Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April is National Poetry Month

Today is the first day of National Poetry Month. I think it's appropriate that such a month should begin on April Fool's Day. Over at Writer's Digest, Robert Lee Brewer is posting daily prompts. Poets.org is offering daily poems delivered to your inbox. Poetry Daily, which will send poems to your inbox any time of year, offers Poet's Picks, wherein contemporary poets introduce and comment on the poems of past poets.

How am I celebrating? By sitting on my duff, drinking coffee, and eating cheese toast. Which is how I celebrate poetry every day. It's also how I celebrate the premier of a favorite TV show, my dog learning how to evacuate outside the house rather than inside, my boyfriend taking his daily shower, etc. Which is to say I simply don't know how to celebrate a marginalized artistic genre over the course of the cruelest month.

But I was thinking: maybe this prompt-a-day thing isn't a bad idea. I'm knee-deep in thesis to the point that I hate everything I've ever written and I want it to die, die, die. The answer could be to generate new work. Get excited again about writing. So here are the 30 prompts I will use. I've taken care to make them applicable to any genre.

1. Address anxiety. Include: one drug brand name and a scene of soporific stupor.

2. Satirize one of your old works by noting your writing ticks and exaggerating them wildly.

3. Write something regional. Include: a native plant, a study in dialect, and a harsh invective addressed to a particular person.

4. Imitate a sample of technical writing. Have the sample in front of you and lift its diction, tone, and form while introducing elements that undermine its purpose.

5. Imitate a sample of work from a writer whose writing you absolutely loathe (i.e., a particular chapter, poem, paragraph, etc.).

6. Write a dialogue of overheard fragments. Choose a particular place to sit and eavesdrop in order to collect said fragments.

7. Choose a page of a fashion magazine at random (I prefer Vogue). Tear it out. Fold it in half. Fold it in half again. Cut along the seams. Rearrange the quadrants of the page. Tape or glue them together. Rewrite the page as it appears now (if it's an advertising image, use the revised image as your inspiration).

8. Write an address to a television or movie character whose motivations are unfathomable to you.

9. Write a haibun. Travel if you must in order to do so.

10. Holy shit, how many days are there in this month? Take a day off.

11. Imitate a repetitive sound that drives your crazy. In words.

12. Watch the movie Baraka. Write in response to it.

13. Listen to George Crumb. Write in response to it.

14. My dog likes to chew rocks. He's a pug. Write about that.

15. Write an epigram about some relevant social ill or scandalous person.

16. Describe a favorite food (a) without mentioning the food itself and (b) without using any ingredients or any of these words: taste, flavor, sweet, sour, bitter, salt, savory, syrup, tangy, sauce.

17. Melt a bunch of crayons together on the sidewalk in the sun. Write about that.

18. Do an internet search for someone with whom you've lost touch. Write about all the people you find who are not this person.

19. Write as if there's no tomorrow. No really. Imagine what you would write if you had reason to believe you might not be around tomorrow.

20. Pick a kid you know. Write as if you are that kid. Use the diction and grammar of a child who is his or her age. Use whatever details you know about his/her life. Write in crayon or pencil, on lined paper, if that helps.

21. Begin again with #1, knowing what you know now. I'm out of ideas.

I should note that I used to think prompts were worthless. But it turns out that I've written some decent stuff in response to some very convoluted prompts (Thanks Joanna Klink). I also no longer believe in writer's block because of prompts--even when you have no idea what to write, you can always pick up a prompt and force yourself to write in response to it. What you produce may be a steaming pile of crap--but it's writing, isn't it?

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