April 11, 2011

A Guide to Writing from Prompts

There's a good reason that "April is the cruelest month" & it's Poetry. The general level of worry & angst among poets is rising now that we are in National Poetry Month, or as some call it, Write a Bad Poem Every Day from Prompts Month (NaWriPoPromMon).

It used to be that poets would wander the streets at night, or hike the woods, or take drugs, or fall in love in order to find things to write about. Now the internet makes it possible for poets to be bombarded by prompts for writing poems without getting mugged, or eaten by a bear, becoming a drug addict or getting your heart broken (again). Many sites list topics, phrases, words or other suggestions/assignments for writing a poem every day of April. A couple notable sites are NaPoWriMo.net, & Big Tent Poetry (which the rest of the year provides weekly prompts); just search "poetry prompts" on the internet & see what you get.

Certainly there is nothing wrong with providing ideas for people to write about to hone their literary skills, to keep the practice of writing alive. But you know how some folks can be, those raised in school systems (or religions, or households) that train you to do what you are told, to work hard everyday! It's actually an extension of our toilet training: "Mommy come here, look what I just did in the toilet." Prompts are like the laxative of writing for those that can't poop, I mean poem.

Having done this myself on occasion (I mean, writing from prompts, I have no trouble pooping), I've learned a few tricks to ease the anxiety of meeting the prompt deadline. I've actually used each of these at one time or another & nobody was the wiser, until now.

DWx's Top Tips for Anxiety-Free Writing from Prompts

  • Write really long poems, you can put lots of stuff in them; just look at "Song of Myself" or "Howl," how many prompts each of them could fulfill.
  • Look for the prompts in famous poems, then steal them. The work is already done for you, you just have to read.
  • Take a series of prompts & string them together & call it a "Found Poem."
  • Take any old poem of your own & change a word or line just enough to fulfill the prompt.
  • Add a line that fulfills the prompt to the poem you write, whether it makes sense or not, claim that you are imitating John Ashbery.
  • Write anything you want, then when you post it claim that it's fulfilling this or that prompt; those who read it won't care, they will just think they don't get it.

So, poets of the World, relax! Enjoy April, watch the flowers' shoots coming up, rake the lawn &  get poeming.

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