Saturday, August 25, 2012

Prompt #115 – Phone Poems

A few days ago, I sat in a restaurant two tables away from a group of young people who, instead of chatting among themselves, were all using their cell phones. I say using because they weren’t talking; instead, they were all busily texting. It amazed me to think that instead of enjoying one another’s company, they spent their time together texting other people – even after their meals were served! It wasn’t an uncommon sight. I’ve seen groups of teenagers walking downtown and talking or texting on their cell phones, and I’ve seen people in cars talking on cell phones while driving (even though that’s now against the law). I think one of the funniest things I’ve seen was a young couple sitting on a park bench, sweetly cuddled up to one another, each with an around the other, attention completely focused on their cell phones, their free hands texting away. It all made me think about telephones and how much phoning has changed since I was a little girl and we had a single two-party-line phone in our living room.

With all  that in mind, how about writing some "phone poems" this week?


  1. Write a poem about the best or worst phone message you’ve ever received.
  2. Write a poem about cell phones.
  3. Write a poem about texting instead of talking.
  4. Write an amusing phone poem, for example, a humorous ode to the cell phone.
  5. Write a poem that’s a “phone call” to the past or to the future (Here’s an example from Poetry Daily:
  6. Write a poem in the form of a text message (the title might be something like: “Text Message to _______________.”
  7. Write a poem about a mysterious phone call. (Feel free to fictionalize with this one.)
  8. Write a poem about visual and verbal communication via cell phones.
  9. Write a poem using only texting abbreviations. (Imagine Shakespeare writing “2b or not2B.”)  Click here for a comprehensive list of texting abbreviations.
  10. Write a poem about “mobilogy” (the effects of cell phone use on behaviors, community, culture, entertainment, and economics). 
  11. Write a poem about answering machines (or a particular answering machine).
P.S. Did you know that the Poetry Foundation has a Poetry Mobile App for iPhone and Android?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Prompt #114 – Me and My Shadow

When I was a child my mom sometimes sang me to sleep with a song called “Me and My Shadow,” or my dad often entertained me into the “land of Nod” with stories about hand shadows that he made on my bedroom wall. Remembering those nights filled with music, stories, and the wonder of shadows led me to this week’s prompt.

Shadows have an intriguing, mystical aspect, and we often encounter then in poetry, even when the poems’ subjects are not specifically shadows or even shadow-driven. “Shadows of the world appear” in part II of Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott;” in Eliot’s “The Hollow Men,” we read “Between the motion / And the act / Falls the shadow;” and in Yeats’s “When You Are Old,” we find the deep shadows of a loved one’s eyes – and this is just a tiny sampling!

Superstitious thought proposes that your shadow is part of your soul and that to step on or throw stones at a person’s shadow may cause that person harm. In dreams, shadows are said to represent a person’s latent potential, fear, illusion, and unknown parts of the self. Seeing your own shadow in a dream may also signify an aspect of yourself that you haven’t yet acknowledged or recognized; it may also suggest a quality or part of yourself that you reject. In Jungian psychology, the shadow or “shadow aspect”  refers to the unconscious – everything of which a person is not fully conscious, as well as a facet of personality that the conscious ego doesn’t recognize within itself.

Shadows typically suggest things that are dark or threatening, but have you ever seen the beauty in a weeping willow’s shadow on a lake, or the way cloud shadows float over a field or mountainside? This week, let’s think about shadows and write about them. Keep in mind that you needn’t go to the dark side in a shadow poem – though you can, of course, if you wish to.


"A Horse Grazes in My Shadow" by Matt Rasmussen 


Be sure to stretch your inner vision and your imagination. Remember that a poem needs room to move, sometimes away from your original idea. Give your poem room to veer off course and to change direction.

More important than your compositional method or conceptual framework is how you make a poem about a single experience (idea, time, place, bird, stone, stream, etc.) bigger than its singularity. In poetry, it’s important approach the universal through the personal.

Now …

1. Write a poem about your shadow.

2. Write a poem to your shadow.

3. Write a poem in which shadow becomes an extended metaphor.

4. Write a poem about hand shadows on a wall.

5. Write a poem about any shadow – a weeping willow’s shadow, a tenement’s shadow, an animal’s shadow, skyscraper’s shadow, a flower’s shadow, cloud shadows on a field.

6. Write a poem using the following (borrowed from T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land”) as your title or epigraph: “Your Shadow at Evening Rising to Meet You.”

7. Write a poem based on the following shadow poem, written by Emily Dickinson (c. 1863):

Presentiment – is that long Shadow – on the Lawn
Indicative that Suns go down –
The notice to the startled Grass –
That Darkness – is about to pass –

8. Do you remember the old song “The Shadow of Your Smile,” famously sung by Barbara Streisand? Try writing a poem based on the title of that song. Here’s the song for you to enjoy:

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Prompt #113 – Where the Journey Takes You

Have you ever thought about all the journeys we make during our lives? A journey is typically defined as an act of traveling from one place to another. There are, however, different kinds of journeys: physical journeys in which we move from one geography to another, emotional journeys in which we experience feelings and learn how to deal with them, and spiritual journeys in which we travel interiorly toward a better understanding of ourselves and higher consciousness. Many journeys involve more than simple “traveling” or “wandering” – such journeys involve a quest or search, some kind of exploration.  This is summer, and summer is traditionally the time for traveling and journeying. So … let’s think about journeys we’ve taken and write “journey poems.” Travel inward, let your poems take you where they want you to go!

Example Poems:


1. Write a poem about your favorite vacation (travel, journey). Where did you go? Why was that vacation special?

2. Have you ever experienced wanderlust? If so, write a poem about the journeys to which your wanderlust has led you.

3. Has a particular relationship seemed like a journey to you? In what ways was that relationship an emotional journey? Write a poem about it, or write about the person with whom you “traveled.”

4. Are there other kinds of emotional journeys that you’ve experienced? Choose one and write a poem about it. Friendship journeys? Parent/child journeys? Romantic journeys?

5. Have you ever thought about the inner journey in which you seek yourself or higher consciousness? Write a poem about your inner journey.

6. How is life a journey? Write a poem about this, but watch out for clichés!

7. Where are you headed in your life right now? What’s the journey like? Write a poem about it.

8. Write a poem about a fantasy journey – a journey of another kind.

And just in case you need a little jump start, here’s some “traveling music." Click the arrow, close your eyes, and think about journeying before you start writing.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

"How to Eat Like Your Favorite Authors"

Hi Blog Readers,

I thought you might enjoy this article!

Click link: How to Eat Like Your Favorite Authors

Not exactly my own favorite authors (would love to see recipes from Eliot,Yeats and others), but the article is fun.


P.S. I tried Elizabeth Bishop's brownies, and they're great!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Prompt #112 – How Many Ways Can You Say "I'm Sorry?"

We all know we’re not perfect, and we all make mistakes in friendships and relationships that cause pain to people we care about. When you’ve said or done something that causes hurt, how do you apologize? “I’m sorry” isn’t easy, especially when it’s heartfelt, but apologizing can be the first step toward understanding in a damaged relationship. Can you say “I’m sorry” in a poem this week?

Things To Think About

1. What makes a good apology?

2. Is there someone in your life to whom an apology is due?

3. Is there someone in your life who owes you an apology? What would you like that person to say to you? Would you consider requesting an apology from that person?

4. Has there been a time in your life for which you owe yourself an apology?

5. There’s nothing quite as disappointing as receiving an apology that doesn’t seem sincere, or worse, a grudging apology. Sincerity is expressed by what you say and how you say it, and sometimes apologies sound dismissive. Have you ever received (or given) an apology that didn’t sound sincere? What makes an apology "ring true?" What’s wrong with an apology that begins, “I’m sorry, but ….” ?

This Week’s Poem

1. Write your best apology in a poem (any form, including a prose poem): be honest, be straightforward, show (don’t tell) how sorry you are, take responsibility, ask for forgiveness.

2. For a bit of a twist, how about trying an apologia (\ˌa-pə-ˈlō-j(ē-)ə\) poem? An apologia is a formal apology, especially on behalf of some belief or doctrine, but it may also be a defense of one's opinions, position, or actions. Read the following examples (but remember that your apologia needn’t conform (in content or style) to what other poets have written):

3. Another possibility for this week’s poem is to write a response to someone who has apologized to you. Tell that person what his or her apology meant to you – why it was healing or why was it "too little too  late."


"A Verseman's Apology" by Robert Service