how that changed his perception of the world. "by now you were beginning to suspect/ that everyone/ lives a secret life of acts/ they never advertised" Did you have a moment like this? What was it? When did it happen to you? Feel free to approach the poem with as much adolescent melodrama as possible. 11. The Question. There's a set of lines in this poem "anything can be explained./ The shape of apples, for example,/ by their love of travel." Tell us about a property of an inanimate object that we've likely never considered. How did it get that way? Is there a purpose to it? Be as surreal or ridiculous as the subject asks of you.
12. A Dowry. Naming things is such a powerful aphrodisiac or weapon. Spend some time renaming things that surround you as you write. It's like that old meme where they call raccoons "trash pandas" or snakes "nope ropes". Or it's like that time your friend had a nervous breakdown and started naming walnuts after all of his exes before he smashed them with a hammer.
13. You're The Top. Do you have a favorite song lyric that sort-of but not-quite rhymes (mine is The Dresden Dolls "I didn't think so" and "I'm still convincable" from Coin-Operated Boy)? Why does it work for you? Find something non-traditional in a poem or song that you enjoy. Be it a weird rhyme scheme, an image that makes no sense, or a bizarre form. Tell us why you love it.
14. Two Shades Of Orange. Describe your higher power as a city or village or island or neighbrohood that you love.
15. Doing This. When have you crossed the line with someone you care about? It can be something as small as passive-aggressive silence or as large as you're comfortable presenting to an audience. Don't excuse yourself for it. Hold your past self-accountable, and try and convince said past self to do something, anything other than the terrible thing you've done.
16. The Word. Y'all this prompt isn't about the poem. In my purchased-used copy this book by Tony Hoagland, after the poem by Tony Hoagland, someone has written Tony Hoagland's name. Lest some errant reader of this book be confused, almost halfway through the collection, as to who wrote it. Where do you fall on the overexplainer / over-explained-to spectrum? How does this affect your life?
17. Volunteer. Create a statement about your relationship to your country, as seen through the lense of your favorite music.
18. In The Land Of Lotus Eaters. How does a specific classic fable or mythological story relate to your oh so modern life?
19. The Collaboration. Find a friend who has read a book that was important to you. Together, write about whether or not the book is important to the world at large. (If said friend isn't a writer, just have a conversation, and use their words, with attribution, of course, in your poem/story.)
20. History Of Desire. Tell the world what you thought "the world" was like when you were seventeen. Don't correct that view or apologize for it.
21. Properly. I frequently have to stop myself from just suggesting "write a love poem where you donm't objectify the person/thing you love" over and over again. So this time, I'll say, write a love poem to a person or tangible thing. Use only scientfic language. Instead of objectifying it/them, classify it/them. Their beauty is irrelevant. Their mechanics is what we're interested in hearing about.
22. Men And Women. Who has been wrong to be in love with you? Why? How? Don't try and change that person's mind, just explain their incorrectness to a third party. (Us.)
23. Travellers. Ok, fine. Love love love. Love love love. Tell us about the word love. Tell us about the feeling of love. Tell us about the allure of love. Use lovey language to love the love out of love. But don't attach it to an object. Forget who or what you love, just talk about how great love is. Ok?
24. Geography. Describe the moments just before you sleep or just after you wake.
25. A Love Of Learning. "Affection by association". You start to love a thing because someone you love or admire loves that thing. Maybe it's a band, a sport, a writer, a color, the temperature. Write about a time you discovered your love of a thing was steeped in someone else's enjoyment of said thing.
26. Paradise. Start a poem with an unusual item of clothing. See where it takes you.
27. Ducks. The next time youre in a waiting room (hospital, dentist, podiatrist, massage therapist, reiki practicioner, job interviewer, etc.), check out the art. Ust it as inspiration for an ekphrasis. If you're perfectly healthy, and don't want to hang out in a waiting room, there are airports and fast food restaurants you can go in and enjoy inoffensive art for free.
28. All Along The Watchtower. Watch a recording of your favorite video or concert. Strip the music and lyrics away. Tell us everything else about the performance. The physicality of the performers. The stage dressing. The lighting. The audience.
29. Emigration. Very few people enjoy getting old or getting sick. Without mentioning the physical effects, what is that experience like for you?
30. Threshold. Every poet talks about bodies as landscapes. Find another way to describe your own or another person's bodies. Preferably, not someone you're currently in love with.
31. Safeway. Let's go back to age seventeen again. Or some age that is important to you. Find a single moment that sticks in your mind about being that age. Document that moment as though nothing is wrong, then give us a classic swerve in the last stanza, letting us know what was really happening, that you weren't aware of at the time.
32. Smoke. Address one of your faults like the old friend that it is, and strike up as a casual conversation.
33. Astrology. Alright, look. Everyone's going to write a poem that involves the stars at some point. Invent some constellations. NOT OF YOUR LOVER'S FRECKLES. Tell another person in your poem what thost constellations mean.
34. In Gratitude For Talk. Find a line in a poem that you wish you could talk to the author about. Imagine how that conversation would go.
35. A Change In Plans. Give an alternate theory of how a non-human animal evolved. Never mention humans. Make it obviously about humans.
An ongoing conversation between writers and the text that they're reading.
Adam Stone is reading multiple collections of poetry each week, and producing a piece of writing or a series of prompts inspired by the text. It might be a poem in the voice of the author. It might be a memory involving the person who suggested the book to him. He might steal the title of a poem and use it to create a collage about his oh-so-inspiring childhood.
To help keep him accountable, he's asked other writers that he both likes and likes working with to join him in writing their own interaction or two. With their permission, some of their interactions will also be posted here, clearly tagged with their names.
There might even be interaction between Adam's interactions and an interaction written by someone else. The only rules of this project is to read more poetry and create more art.