Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Poetry prompt #3 - sign poem

It’s already Wednesday and still no poetry prompt for the week. Violet, where is it?

I am late. I confess. (I think the holiday on Monday messed me up.)

Anyway, this week I will borrow the prompt from Poets Online. It begins:
For this prompt, we look for a sign to be the starting place -and the title - of a poem. A sign seen on a roadside, on a store, even an advertisement in a newspaper, magazine or on TV is acceptable. It might be a good opportunity for a humorous poem, though I suspect some submissions will be quite serious too.

For the entire prompt and Cecilia Woloch’s poem "Slow Children At Play" which was the catalyst, go here.

So let’s get sign-ogling and writing. If we hurry, there’s even time to submit it to the Poets Online website – till May 27th.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Poetry prompt #2 - List poem

Pretty well guaranteed almost any book about how to write poetry will tell you to write lists. I’m not sure exactly what the connection is between listing and how it bleeds into poetic thought or vision. Perhaps when we list things we open the door to lots of possibilities. Or we tell ourselves there is more than one right answer. Or the process of listing is subliminal permission for our mind to go off in many directions.

Whatever, there are certainly plenty of lists in poetry. One such list that’s caught my attention lately is actually a song. Some of the lyrics of the Bruce Cockburn "Southland of the Heart" (Sung by Steve Bell on this album) are really a list of how it feels when life sucks:

When the wild-eyed dogs of day to day
Come snapping at your heels
And there's so much coming at you
That you don't know how to feel...
When your heart's beset by memories
You wish you'd never made
When the sun comes up an enemy
And nothing gives you shade...
When the nightmare's creeping closer
And your wheels are in the mud
When everything's ambiguous
Except the taste of blood...

© 1992 Bruce Cockburn

Lists in poems can also be hidden. Anyone care to guess what the poem "Welcome" in this post, lists?

For another list prompt and lots of examples of list poems - check out this.

And now, for this week’s prompt:
1. Make a list of seven list poems you could write.
2. Write one of them.
3. Post it on your blog or website.
4. Let me know, I’ll link to you – and we might even end up with another list!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Poetry prompt #1 - Ekphrastic poem

I didn’t know there was a name for poetry which is based on or talks back to works of art. But my recently acquired the poetry dictionary assures me there is. It’s called ekphrastic poetry.

John Drury defines ekphrastic poetry as poetry that imitates, describes, critiques, dramatizes, reflects upon or otherwise responds to a work of non-literary art, especially the visual.

Poems about photographs are considered a subcategory of this though, as Drury says, photograph poems are somewhat different, since they are based upon pictures never meant originally as art, perhaps snapshots from a family album, and will thus deal with the stuff of everyday life.

An ekphrastic poem, whether based on a painting, photograph, sculpture, song or whatever, should do more than just describe the work of art. It should also add something that takes off from the original work, or talks back to it.

The February 15th Writer’s Almanac poem “Photograph / 1936" by David Bengtson is a good example of such a poem, I think. It begins with simple description of an old fashioned scene from a photograph:

They face each other, my father in a white jacket,
rented for the day, my grandfather
in a dark suit, tie too short, a light felt
dress hat with a dark band, the shadow
of the brim covering his eyes.
But ends with a stanza loaded with enigma, reverberating with questions and heavy with the sad way things turned out:

I would like to stand in the space
between you and your dad, and say,
“Let’s sit together on this bench. Let’s talk
about the things that frighten us,” and we’d talk about boilers that explode,
long trips on rough seas to small islands,
why a son, given everything,
would turn on his father, his family,
the love of family.

So, my writing prompt to myself (and anyone who wishes to join me this week) is to write an ekphrastic poem.

Filed in Writing - Poetry