Monday, March 3, 2014

Writing Prompt #1

Sometimes when a poet encounters writer’s block, that inability to write or come up with ideas, a writing prompt can help open up the poetic floodgates. A simple definition might be “a writing prompt is basically a question which helps the writer move into action.” Writing prompts can also allow for experimentation or revision.

In our Mashpee poetry group, the Steeple Street Poets, we have a volunteer leader for each monthly session. Often, that leader chooses a theme for us to try. In recent months, we have looked at persona poems, haiku, six-line poems, etc.

In this post, I would like to examine one of our more successful writing prompts introduced by fellow poet Jarita Davis. She had asked us to bring in a poem and we would work on changing/transforming it. At the beginning of this workshop, she asked us to fold our poem in half. Now, she instructed, we would work with only one side of the poem showing. After a few questions, we busied ourselves with  Jarita’s novel concept.

The poem I brought to workshop, “Swept Up,” is about taking my college students for a walk. It begins “I broke with ritual today.” When I folded the poem in half, the right side looked something like this: “today/desk and notes/strolled green paths/sang/quietly.” Interestingly, there was still meaning in the words. Jarita explained this method helps you excise unwanted lines and words and still keep the integrity of the poem.

Next, she had us write the poem using opposite phrases. For example, my title became “Turned Down.” The phrase “newborn and blank” became “ancient and wise.” Again, this was a way to turn the poem upside down to yield surprises.

Finally, Jarita handed out scissors and glue sticks. We were instructed to cut up our poem into one or two line segments and glue the small sections to a clean sheet of paper. After studying these pieces of a longer poem, I came up with a completely new short poem called “Too Much Faith in Words.” It reads “I would be something fallen/newborn and blank./Between letters,/I would be the white space.”

Looking over my notes from that day’s session, I could probably find even more poems. It was a great exercise and one I want to try again soon. So, stay tuned! In my next post, I will look at another inspiring writing prompt.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like some insightful ideas for prompting ideas and getting some writing accomplished.