Work related nightmares are The Worst. Particularly if you're involved in the service industry in some way. All those tables waiting on food. Or the cash register at the store isn't working. Or a family member is yelling at you for letting a relative die. There are so any awful work dreams.
Write yourself an ending to a work nightmare where you either conquer it, or it conquers you.
"What was the fight about?" My Worst Ex Ever asks me.
"Which one?" I ask.
He rolls his eyes. "The one you were just talking about?"
"It's not important."
"So. Me, then. It was about me."
"No." I say, which is mostly true.
"Was it about the subtle communist undertones of Fraggle Rock and how it's affected Generation X?" he asks.
"No." I say. "It was stupid."
"Politics?" he asks.
"No." I say. "Fine. I called him by your name."
"So," he says, "you do still have feelings for me?"
"Feelings for you?" He's right, but they're not the feelings he thinks they are.
"And you think about me during sexy times."
"No." I say, glaring at him. "You know I don't take attendance during sex. I called him by your name when we were arguing about something that was only slightly less stupid than arguing about the fact that when I'm frustrated about something stupid, I think of you. Because you're incredibly annoying."
"And you still liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiike me."
I roll my eyes. "Your name is a curse word to me."
"And curse words are named after the things we most enjoy doing. Nobody says 'Holy Appendectomy' or shouts 'Taxes!' when they drop something on their toes. No, they yell the things that release tension and bring them fleeting moments of serenity."
"If only my moments with you were more fleeting." I said.
He's right about the curse words, though. What's something in your life that brings you joy but you are also kind of ashamed of? Make it your obscenity of choice, and build a poem around it.
During a discussion Cassandra deAlba raised about the worst cliches that show up during Valentine's Day open mics, someone mentioned the 80s and 90s and 00s trope of creepy men not taking the hint that people aren't interested in them, making sweeping dramatic gestures that are fucken gross. Both Simone Beaubien and Adam Stone immediately chastised John Cusack. Simone threatened to write a piece about Cusack's behavior, while Stone said he would right about how uncomfortable the situation was, from the perspective of the boom box that Cusack holds above his head in the creepiest scene.
Take an important scene from a movie, TV show, or book and tell the story from a perspective we've never considered before. The ball gag in Pulp Fiction, Azrael the cat from "The Smurfs", the polar bear from "Lost". Teach us some things.
We all have moments where we act "out of character", as though we were some fictional character subject to an author's strict guidelines of personality. But while we usually have the opportunity to explain ourselves in the real world, sometimes a fictional character or a celebrity (who are all about 75% fictional) aren't so lucky, and are sensationalized for behaving unlike the one or two-dimensional cipher we picture them as.
For this prompt, find an example in your favorite media (books, comics, TV, music, celebrity culture, etc.) where someone behaves atypically for their perceived character. Explain to us what happened. Feel free to be as bullshitty as possible.
The first time I vacationed in Florida as an adult, some friends and I made it a point to drink around the world. Meaning, we went to Epcot's World Showcase and had a drink in every national exhibit. We tried to recreate this feat a couple of years later, but we were rained out halfway through, and in May 2017, we tried it again, but didn't gauge our time properly, and the park closed in precisely the same place where we'd been hit by rain the time before. Determined not to let that happen again, we started our adventure this year at The World Showcase, and managed to make it all the way through.
It was a silly goal, and did nothing to improve our lives, aside from us being able to check an achievement off our list.
What's something trivial that you committed to doing in your life? Something that was a challenge but that you finally accomplished. Is there something else that you want to achieve but don't know how you're going to get it done?
It's come to this. Uhhhh. Sooooo. Ummm. It sure is weathery right now, huh?
Tell us about an event in your life that was defined by extreme or unusual weather.
We're Sorry To Say This Prompt Isn't A Fit For Us At The Moment, But We Look Forward To Seeing More Of Your Prompts In The Future
Putting yourself and your talents up for sale can be agonizing, whether it's sending out applications for a job you now you're overqualified for, sending out writing submissions for contests or publication, making a dating profile, or just asking your most selfish family member for a favor. William James, a poet out of New Hampshire has spent the last several years chronicling his poetry submission rejections, as well as his acceptances. It's pretty baller.
But, sometimes, we find ourselves on the other end of the process, having to accept or reject someone's art, someone's help, someone's advances, whathaveyou. This prompt asks you to write a rejection letter, be it polite, stern, or downright sassy, for a condition in your life that you no longer find acceptable. Tell unemployment it is unwelcome at your house. Tell depression to go fuck itself (or tell joy to go fuck itself, don't let any of your emotions tell you what to do). Or, just let your nut allergy politely know that it just doesn't seem like it's going to work out for you.
I'm reading Italo Calvino's Cosmicomics, for a break from a Stephen King project I've been working on. And I'm outright stealing the concept for this week's prompt.
Find a one sentence scientific fact that's easy to understand. Now write a three minute folk tale that involves that fact but embellishes it into an impossibility.
Forget its temperature, revenge is a dish based served only in your imagination, where it won't impact your life, your job, or what your friends think of you. But the plotting of revenge against someone who has wronged you seems so good.
Write a very specific, non-violent revenge scheme against someone that you would never do. Then tell us about it, because telling us about it makes it much less likely for you to get overtired and try to make your scheme a reality.
What prompted me to think of this was finding out that someone who worked in an independent bookstore was ranting online about how customers weren't picking up their books, and how bad that was for independent booksellers. Meanwhile, this person has over three hundred dollars worth of books they hadn't picked up at the independent bookseller I work at.
I very publicly claimed I was going to go to their store during a shift when I knew they'd be working, and turn an entire shelf of books spine-in so that you couldn't tell what any of the books were, and it nearby and watch them try to rearrange them back to their proper order.
I'm NEVER going to do this. But it felt very therapeutic to say that I would.
Growing up as a kid who did a lot of theatre and choirs, I learned to hate Christmas music. I don't mind singing it, and if there was, say three days out of the year where the songs were prevalent, I would probably love them. But those Poor Me We're So Discriminated Against Christians push their shitty, forgettable spirituals on us for an entire month of the year and it sucks.
It's great if you like that kind of schmaltz, but for those of us who are just trying to grab a Lyft to work, we don't want to hear the Destiny's Child forty-five minute Christmas Medley, or the trap remix of The Twelve Days Of Christmas. I stopped buying Christmas gifts for people because I can't stand going into stores where they being blasting "Holiday Music" (99% Christian) before Thanksgiving even rolls around.
For the last couple of years, I've had friends play The Little Drummer Boy Challenge, where you try and see if you can make it from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve without hearing a single ba-rum-pum-pum. This year, I also saw Whamageddon making the rounds, which is a more specific challenge: make it from Thanksgiving to christmas Eve without hearing Wham's recording of "Last Christmas".
I'm not linking any of these songs because I care about you.
Well, for at least eleven months of the year, the Christmas music is largely irrelevant, but surely there's That One Song you can't stand that seems to follow you around. What is that song? How did you come to hate it? What's the worst time you have associated with it? Is there a good time associated with it? How would you discuss that song with the person who wrote it or made it famous?
I know what you're thinking Two prompts about having lost prompts, and now you're saddling the week's prompt on another bartender?
No. I gave this prompt, but is in honor of RebeccaLynn, who who favors short, effective poems, over drawing out the drama in a poem.
So for this week, write an intense, emotional poem about your life that's going to be about 2/3rds of a page long, at most.
My attendance at The Cantab has been more sporadic, and I find myself not keeping track of the prompts as well as I should be. I've been looking through notebooks, doc files, all over the place to see if I've recorded the prompts somewhere, but a couple of them appear to be lost forever.
But I found other things.
So, go through your notebooks, if you're one of those analog people, your word processing files, your texts, and find a scrap of something you wrote that you intended to be longer.
Don't bother trying to remember what Previous You was going to do with that scrap, take it and make something entirely new.
According to the official Boston Poetry Slam, this week's prompt was: "Imagine you are gloriously happy in the future. Write a poem to invent a way to time travel to your expected existence."
I don't remember writing or giving that prompt, but I'm pretty sure I was the person who gave the prompt this week. I had a pretty good week, and was fairly happy. So if the prompt about finding a time traveling path to your happiness doesn't speak to you, maybe you can figure out what happened this week that made me happy but made me forget giving the prompt, and explain that to me.
Or you can try and explain time travel, if you're that level of smart.
Confession: When we were eleven, one of my friends bought a hamster, put it in a shoebox, poked holes in it, and hid it in his closet. If you've ever had a hamster, you probably realize that hamsters can chew through cardboard, and fairly quickly, so while he was at school, the first day after buying the hamster, it escaped, his mom found it, and they returned it to the store, and he was grounded.
Confession: I knew about the hamster before his mother told my mother the hilarious story of her idiot son's not so secret pet. I imagined the problem was the cardboard box, so I bought a small terrarium, filled it with ripped up newspaper (I was a paperboy, so it was Very Easy to come by), and bought a gerbil which I kept in my closet, secure that it would not escape. And it didn't. And I had it for four days before my own mother heard it scampering around its tiny cage while I was at a friend's.
Have you ever had a secret pet? Or did one of your friends? Where did you or they come up with the idea? How were you found out (you were definitely found out)? What happened to the pet after the discovery?
I have never met anyone who loves their job So Much that they can't think of a single part of it they dislike. Vanna White spent most of the 80s and 90s grumbling under her breath every time she had to turn over the vowels* because she loved the contestants, and hates that they were spending money they hadn't even officially won yet, on easily sussed letters.
She also hated it when, for the final puzzle, contestants blew their letters on rstlne, and so she approached the producers about giving those letters to the contestants automatically, and letting them try some of the more dangerous ones. Thus, she reclaimed the parts of her job that made her uncomfortable.
What part of your job do you like the least? How can you reclaim it so that it becomes something you can, if not love, tolerate?
* - Nothing I've said about Vanna White in this prompt has been true. It is All Lies.
Inspired by Cantab regulars Zeke Russell and Cassandra de Alba, write a poem in which a ghost appears but does not mean you any harm.
Weird things happen everywhere. Life happens everywhere. At home. Within a mile of home. The moon. Everywhere.
Cars, being places that take you from one place to other places, offer even more opportunities for weird things to happen.
What's the most unusual thing that's ever happened to you involving a car?
There is so much real horror going on in the world, you would think we'd be shying away from horror in pop culture. But it's the time of year when people want scary clowns, sexy sanitation workers, and world leaders with no concern for lives other than their own.
It's a drag.
This Halloween, write about trivial horror. Runny eggs, inconvenient traffic detours, flatulent malumets, anything that is more annoying than horrifying. Write about these trivialities as though they're actual horror.
If you need inspiration, check out Jujji Ito's Cat Diary: Yon And Mu.
Families can be difficult. From awkward holiday meals to death or abuse, it's not always a fun subject to tackle. There's an outdated quote that is attributed to Harper Lee, but almost definitely stretches back centuries that You Can't Pick Your Family.
But, of course, you can.
Write about someone from the family you aren't blood-related to, or legally related to. Someone you've met in your life that you've become more than friends with, and tell us about that relationship. It's probably not all feather pillows and orgasms, either, but you and this person stuck with each other for no other reason than you cared about each other, and that is bound to involve a story or two worth sharing with an audience.
It's been almost a decade since Reddit introduced the world to the Ask Me Anything forums, where a celebrity or politician (remember The Goold Old Times when those were two different categories.
It's rare that an Ask Me Anything makes the news when it's successful. A person answering the questions they're asked should be satisfying and worthy of note, but I only hear about them when they go horribly wrong: when someone has recently had a scandal, and somehow believed that people would be more concerned with their latest album or artistic vision than their social or political faux pas.
There a few different ways to approach this as a prompt. Either write a series of ten to twenty questions, and ask someone else to come up with the person or concept that has to answer them, OR come up with a person or concept that you want to act as a voice for, and crowdsource some questions that people would like your character to answer.
Last week, divisive chanteuse, Taylor Swift, released the fastest viewed Youtube lyric video of all time. Forget whether it has one of the wonkiest choruses of all time, ignore the actual video's crimes.
A lyric video is filled with graphics that sometimes reflect the actual lyrics of the song, but sometimes represent the rhythm of the song.
Pick a song that you love or hate, and write a Lyric Video for it. Don't write down the lyrics, assemble images to represent how the song's movement and lyrics feel to you. Be as surreal as you feel comfortable with.
Rachel McKibbens uses a technique she calls Ghost Lines, where, to prompt a poem, she gives you a line from a poem or prose piece that you use to start your own poem. When you're done with your first draft, you erase the author's line, and your left a poem that's entirely of your own creation.
This week's Ghost Line comes from Wanda Coleman's Bathwater Wine: “When the book is closed, the words starve.”
For at least the last few weeks, the world has been a relatively terrifying place for many of the people I care about. Let's be real simple this week and just write about a place where you still feel safe.
Discuss a time you took someone you care about to a play, a movie, a poetry slam, a concert, some cultural event you love. What was your purpose in taking them there? Did they enjoy it? Did it change the way you interacted going forward?
Write about a time someone you cared about took you to an event that was out of your experience zone. Something you didn’t imagine you’d be at all interested in. Did you become interested? Instead of focusing on your relationship with the person who brought you, discuss how it altered your perception of the thing they exposed you to.
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.
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