As promised, I have gathered the prompts I wrote and posted every day in April for 2015 NaPoMo.
For NaPoWriMo 2015, I decided that I would contribute a poetry prompt per day (originally using the Notes function on FB and editing/adding to this Note daily). Some of the prompts will be familiar to my graduate poetry workshop students this spring, and the rest are new.
I hope this will be a useful resource that you can keep coming back to!
Write a poem-sampler divided into sections. Organize the sections thematically, or according to tone or color or some other ordering principle. Show the stitches that make each line. Be precise, but unstinting. Let the poem showcase not only certain marks of technical virtuosity, but also thoughtful feeling, and feeling thought.
Choose a form, and a line, from another poet. Use it as the seed, the trigger, for a poem of your own. Turn the borrowed line into a question, or into an answer.
In the story “The Secret Miracle,” Borges writes of a political prisoner who gets a secret reprieve (of life) in the seconds before the bullets from an execution squad decimate his body. In that miraculous interregnum, he gets to revise his magnum opus over and over until he is satisfied. Write a poem of miraculous reprieve and of what you would use it for.
Write a poem of in praise of something slow or still.
Write a palimpsest poem, a poem of many layers. Take language and/or narratives that already exist/s in other forms or contexts. Etch through parts of the layers to get through to a new poem.
Write a poem that offers something sincere without need for disguise or apology.
Paul Eluard said, “There is another world, and it is in this one.” Write a poem about one of these other worlds in this one.
The poem must contain hinges. Otherwise, how could it swing open in so many ways? Write a poem with at least two hinges.
Many years ago I was at a literary seminar in Cambridge keynoted by the late John Fowles. In his talk, he compared writing with gardening, but favored in particular the state of the wild garden, the undomesticated (versus the tame, strictly ordered) garden. Write a poem that grew there.
Entering the poem is acknowledgement that we agree to be altered. Write a poem with several doors; choose one, and write of what happens when you pass through.
It’s almost dawn. You hear someone singing. Write a poem that is a lullaby for the singer.
Take any discarded scaffold, that bag of thrown-away bones, those table scraps. Fill the body of that poem.
Write a poem that chases after its own tail: a mobius strip with a bend in the middle; infinite and flexible, ever traveling toward and away from its own origins.
Write the peal of the cymbal, the citrus zest released to air; write the secret breathed into the pillow, write the lift in the lantern floating away in the night sky.
Write a poem of waiting, endurance, and release.
Write a poem which retraces steps, or which reconstructs events, from more than a decade ago.
Write a poem with a cup, a wishbone, and a thread.
In “The Right to Dream,” Eduardo Galeano writes: “In Argentina, the crazy women of the Plaza de Mayo will be exemplars of mental health, because they refused to forget in times of amnesia.” Write a poem of refusal against amnesia, a poem that uses memory as weapon against oblivion.
We talk about needing things, wanting things. Write a poem, conversely, about how a thing would/might need, or even want, us. Does the curve in the bowl of a spoon need the shape of a mouth? Does the flesh of the oyster need a tongue? Does the tip of the mountain need the measure of one’s ascent?
We think of an obstacle as something that has been placed in our path to prevent or slow progress toward a goal. Write a poem that is a creative detour around or through some kind of obstacle.
Write a poem that navigates land mines.
Write a poem strapped to the leg of a carrier pigeon. Write the answer that comes back.
Write a letter-poem to the you that does not wish to be found, that does not wish to be sought out, that shyly hides out of view, out of sight, out of mind. Will you write to invite? to coax or entice? to aid and abet? to reprimand or chastise? And how and to where shall this letter be sent?
Write a poem of first meeting, of looking into the eyes of the new arrival.
Where does the third eye reside? When and what does it see? Write a poem of anticipation, of premonition, of foresight.
In traditional Philippine celebrations at the end of the Lenten season– at dawn on Easter morning– an angel (played by a young girl from the community) is suspended on pulleys from the rafters of the church. Bearing flowers, she lifts the veil of mourning away from the image of the Blessed Mother to signify it is time to meet the resurrected Christ. This folk ritual, now seamlessly blended with religious tradition, is called “Salubong” (the act of meeting).
Whether or not Easter is something you celebrate– write a poem today in which a moment or experience from your world of daily groundedness, goes to meet or is met by another moment or experience that seems transcendent, epiphanic, visionary, or suddenly, dazzlingly, transformingly new.
Write a poem that dismantles a fable or fantasy, that refuses to participate in the lie.
In CITIZEN, Claudia Rankine paraphrases the philosopher Judith Butler and writes: “Our very being exposes us to the address of another… We suffer from the condition of being addressable.”
Write a poem from inside an experience of such exposure and “addressability.” How does a body feel in this condition? The mind? The heart? What speech does the tongue muster? What movement, what memory, what sound? And what does it, can it, return?
Write a poem in which something dead (or dormant, or asleep) comes back to life.
Alchemy, or turning obstacles into gold- or into something different:
Write a poem at least 14 lines that does all of the following things ~
– begins with an image/thought/statement, and returns to it at the end of the poem but in some altered way
– uses a central, unifying image or images
– looks at the etymology of a word
– incorporates found language (including visual text), or heard/remembered speech/conversation)
– includes no more than 2 words with 5 syllables
– uses any of the following means for developing lines or stanzas, or even the entire poem: negation, or showing/describing something through what it isn’t; providing the answer to a question; providing argument to a prior statement or idea