Metaphor Your Writing—Another Twitter Prompt

Bless all of these industrious writers sharing ideas and content for lazy bloggers like me… For this prompt, choose the metaphor that best embodies your writing process, writing pieces, or your brain trying to procrastinate writing. Is writing an itch that you scratch even through the scabs? Is writing the lenses through which you see the world? Is it your weighted blanket, your anchor, or your anvil? What does writing do for you? Does it lift your head above water or simply lift your chin when facing the new day? What do you get out of it? Money (ha), fame, community, understanding, closure?

Write an extended metaphor for your writing, but try not to explain what the metaphor represents.


Choose Your Weapon (or Punishment)—Rod, Anvil, Sword, Cup, Oozing Blister—Twitter Prompt on the Shape of Anger

Using the inspiration provided by the brilliant Maggie Smith and Todd Dillard, write a poem describing the shape of your anger. Is it heavy? Does it provide you protection or punishment? If it is a tool, what implement is it? How useful? Do you use it against yourself? What does it feel like on your back, in your hands, in your belly? Would you give it away if you could? Name who you would hand it to? Would they carry it on or drop it?


If you are stuck, perhaps these poems will jumpstart you: excerpts from Chase Berggrun’s R E D, “Anger” by April Bernard, and “On Anger” by Rage Hezekiah.

Blanchard Caverns, Arkansas

Blanchard Caverns, Arkansas

Bonus prompt: The veterans who helped with the caves saw a battleship within the rocks. War followed them into the center of the earth. What follows you to your core? What shapes would you find? Do you look?

Etymology and Entomology—Dictionary this poem prompt

Etymology and entomology are easy to confuse: both study origins and evolutions and the way small changes scuttle across time and sometimes disappear in the cracks. Make a list of five words that have always interested you and look each of them up in the dictionary. Dig a little and find the history of the word. Note how it has evolved and how it has resisted change and write a poem using that information. For inspiration, read “Etymological Note” by Kelly Davio. 


If that prompt doesn’t work for you and you need another, let’s do a word-list prompt. I find them helpful when I seem to be stuck writing the same poem over and over. So for the second prompt, use the following list of words from Kelly Davio’s poem in your own: “plank,” “texture,” “strengthen,” “censer,” “splitting,” “gestures,” “wedge,” and “raking”   

Let’s try a similar prompt, but using homonyms (words that sound alike but do not share meaning) and homophones (homonyms that sound alike but share neither meaning nor spelling) of some of the words in the poem: “state”/state, “bare”/“bear” (both included in the poem), “body”/bawdy, “censer”/censor, “way”/weigh, “creep”/creep, and “rites”/rights. Let’s throw in some heteronyms (words that are share spelling but neither meaning nor pronunciation): “wound”/wound and “lead”/lead. Add more if you wish: present/present, content/content, bow/bow, convert/convert, desert/desert, incense/incense, crooked/crooked, deliberate/deliberate, minute/minute, buffet/buffet, object/object, refuse/refuse, tear/tear, wind/wind. 

Good luck! 


The Road to Hell is Colored within the Lines—A Prompt for the Rebels and for the Meek

We were all told to be good, to follow the rules, to listen to the adults, to obey. But then we were born in a world in which the adults lied, cheated, and destroyed, and they wrote the rules. When did you  break your first rule? What was it? Was the rule itself good? Was breaking it worth the consequences?  For your first prompt, write about that initial rebellion. 

If you did not rebel, if you’ve spent your life doing what you “should”—what were you told—what has happened? Have you inherited a piece of Earth with your goodness, or have your good intentions been your undoing? Write about the consequences of obeying. Who did you obey? Where has the path led you? What have you lost along the way?

For a third prompt, write about the rules themselves. Throw in the law of gravity, the Peter Principle, Fermi’s golden rule, and the Golden Rule. Mix and match them however you wish. Which rules are made to be broken? Which rules are made to break you? 


After the Apocalypse—A Prompt on Endings

Last post was on the end of the world, and this one is about the end of a poem. In a workshop with Brendan Constantine, either he (or one of the many poets he referenced) noted that the reader/listener views the entire poem through the lens of the last lines. The tweet below reminded me of that discussion and the importance of last lines. The entire thread btw was a treasure of last lines and fabulous poems. 


Here is the full poem:  


And here are some amazing last lines:  


So your prompt is to the last line of one of your poems—perhaps the poem you feel is your strongest or maybe the poem that never really worked, but you love its ending— and rewrite the poem using that last line as your ghostline. See what happens. Good luck! And please share if your poem is published or if you would simply like it to be the prompt’s sample poem. 


The Apocalyspe is here—with ladybugs

Recently a swarm of ladybugs was so large it was caught on weather radar. Rather than locusts, we were given ladybugs. Imagine an apocalypse when one of the portents is ladybugs. What will be next, a rain of kittens with each gently landing on its four paws and skittering around to bat at the invading daisies? What if the world ends not in fire or ice, but rainbows and glitter? What if Gabriel blows on a piccolo instead of a trumpet? If archangel Michael carries a bubble wand rather than a sword? Describe the end of days that closes with cookies and milk and a nap rather than damnation. Have fun! For inspiration, please check out Danes Smith’s beautiful “‘From ‘summer, somewhere’” and buy his book Don’t Call Us Dead.


A Prompt from Magic Realism Bot

Let’s try to reverse engineer this line from Magic Realism Bot: make a list of five cities, five flowers/plants, and five abstract nouns (self-sacrifice, complacency, ennui, justice, etc.) Look at the lists and see what sparks a metaphor. Extend the metaphor throughout the poem. For an additional constraint, limit yourself to three three-line stanzas. Good luck!


Bonus prompt: Write a poem that defines the shape of self-sacrifice without ever naming the object.  


Call and Answer—A Prompt for the Pray-er and the Prayed Upon

This line from Ilya Kaminsky reminds me of Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis—perhaps the best justification of religion—and also of Lois McMaster Bujold’s philosophical musings on the limits of God/Gods in her Chalion series.  


What question/accusation would you demand of God/Gods? What would they ask/accuse you of in return? What would each’s justification be for the evil in the world? Are the justifications the same? What would each of you do differently? And why can’t either you?


Moon Tide Press Gives a Call to Submit, to Arms, to Dinner, to Shop with Your Favorite Dead Celebrity—A Prompt Inspired by Ben Trigg

Ben Trigg’s poem “Lunch with Cleopatra” inspired the next anthology theme for Moon Tide Press. Make a list of five mundane tasks or places and make a second list of five dead celebrities. Look at both lists and see what sparks for you. 

If after choosing the person and the event, you still need help, research that person. Ben observed that all of the research he did into Cleopatra doesn’t directly show up in the poem, but, as you may notice, it does seem to provide a subtext here. The poem itself is thoroughly modern. Experiment with time and setting. See what works. 


Do remember to be respectful. While “At the Theatre with Abraham Lincoln” is attention getting, try to go beyond the initial shock value if the poem does dwell on the subject’s death. Fall in love with your subject; honor the person as if you were their best friend and you are the greatest best friend in this century or any other. Or perhaps center the poem on yourself if doing so is more appropriate. For this prompt, I wrote “Rock Collecting with Virginia Woolf” after reading her suicide note, but the subject matter is my own struggle, and I hope I have treated depression with the consideration it deserves. 

And here is a picture of Ben Trigg—the merrier co-host of the Two Idiots Peddling Poetry reading at the Ugly Mug, worst threat issuer for going over time, and the greatest best friend.  Btw, an expanded version of his book Kindness from a Dark God is forthcoming from Moon Tide Press, so buy it!


Break the Line—A Twitter Game for Poets

Since April is the 30/30 writing challenge, May should be the 30/30 editing sure wasn’t for me though. And, honestly, editing is one of the most difficult parts of writing for me, and the stage where my insecurities bloom (second only to the submission process). I still—and always will—have much to learn.

One of the things I most appreciate about Twitter is the where-to-break-the-line discussions. I am grateful for the opportunity to read poets I admire discussing technical aspects of craft...without paying for an MFA or a conference.


Please share where you would break the line. I would love to discuss line breaks and stanza breaks!

And since I usually post a prompt to help create a new poem, please use “So, please, when I die, forget all the fires I set” as a ghost line. Where does this take you?

For a second prompt, write a list poem of all the crimes, sins of omission or otherwise, harm, lies and honest mistakes, bad jokes, and general bad behavior you wish people to forget after you die.  And perhaps you wish to forget some of those too but are afraid you might forget the night even the moon admitted you were right and had been all along. For inspiration, read Barbara Hamby’s “Ode to Forgetting the Year.


Prompts + Poetry Event: A Celebration of 30 poems in 30 days

Tomorrow night at the Ugly Mug in Orange, HanaLena Fennel and I will be reading prompts and poets will be sharing their prompt-inspired poems to celebrate April’s 30/30 challenge! 

The reading starts 8:00 (or more like 8:15). Be sure to sign up for the open mic (3 poems/5 minutes, whichever comes first) and share your 30/30 poems or a new one or your favorite poem.

Don’t forget to bring $3 for the cover, or Phil will collect an organ of his choice!


Full disclosure: I only wrote 20 and did not write an ode to my socks, a sestina, nor even a limerick....

It’s a Mother of a Day—Prompt

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone who loves someone’s mother, whether it be your own, a friend’s, a kitten’s, or the mother earth. 

For the first prompt, think of someone who has been a mother figure to you—generous and strong and wise. Honor her/him/them with a praise poem. What bird should sing just for that person? What flower blooms under their gaze? Which small moon should orbit them for a year? And explain why through a scene.

If nothing gets moving with the first, try this next prompt. For this second prompt, mad lib the cliché “Necessity is the mother of invention.” A jutting table leg is the mother of the muttered “Motherf_cker” that begot the Dawn-brand-dish-soaped mouth that gave birth to a small resentment against that table that bloomed a bruise on a shin and an everlasting fear of bubbles. Go forth and multiply these mothers. 

If neither prompt works for you, read the following poems: Julia Kasdorf’s “What I Learned From My Mother,” Diane Wakoski’s “Thanking My Mother for Piano Lessons,” Jean Nordhaus’s “A Dandelion for My Mother,” and Ross Gay’s “Ending the Estrangement.” Which one calls to you and why? Write a response to that poem. Be sure to credit the poet for your inspiration.   


A Fleshbag of Feral Cats—Another Twitter Prompt

So this is a weird one, bless Chuck Wendig for all of his infinite wisdom:


For this poem, write as if you are this colony of feral cats going about your day. How do you make polite conversation at the checkout line? Do people look nervous at all that hissing and meowing? Do you get distracted in the sewing aisle with the thread and yarn?

What other errands can you accomplish? How difficult is it to renew your library card when half of your teeth selves are chewing on book corners, other claw selves have found the rubber band ball constructed by a bored librarian, one subset of feline selves is chasing your tail selves, and two are just flashing their butts to all the other patrons?  

Or perhaps you aren’t filled with feral cats, but instead with bean-filled stuffed animal cats. You are soft, cuddly, and rather matted and scruffy after being carried and dropped repeatedly by a small child with grubby hands. Several of your stuffed selves are lost, fallen under the bed, left in the backseat, sitting on a park bench. Someone is always looking for that missing self. Who finds that part of you and where? Who carries one of your selves everywhere? Why? What does that part of you offer?


Good luck! Please send me your draft from either prompt. I really want to read your poem!

More “Borrowing” from Twitter—Proper-noun-yourself-into-a-poem Prompt

Full disclosure: I love Shira Erlichman’s poems and cannot wait for her forthcoming Odes to Lithium. Using her concept she tweeted below, take a noun and open the poems about it as itself and as something you have made of yourself: “singer and song,” belief and believer, mourning and mourner, dance and dancer, knowledge and knowing (in a carnal sense or not), paint and painter, Twitter and tweet (ha). Stretch the language if necessary. What would “bitter” as a noun and “bitterer” as doer encompass? Play a little: whine and whiner, wine and drinker, bird and birder, jump and jumper, memory and eraser, gaslight and lighter. Journey from there. 


This tweet is a poem. So lovely.


The Black Hole Ate My Blog Post—A Delayed Prompt

So this is a prompt I’d intended to write last week after news of four bees drinking a woman’s tears and of the first image of a black hole. I even wrote a poem about the black hole only to have my phone die in the middle of reading it. The black screen seemed particularly apt. Since my brain seems to be full of dizzy bees and holes, I am going to rely on the Twitter poets to save me. 


 I hope that your poem does almost write itself. Some poems seem to burst out of me, but others...hmm. 

For your first prompt, write a poem about bees or any creature living off your sorrow. What do you want to tell this creature? Would you stop feeding it if you could? What do you want in return? For inspiration, read Justin Phillip Reed’s “About the Bees” (seems very apt) and—for a shorter read—Emily Dickinson’s “Fame is a bee.”

If you would like more information about the actual story, here is a link.  


Now for the second prompt, write a poem about black holes as metaphor, as as scientific phenomena, as MRA ego. What moment, what existence, what reality exists in the black hole? What feeds it? What in your own life pulls you across a room, draws you in until even your breath can barely escape?

Below is the image. Eye of Sauron is a fitting description, although the overall explanations and descriptions in Hannah Devlin’s article in the Guardian are brilliant.


For a third prompt, combine the two, the black hole and tear-sipping bees, in the same poem. Are you the light or the dark, the drinker or the nectar? Which is God? Do we enter heaven, or are we pulled into it? Do we drink the wine, or is it our immaterial selves, the flashing of neurons, that sustain the immortal? Can we choose? What is your choice?


Your Lighthouse, North Star, the Moon, Heart and Other Overdone Metaphors: It’s William Shatner to the Mic

Yes, we have all written them—sappy, overwrought, overdone metaphors in poems comparing a new love to a lighthouse or guiding star and then a followup poem to the moon lamenting the breakup and your shattered glass heart. So do it again. And do it big. Do it with lots of unnecessary pauses. No William Shakespeare now; embody William Shatner. Boldly go where everyone has gone before and by God like it. This is 30/30, and the 13th. You have earned a night of Boone’s Strawberry Hill and Cool Ranch Doritos. So pile on those gerunds and rhyme heart/part/start in the first stanza. You got this. 

Courtesy of Paramount Television in   Fortune

Courtesy of Paramount Television in Fortune

Now that the pressure is off to write a poem for the challenge, get a little weird. Switch the heart with another organ, replace lighthouse with telephone pole, substitute moon with Uranus. Mix the metaphors, make verbs out of your nouns and see what happens. Maybe you will even get a second poem out of this. Hope to read this in the next issue of Poetry!

Bonus prompt: take the Star Trek episode pictured here (“The Trouble with Tribbles” ) and multiply some other creature or object. 

Good luck! 

Another Twitter Prompt—Orchards of Scissors, Silverware, Clocks, Socks, Widgets, Tofu, a Sister

More stealing from Twitter... Using Todd Dillard’s prompt, describe what would grow in your orchard. What would you plant, and what would spring up on its own? I once liked to pretend meat grew on trees. Now I am a vegetarian and avoid eating anything with a face. People can be buried in pods that will grow into trees. Rather than a cemetery, a forest grows. For my family whose name Pflaum is pronounced “plum,” most likely an orchard. Who comes for harvest? What is shared? What is eaten?


For this month, Todd Dillard is creating a thread of prompts. Follow him on Twitter for more. And I hope this prompt helps create a poem. Please share. I would love to read your poem!


Murders, Conspiracies, Wakes and Deceits—This List Poem is for the Birds

This prompt is inspired by a tweet from the amazing Frankie Choi. For your next poem for the 30/30 challenge, write a list poem of why you don’t trust birds—perhaps it is their beaks, the skill of crows in holding grudges and remembering faces, the tiny aggressiveness of hummingbirds, and the ability of most birds to fly above and defecate on the heads of their enemies (this would be why I envy them of course), their relation to dinosaurs, etc. After all, the collective nouns for many birds—a murder of crows, a conspiracy of ravens, a wake of vultures and a deceit of lapwings—do not exactly inspire confidence. Choose all birds or one particular species if one is particularly disturbing.

Perhaps you don’t want to write about fears or trickery, but do like birds. Make a list poem of images with birds as Wallace Stevens does in his “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” And here is a response poem to that from the perspective of blackbirds (that I really like): “Thirteen Blackbirds Look at a Man” by R. S. Thomas. 

If birds are your beacons of happiness but you still want a list poem of a creature’s skullduggery, then choose another species. Perhaps you are suspicious of kittens—those plump bodies with their hidden pointy parts ever reading to attack toes, their excessive pride (and of cats) in their ass, their cruelty in playing with their food, etc. 


NaPoWriMo (APRIL 30/30) Begins!!!!

This is the first day of the 30 poems in 30 days challenge. Each day, try to write a poem. If you get behind (as I will), try to write nine in one day (also me). I will post prompts during this month and post links to other places posting prompts. Remember, this challenge is difficult, it’s goal is a good one: to get all of us writing! And don’t forget that these are drafts. April is the month of writing, and May of editing. Let’s celebrate poetry and write together. 

For the first prompt, check out the NaPoWriMo site that will post prompts every day and start with its first prompt. I will post links to other sites so that you have more choices. If nothing else, take a poem you previously wrote and make it into a form: a haiku, tanka, ode, etc. If the poem breaks the form, call it a modified _____. Or do an erasure of an old poem to get to one central idea/image/emotion. Best of luck!!! 


Please share what you have! I’d love to read your poems.