Word list

The Prose Poem—Prompt Inspired by Danielle Mitchell

What is a poem—the answers given often contradict the prose poem. What is a poem without stanzas echoes what is a poem without meter and rhyme. Perhaps what I appreciate most about the prose poem is that it requires a poet to think about what defines his/her/their own poetry and consciously choose those elements in this hybrid form.

For the first prompt, write a prose poem using imagery and themes from the tale of the minotaur in the labyrinth from Greek mythology. Here is a link to the myth if you need a refresher. Notice imagery/repetition the poet uses: “labyrinth,” “spiraling steps,” “thread,” “string,” “maze,” and “stairwell.” Who or what else could be a labyrinth? Are you the minotaur or Theseus?


For the second prompt, use the italicized line “If you get lost, just go deeper in” as a ghostline. Where do you go? Or your narrator? Are they one and the same? Or do you choose to keep the second person? After you have written your first draft, consider switching (from second person to first or third to second, for example). What changes?

For the third prompt, consider the differences between this poem and the poet’s other two poems published in the same issue of Connotation Press. How do these three prose poems differ? What themes/images does the form lend itself to? Write a poem using ten words compiled from two or all three of the poems.

For a fourth prompt, write a poem mapping the three landscapes described in the poems: forest and maze, muddy field and pond, and swamp.

And as always be sure to credit the poet for the inspiration, be careful to maintain your own voice in any poems you plan to submit and of course buy the book (check out her site)!


Animus, Schadenfreude, and Rancor: Giving Birth to All My Little Bitter Joys—Prompts

I want to thank Jan Stinchcomb for messaging me this poem. It is incredible.

For the first prompt, use the last line of Dayna Patterson’s “Self-Portrait as Titania with Newborn Animus”: “All my words call for bandages” as a ghostline. Go from there. Ignite.


I find the imagery in this poem breathtaking. Only on a second reading, did I notice all of the sound devices—alliteration, consonance and assonance as well as the careful attention given to rhythm. So many examples of sound repetition: “womb of worry,” “faith has fled,” “fathers’ fallow,” “What are we but the leavings.” So lovely.

For the second prompt, write a poem in couplets and include this repetition in at least one of the two lines and consciously slow down phrases and lines for greater effect. The phrase “vernix of red flame” felt heavy in my mouth as did the hyphenating of phrases—their slowness mimicking the birth in the poem. I am not a sound poet and often miss these devices, although I am trying to improve both my performance and my awareness of sound and rhythm for the reader. If you prioritize sound or at least balance it with imagery more than I, please offer suggestions in the comments. I would love to hear them.

For the third prompt, take one of the questions in the poem and write a response poem answering that question.

For the final prompt (as usual), write a poem or story using the following words: “vernix,” “fringe,” “cusp,” “scorch,” “linkage” “flesh,””rope,” “render,” “sterile,” and “wounds” but do not use either birth nor botany/farming as your subject matter.

And as always, make sure to avoid mimicking another’s voice—make the words and images your own—and acknowledge the poet for your inspiration.

Good luck!

The List Poem to Out-list All Others—A Try-to-Follow-This Prompt

For prompts, I often provide a list of words to use in a poem, but then I saw this poem made up of a list, and, well, I was just floored. So the challenge for you (and me) is to create a list that is a poem, one that sucks your breath back down your throat until you aren’t sure if you are made to breathe air or water or some hybrid of envy and awe.


It is probably best to start with a category so that all of your words are cohesive and then break that category by adding other parts of speech. Although I can almost never write a poem from my own prompts, I do have a vague idea for this one. Wish me luck! And I am wishing you luck too!


Somehow I saw the figure of Buddha when I was in the Cathedral section of Blanchard Caverns, but the shape didn’t come through in the photo.

The CDC’s 7 Forbidden Words—Another Word List Prompt

As you may have read, the Trump Administration is prohibiting officials at the CDC from using seven words/phrases in official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.

The list of forbidden words:

  1. Evidence-based
  2. science-based
  3. vulnerable
  4. entitlement
  5. diversity
  6. transgender
  7. fetus.

Several poets have suggested using these seven words in a poem. I first read of the prompt from Cathy Park Hong on Twitter, but several others posted the idea on Facebook.

Here is an opportunity you might like: Sarah Freligh and Amy Lemmon invited poets to submit poems in any form but using all seven words (preferably in repetition) to CDCpoetry@gmail.com for publication on their blog. Check their blog out for updates, more prompts and poems.



Femme Fairy Tale Word List

Word lists, yes, word lists. While all of us remember having to write out vocabulary words, exercises using words from one poem or by a particular poet can propel some useful freewriting or even lead into a poem or short story. Just as a form can force our writing into a new direction by its restrictions, word lists and ghost lines can offer a starting point. Sometimes a box opens into a whole new room.  

Below is a femme fairy tale word and phrase list from “Little Red”in Double Jinx by Nancy Reddy.

Choose eight and climb in. See where it carries you.

Gorged                                                                       Kindling

Grainy                                                                         Hearth

Swallowed                                                                  Framed

Rib cage                                                                      Rumbling

Papered                                                                       Hidden

Shelved                                                                       Pinned

Belly plump                                                                Vivisection

Gobbled                                                                      Pink

Roast                                                                           Fall

Cracking                                                                     Inside

Double Jinx.jpg

Nancy Reddy

Rather than reading the poem that originated the list, which may restrict your own originality, check out the fabulous "The Case of the Double Jinx" by Nancy Reddy.