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.