Saturday, July 28, 2012

Prompt #111 – Sports Poems

Last night, I stayed up until almost midnight and watched the London Olympics' amazing opening ceremonies (see video at end of post). This morning, I woke thinking that it might be interesting to write about sports this week. Of course, not everyone is sports-minded (myself included), but sports play an important role in cultures throughout the world, so why not take up the "torch" and write about them?

When the Olympics began in ancient Greece, poetry was part of the “package.” Poets wrote works in praise of athletic champions, and often recited poems to large Olympic Game crowds. At those early Games, some of the athletes hired the best and most popular poets of the day to write victory odes, and poets of every stripe erected stalls or stood on “soapboxes” to recite their poems. The venue couldn’t have been better for them – imagine a poetry reading with an audience of thousands. However, in c. 388 BC, the tyrant Dionysius of Syracuse brought actors to the Games to recite his poetry, and his poems weren’t well-received. In fact, the crowd beat him up and destroyed his tent. 

Possibly the most famous sports poem is "Casey at the Bat" by Ernest Lawrence Thayer.
Another famous baseball poem is  "Baseball and Writing" by Marianne Moore. 

Other examples:

While baseball poems are arguably more abundant than other sports poems, the challenge this week is to choose a sport (any sport) and write a poem about it. 
  1. The sport you choose may be one you enjoy or one you don’t like at all. 
  2. You may use a sport as an extended metaphor in your poem (How Dieting Is a Spectator Sport). 
  3. You may write about a sport in which you’ve participated, or you may write about a sport in which you would like to participate. 
  4. You may write about your significant other’s obsession with golf (or football, or soccer, or baseball, or basketball), or you may write about your significant other’s annoying habit of watching a particular sport on TV. 
  5. Another possibility is to write a poem about the Olympics (ancient, modern, or both). 
  6. If you’ve never played sports and don’t care for sports at all, write a poem about that. 
  7. You might think about sports heroes you consider worthy of praise and write about one of them. 
  8. You might even take a humorous approach and write a funny sports poem. 
  9. You might write a poem in which you compare a particular sport to poetry. 
  10. Or, you might reflect on the ways in which trying to win poetry competitions is like trying to win sports competitions. 
  11. Write a poem in which you list the rules for your own "Poetry Olympics." 
  12. Write a poem in which you imagine the world without a single sport.
Have fun with this, and keep these sports synonyms in mind: recreational activity, entertainment, action, amusement, athletics, exercise, frolic, fun, fun and games, gaiety, physical activity, and play.

Click here to read an excellent article on poetry's relationship with the Olympics.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Chaucey's First Birthday!

I'm happy to share my puppy Chaucey's first birthday with you! He's pure poetry to me!

Scroll down for this week's prompt (#110).

Prompt #110 – Friendship Poems

Two years ago, an old friend with whom I hadn’t been in touch since high school, found me on Facebook and contacted me. We first met when we were eleven years old and quickly became best friends. I went to her family reunions, and she accompanied my parents and me on our family vacations to Upstate New York. We saw each other every day, talked on the phone every night, and were generally inseparable. Somehow we lost touch after high school, and reconnecting after so many years, despite being a little scary, was filled with the hopeful anticipation of renewed closeness. While thinking about our “reconnection” this week, I realized that although there are hordes of poems about romantic love, I haven’t seen many poems about plain old friendship. An article on the Website refers to friendship poems as  the neglected cousins of love poems, and that certainly seems to be true although there is a tradition of poets writing poems to their poet friends or to poets whose work they admire (for example, the exchange between  Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell).

This week, in honor of my childhood friend, and in honor of your friends, let’s write friendship poems. The big caveat is to be very wary of sentimentality (a.k.a. schmaltziness, sappiness, corniness, over-romanticizing) – carefully distinguish between sentimentality and poetic sentiment – excessive sentiment is sentimentality and very much a negative term in literary criticism. Keep in mind that movies, children’s stories, and greeting card verses may be able to get away with sentimentality, but a poem can’t. So … stay objective, watch out for overuse of complimentary adjectives, and don’t “wax poetic.” Describe your friendship as it is or was, approach your friendship from unexpected perspective, let your poem take you somewhere you didn’t plan to go, and be sure to observe the old poetry “maxim” – show, don’t tell.


Ideas for Writing:

1. Write a poem about a very special friend, old or new (and by the way, that friend may be furred or feathered),

2. Write a poem to a friend (you might try an ode for this one or perhaps a prose poem in letter format).

3. Write a poem to your BFF (that’s the current text/chat acronym for “Best Forever Friend”).

4. Write a poem about reconnecting with an old friend after many years. (How are your lives different? Can you reclaim the old closeness? What hasn’t changed? What has?)

5. Write a poem about an imaginary meeting with a friend you haven’t seen in years.

6. Write a poem about a friend who betrayed you.

7. Write an elegy to a friend who has passed.

8. Write a poem to a poet whose work you admire.

And just for fun (remember this friendship classic?) ...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Prompt #109 – All Around the Towns

I’ve written before about the way a song sometimes pops into mind and stays there all day as if it’s on a continuous loop that won’t stop. It’s happened to me often, and this week, I found myself humming the old Petula Clark song “Downtown.” The song started me thinking about towns and about the emotional and spiritual geographies of place.

Back in November of 2011 (prompt #78), we wrote on the subject of “home.” This week, I’d like to extend that idea from the personal home to the larger context of the town. Let’s write about any towns that have left a mark on our memories (the character, appearance, and being of towns that have been part of our lives).

Here are some options:
  1. Write a poem about your hometown (the place in which you grew up).
  2. Write a poem about a town in which your life changed.
  3. Write a poem about a town in which you were happier than you’ve ever been before or since.
  4. Write a poem about a town that calls up sad or unhappy memories.
  5. Write a poem about a town in which you’ve never lived.
  6. Write a poem about a town you’d love to visit.
  7. Write a poem about an imaginary town (create your own).
Whichever option you select, be sure to include description (but don’t over-describe, and watch out for overuse of adjectives). Work on developing strong images. Use a figure of speech or two (simile, metaphor, etc.). Every poem has an emotional center – what will the emotional center of your poem be this week? In other words, you’re going to write about a town, but more importantly you’re going to write about what that town meant or means to you. Give the poem its head and let it lead you where it wants to go. The best poems often have their primary “subject matter” and then other “subjects” that evolve during the writing process.


And just for fun ...

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Prompt #108 – Monostitch Poems

The weather here has been unbearably hot and humid (8-10 consecutive days in the 90s, and 104º F. in today’s forecast) – not great weather for writing much of anything. So … I thought it might be fun and interesting to try writing monostitch poems this week.

A monostitch poem is a freestanding, one-line poem, balanced in its own time and place. Historically, the monostitch dates to ancient times (reportedly including the Roman poet Marcus Valerius Martialis, though I was unable to locate any examples). The form received attention again in late nineteenth century Russia when Valery Bryusov published this single-line poem in 1894:

О закрой свои бледные ноги.
(Oh, cover your pale legs.)

I’ve found a few “rules for monostitch poems” that may serve as guidelines for your writing this week.

A monostitch poem:
  1. should be a single line composed from 6 -12 syllables (though the syllable count is entirely flexible),
  2. should include at least one figure of speech (a metaphor, but never a simile because similes require more words), personification, or other poetic device,
  3. should not have any punctuation other than a capital letter at the beginning and terminal punctuation (period, question mark, or exclamation point) at the end,
  4. should be a complete thought and not a phrase or fragment,
  5. should express a complete idea or theme in such a way that the meaning and nuance of the poem is clear.

 Note: Monostitch titles are as important as the poems, so be sure to create a great title.


Coward by R. A. Ammons
Bravery runs in my family.

Now, find a cool spot, a shady place, a bench beneath the trees, or crank up the AC indoors and give monostitch poems a try. Here’s something to consider: maybe your monostitch will serve as a springboard for a longer poem. If that happens, go with it and see where your one-liner leads you!