Let’s Science the Shit out of this Life and this Death—Poetry Prompt

For this prompt, take statistical terms and apply them to your daily life, nature or your immediate surroundings, or a seemingly unrelated topic. Make a scientific study of the statistical probability of  having all the necessary ingredients for a recipe two weeks after a divorce, the inverse correlation between expertise and confidence in discussing a subject on Twitter, and the causal relationship between the skin color and gender of congressional member and resulting media attention—as measured in number of articles, tweets, editorial op ed’s, and TV rants by pundits—on a high school nickname or use of profanity.

Or avoid politics. Use the Overton window to explain your mother’s comfort in showing your nude baby photos to your acquaintenances or Poe’s law to justify your dating experiences. Plot your levels of anxiety and escapism. Make a bar graph of excuses to cancel social interactions. Cite your sources.

For inspiration, read “Exploded View” by Heather June Gibbons in Her Mouth as Souvenir (pasted at the bottom of this post) or in its original version entitled “Diagram.” I sincerely recommend buying her book. Amazing. 

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And here is the poem—so fantastic. I am grateful I was able to hear her read it and other poems from her book last Wednesday. And so glad I bought Her Mouth as Souvenir!

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OMG, I love the “red telephone and a black telephone”!

Event and Prompt: This Wednesday at the Ugly Mug—Dark Ink Anthology Reading! Be there and be scared (of me apparently)

Mermaids, monsters, 50-ft. women, oh, my! Join us at 8 p.m. at the Ugly Mug in Orange for your favorite creature feature and Moon Tide’s publisher Eric Morago whom I blackmail into publishing me because I keep his darkest secret in an empty Kleenex box on my bedside table. I haven’t ever seen it—it is a dark secret and avoids the light, duh—but I feed it pumpkin seeds, so I know it is still there. Buy the book and free his secret or his soul—both probably cost the same.

And now for the first prompt: write a poem or story about taking a mermaid for a lover or an enemy. For inspiration, read Jan Stinchcomb’s “The Lorelei Project.” Just remember, not all hearts beat warm. 

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 (This is the mermaid I created out of rocks, seaweed, and shells a few years ago.)

And here is a picture of me looking very intense (or my attempt at frightening at the Dark Ink anthology launch:

(Photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher)

(Photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher)

And here is my mermaid poem in the anthology...but you have to buy the book to read the ending of “Mermaid: The Ending.”

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Thank you, Adrian Ernesto Cepeda, for the photo and for the plug on Twitter!

The Year as Ghostline—A Prompt Inspired by Lucille Clifton

I love this poem by Lucille Clifton (along with so many other of hers), so to celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of another, use the opening line “i am running into a new year” as a ghostline. As an added constraint, include three other ages or years. Which years or your previous selves were the hardest to leave behind? Which are the hardest to run into again or the hardest you run away from? 

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New Year’s Eve—Prompt for the Passing and the Surviving

For the last day of 2018—a hard year for so many as we have watched a slow falling into night—spend a moment to remember all the moments that brought you here under the blinking sky, the births and breaths and birdsong. Write a poem to honor what beauty has passed and what beauty remains. Try to use anaphora and alliteration. For inspiration, read Joy Harjo’s poem “Remember.”

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Christmas Prompts—The Gift of the Internet

Last year I came up with my own prompts for the holiday; this year, just a big nope. My brain this holiday season is the blankest page in a notebook, not even lined. So here is a list of writing prompts for both poetry and fiction from Litbridge.  

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And here is a bizarre short story that I loved from Greg Van Eekhout and found today on Twitter. Again, Twitter (in spite of all of my griping about Nazis, incels and bots (oh, my!) is a blessing. How could I not click on the link with that description...

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The “O” Prompt—NSFW

Volcanoes, lightning strikes, and tsunamis—what natural disaster best describes your “o” moment? Or perhaps what fills your head as your body blinks its third eye at God’s coming light is a gentle rain after a long drought, a single ray of light grazing the center of a daisy, a spring bubbling in a forest, a wetlands sprouting lilies.  

Maybe rather than images, you hear a choir belting out “Joy to the World,” a clarion call, a cascade of flutes, or a single harp string thrummed. Describe the song, the words and instruments if any, the tone and the register. God loves a song of praise. Sing it out.

Or possibly all of your boxes on the to-do list of your body get checked in black marker and every item on your pull-down menu is selected. 

Choose your metaphor and ride it all the way through until you’re done and done. 

For inspiration, read these two poems by Danez Smith: “King the Color of Space, Tower of Molasses & Marrow” and “Bare.” 

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Obligatory Frankenstein Poem—Sarah ChristianScher (aka Scarus ChristforSure)

Today’s prompt is meta or incestuous, whichever scares you the most. This poem (perhaps) came from one of my prompts (or rather a challenge) back in June, and now the prompt is title your poem “Obligatory ____  Poem” and use the following six words from Sarah’s poem: name, living, head, hiss, kindling, mirror. Try to change the usage of the words from verb to noun and vice versa or feel free to binge on gerunds like potato chips and piss off writing instructors everywhere.  

Btw, to read the rest of Sarah’s poem, you have to buy the book!!!! Muhahahahahahahah. Here’s the link

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And here is that sweet face housing the diabolical mind that makes Ian’s friends worry about his incipient demise involving pogo sticks, an inflatable baby pool filled with electric eels, and a banana peel. 

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Poetry Prompt from Phillip B. Williams—Stealing Prompts Because Mice Are Cute Thieves

So I am pretty tired, and no prompts (or anything else productive) is happening in my brain. The hamster wheel has rusted still and quiet. So, time to find Twitter prompts! Blessed, blessed poets posting prompts... 

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Photo chosen because I love this children’s book and because the mouse is me, my brain, and my current level of ambition all holding a flower. 

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Animal Planet—Prompts Inspired by Emma Bolden

We are losing species and whole populations at a horrifying rate: even insects are disappearing and the next age . Perhaps this reason is why of all the amazing poems in Emma Bolden’s House Is an Enigma, her “Between Sea and Sky” is the one I needed to share. This poem “animals” the world and the universe, perhaps a necessity one day.

For this prompt, do the same. Rather than peopling this planet, refill it with wild creatures, species of all kinds. If we lose the bees, let them hum in dandelion and cracked sidewalk. Let each grain of sand embody an ant that once tunneled teeming cities. See the glitter of a dragonfly in glass shards and hear the soft cooing of a dove in morning drizzle. Make an interstate a river of leaping salmon, the exhaust the heavy breathing of a predator. If the oceans mirror the void between stars, turn every desolate wave into fin and feather. Let the stars hiss back at us, we who sought to grasp what was out of reach and let go of what could be sheltered within our palms.  

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“Between Sea and Sky” was originally published as “Melancholy Between Sea and Sky” in Escape into Life. And, please, buy the book. House Is an Enigma is beautiful and aching. 

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Dark Ink Anthology—Adrian Ernesto Cepeda

This post is a month overdue...I had technical issues with some of the photos, so I had to scrap my initial plan and instead individually feature poets from the Dark Ink anthology launch.

First of all, I want to start with Adrian Ernesto Cepeda. I was so stoked getting to meet him in person at the Dark Ink launch after following him on Twitter for so long. And his poem was fantastic! Buy the anthology from Moon Tide Press, so that you can read it and all the other fantastic poems!

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Full disclosure: I stole this photo from his post on Facebook. Below is a selfie of the two of us. 

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And look down here for some members of the audience!

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Discussion—Inspiration, Voice, Attribution, and Honesty

Centos and erasures are two of my favorite forms, and I use epigraphs and ghost lines. Yes, they draw upon others’ materials for both text and inspiration, but they give credit and what is created is (and should be) something unique. After a recent incident of serial plagiarism—which seems to be outright theft from several poets—and cultural/personal appropriation, these forms and poems that clearly draw inspiration off of other writers seem tainted. 

I believe there is a place for these forms and for conversations among poems and between poets within works, BUT attribution is required. I don’t ever condone or promote plagiarism. Yes, poets imitate poets they admire. I have been to readings in which younger poets’ cadences and imagery were clearly influenced by a poetry idol within their community. Much of this imitation is unconscious and an indication of admiration and learning, but the poets were clearly writing their own poems.

Developing one’s voice can be a long process—I am still developing mine, but the centos that I have created do seem to have what I consider my voice. I am very careful to note the origin of each line. If you do create a cento or use a line for an epigraph or consciously structure a poem after another, give credit and ensure your poem is not just a copy. If in doubt, ask someone to look over it. If the poem seems nothing more than a replica or an echo of the other poet, put the poem aside. Come back to it when you have a clearer sense of your own voice. Be good to the community and to yourself. 

I welcome hearing your viewpoints on these forms. Best wishes and good luck writing! 

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Tonguing Eights: Word Lists, Categories, and Relational Chemistry in Kaveh Akbar’s “When Lightning Split the Plum Tree —Eight Prompts More Fun Than the SAT/ACT

Hi all, another attempt to use one poet’s genius to birth more geniuses—a genesis if you will—Sorry! So here goes.

For the first prompt, use four or more words (or all) from the following list found in Kaveh Akbar’s poem “When Lighting Split the Plum Tree” (published in the Georgia Review): “plum,” “starched,” “glory,” “liquids,” “skin,” “coos,” “feature,” “omnipotent,” “hexagons,” 8s”, “natural, “rearranges,” dignity,” “whittled,” “universival,” and  “body.” 

Or second choice, write a poem in which you make a poem using words from eight (or fewer) categories: insect, animal, fruit, number, geometrical shape, crafting/woodworking/smithing, profession/job, body part/organ. Tip: write a list of 3-5 words for each category you plan to use and mix and match until you spark something.

Third prompt: what is the soul made of? Give percentages of its chemical composition. Covalent or ionic bonds? Explain death using isotopes. 

Fourth prompt: use the ghostline “it’s a feature not a flaw but if.”

Fifth prompt: describe what you would say to an omnipotent audience? Anything more than “sorry” or perhaps a long rant about how the stars shifted too much to guide even a dream. 

Sixth prompt: just write a fucking sex poem. You know this is what you wanted all along. Use the words “smelled,” “excited,” “skin,” “stretch,” “built,” and “tongue.” Bonus points for including “wooing’ and “coos.’

Seventh prompt: take the poem and erase it down to the point you want your body to make after your death. Or the phrase you believe it has echoed throughout your life.

Eighth prompt (exercise idea from Brendan Constantine): take the poem, line-by-line exchange words  with opposites: “inside” becomes “outside”; “boiling” becomes “freezing”; “dignity” becomes “shame”;
 “died” becomes “lived”; and so on. Perhaps create a system—like exchanging all/most of the nouns or most/all of the verbs. See where this takes you. 

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Five of Hearts, Spleen and Lungs—Cellular Storage

Make a list of five rooms, HVAC units, appliances, and/or storage areas. Think kitchen, furnace, nursery, basement, roof, chimney, patio, closet, furnace, etc. Next make a list of five organs, systems, or areas of the body. Look at the lists. What sparks for you? Write a poem that names a room or appliance or building and associate with your body or another’s. What is stored there—kept but hidden—what is used daily. What memory or loved one do you display in the curve of cheek, the crook of your elbow, the fluttering of your lungs? What lies in the depths of your bowels. What burns deep in your furnace? What voice pulses in your wrist? What song does your breath croon as you close your eyes for sleep?

This prompt was inspired by Laura Kasischke’s “Song” found in her book in Space in Chains. Or as the Ugly Mug crew would say: my attempt to reverse engineer her poem. Alas, I am not the technician that Steve Ramirez is. Check out Kasischke’s similarly beautiful poem “Kitchen Song” and (as always) buy her book! Thank you, Danielle Mitchell, for recommending this poet to me. 

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The book....and she has others of course. 

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Sometimes what we love, breaks open our foundation, and the beauty is in what remains. 

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More Stolen Prompts AND Even a Sample Poem—Thanks, Twitter Poets!!!

As you probably know, I adore Chen Chen and have posted prompts from him before. He is such a joy! [And, as always, buy his amazing book When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities and visit his website for poems and general awesomeness.]

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So your prompt from Chen Chen is to write a poem about that moment in which you felt loved and use “peppery” somewhere in a line. By the time, I read the prompt, a poet had already written the perfect sample poem. Yay! With her permission, I posted her poem below: 

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You can follow @fullofgems on Twitter and, for more poems, follow writerchristiana on Instagram. Please do.

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Best wishes writing! 

Dark Ink Launch—Dare to Be There

Join ussssss for a sometimes scary (but not necessarily scary) reading of poems from Dark Ink: A Poetry Anthology Inspired from Horror published by Moon Tide Press. Horror fans (and pansies like myself) will be sure to enjoy a night of poems about favorite slasher films, mythological creatures, classic monsters, current politics (the most frightening subject of all), and more.

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 Directly from Moon Tide’s editor, Eric Morago (because I am lazy, as you know): We hope you will join us for the official launch reading and party of Dark Ink: A Poetry Anthology Inspired by Horror on Saturday, November 3rd at The Whittier Museum in Whittier, CA.

Poets from the anthology will be reading and you will have an opportunity to purchase the book, along with other Moon Tide titles. There will be complimentary food and drink (including wine), a fun raffle, and other spooky surprises.

The event will start at 7 PM, but arrive a little early to get your copy of the book, a treat, and to check out the museum's awesome Halloween decorations.

Poets reading the night of the event are TBA, but some of the confirmed poets are: Ron Koertge, Alexis Rhone Fancher, Armine Iknadossian, Daniel McGinn, Sonia Greenfield, and Mariano Zaro.

We will update the full list of poets as the date draws closer. You can stay up to date by checking the Facebook event page here.

The Whittier Museum is located at: 6755 Newlin Ave. Whittier, CA 90601.

We are SO proud of this anthology and cannot wait to share it with you. Please mark your calendars; we hope you will join us in celebrating this book and the poets who make it so special!

And don't forget...this reading is absolutely FREE and open to the public.

NaNoWriMo NOW—First Day to 50,000 Words

Hi all, I meant to give prior notice, but procrastinating and petting my cat Pebbles took priority...as usual. This month is National Novel Writing Month—a don’t-fuss-just-write writing challenge. The goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. The goal is not to write 50,000 perfect and polished words (if you do, then awesome!), but just to write. After November, you have the start of a novel to then complete the story, revise, edit, revise some more, edit, edit, edit... 

Ideally, you should have a plot outline and some characters thought out. I don’t have either. Let’s just jump in and start swimming. I have however signed up at the nanowrimo.org site. This organization really does provide a lot of support, including writing events and writing buddies, and fun rewards. [It also encourages younger writers in K-12 schools and gives resources and materials to libraries.]

What kind of prizes can you get for completing the challenge—other than bragging rights, of course? The T-shirt. Really, it is all about the T-shirt—a self-congratulation to wear on your chest and a pat on your back for your back. I did complete the challenge in 2013. OMG, I did not realize it has really been five years.... Regardless, I still wear the shirt and will until it disintegrates into fine layer of lint. (yes, yes, yes, the date is on the shirt, and I still didn’t realize how long ago, but I don’t stare at my shirt unless I spill food on myself). 

So go to the site, sign in, and start in. Good luck!  

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Give a Bouquet—The Flowery F*** You Prompt

The symbolism of flowers has a long history. Victorians spoke in the language of flowers—each flower had its own meaning and shades of meaning. Shakespearean audiences also picked up on a floral insults. After her father’s death, Ophelia passes out flowers to King and Queen. She hands the King columbine for faithlessness, deceit and adultery. For Queen Gertrude, she gives rue for regret and, again, adultery. Rue also was used to induce miscarriage. Since Hamlet had killed Ophelia’s father, Ophelia may have added an additional insult with the rue. After posting this last night, I came across this poem by Jenny Molberg, “In Which Ophelia Opens the Box of Hamlet’s Drawings.” Love it!

For this prompt, design a bouquet for your ex, a frenemy, or an outright enemy. Read Camille T. Dungy’s “Daisy Cutter” as a guide. If you wish, use this chart that discuses the flowers in Hamlet to learn about flower meanings. Feel free to add well-known poisonous plants and flowers to your bouquet. Or, if you prefer, create your own meanings with your flower choices. White carnation, for me, symbolizes early death, mourning and loss of hope. 

If you are a kinder person than I am, create a bouquet for a loved one.  Again fee free to use the chart or other list or create your own associations. For poems on flowers and their meanings, read Kaveh Akbar’s “Orchilds are Sprouting From the Floorboards,” Cynthia Zarin’s “Flowers” (this poem about a bouquet given to her), Nate Marshall’s “picking flowers,” and Cindy Veach’s “Rose of Jericho.”

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Terrence Hayes Asked You a Question—Prompt

In his most recent collection, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, Terence Hayes asks this question as the ending of one of the poems: “Would you rather spend the rest of eternity / With your wild wings bewildering a cage or / With your four good feet stuck in a plot of dirt?” Listen to him read the whole poem “American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin [‘Inside me is a black-eyed animal]’” published by the Poetry Foundation.

 Read Maya Angelou’s “Caged Bird” and Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “Sympathy” for their answers. Read Cecilia Llompart’s “Do Not Speak of the Dead” for a different response, and James Dickey’s “The Dusk of Horses” for another. 

If you cannot answer the question Hayes asks, use his first line “Inside me is a black-eyes animal” as a ghost line. Let us see what emerges from you. 

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Name Your Fear and Make It Hum Your Name in Response—A Prompt for Obscure Fears

Years later, I am still in love with Jamaal May’s Hum, and some of my favorite poems in the collection are poems about phobias. One such poem is “Athazagoraphobia (Fear of Being Ignored)”—notice the imagery. Read “Mechanophobia: Fear of Machines” if you would like to read more of his poetry. And, as always, buy the book!

For your prompt, choose a phobia, name it and define it in the title and write about it using a list of concrete descriptions. Here is an online list of phobias. Or make up a phobia. Be surreal or realistic. Be detailed and visceral. Be spectacular.  

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