Saturday, January 25, 2014

Prompt #174 – Dinner Party

We all love to eat yummy foods, and there are many wonderful food poems for us to “consume.” But straightforward food poems aren’t on the menu this week. Instead, let’s write about a whole dinner party. Imagine that you’re the host or hostess. Who would you invite? What would you serve? What would the diner table conversation include? Have fun with this. Be a little outré or surreal if you wish, or work toward a more serious “message.” Remember that any food poem, like a love poem, can be rich, satisfying, and representative of human experience.


1. Consider writing a poem about a dinner party for famous poets. Imagine dining with T. S. Eliot, Shakespeare, and Emily Dickinson.

2. Write your “feast” poem in the form of a menu. Below are some ideas for a literary feast.

Prawns Quixote

Mac(Beth) and Cheese
Chicken Sandwiches on Catcher in the Rye Bread
Tale of Two Zities
Of Rice and Men Casserole
Salem’s (Lot) Pot Roast
Leaves of Grass(fed) Beef
Lord of the Fries Potatoes
Edgar Alan Poe-tato Salad
Romeo and Julienned Veggies

The Sundae Also Rises
Bananas Karenina

Huckleberry Gin and Tonic
Tequila Mockingbird
The Old Man and the Seagram’s
A Pitcher of Dorian Grey Goose

3. Write your poem from the perspective of a guest at your dinner party.

4. Write a two-part or two-stanza poem from the viewpoints of two guests at your dinner party (famous poets, contemporary celebrities, historical people, sportspeople, military personnel).

5. Write your poem from the point of view of a food item on your table.

6. Write a poem about a dinner party at which no food is served. What extended metaphor can you develop?

7. Write a poem about a dinner party at which something other than food is served.

8. Don't forget to choose a specific meal for your dinner party: breakfast, lunch, high tea, dinner.


1. Don’t be afraid to be humorous, but keep in mind that a serious tone will work well for this prompt.

2. Use images that appeal especially to the senses of sight, smell, and taste.

3. Invite your readers into your poem (and into the dinner party) with imagery and figures of speech that capture their interest and imaginations. You need a great first line or “hook.”

4. Think in terms of making your poem representative of human experience. The dinner party may be your subject, but there should be a deeper meaning between the “courses.”


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Prompt #173 – A Flip of the Coin

The pseudophilosophical term “Flipism” refers to making all decisions by simply flipping a coin (an idea expressed in a circa 1953 Disney comic called “Flip Decision.”) Although Flippism may be viewed as a normative decision theory, delegation to an external device (the coin) and leaving decision-making to something so random may work best in situations where a decision deadlock occurs, when one deliberately avoids making a decision, or when the decision-alternatives appear equivalent. I’m sure we’ve all experienced the kind of backing and forthing that can accompany decision-making, but I don’t suppose many of us leave major decisions to the flip of a coin. The idea, however, has definite creative possibilities.

This week, I’d like you to be entirely creative; that is, don’t write from memory or experience but, rather, make up a situation in which you can’t come to a decision and flip a coin to determine an outcome.


Some flip decision ideas …

1. Casting a vote
2. Accept or not accept a job offer
3. To date or not to date
4. Choosing a spouse
5. Picking a kitten or puppy
6. Naming a child
7. Heads you love me, tails you don’t
8. Flipping a coin and finding that it has the same face on both sides

1. Write in the first person.
2. Don’t be afraid to experiment—step outside of the box.
3. Consider a humorous approach.
4. Avoid clichés and unnecessary words and phrases (make every word count).
5. Subvert the ordinary—“see” things in extraordinary ways; take the ordinary and turn it upside down. Dislodge the obvious.
6. Think in terms of what you experience through your senses (concrete words); avoid abstract words that relate to concepts or feelings.
7. Of course, if none of these ideas strikes your poetic fancy, you might like to write about decision-making, a challenging decision you’ve had to make, or anything about flipping a coin.


A Psychological Tip
By Piet Hein

Whenever you're called on to make up your mind.
And you're hampered by not having any.
The simplest way to solve the dilemma you'll find,
Is simply by flipping a penny.

No, not so that chance shall decide the affair;
As you're passively standing there moping.
But as soon as the penny is up in the air,
You'll suddenly know what you're hoping.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Prompt #172 - Two Sides to Every Story

Every truth has two sides; it is as well to look at both,
before we commit ourselves to either.
– Aesop

I’m sure you’ve heard the old expression, “There are two sides to every story.” In other words, there are almost always different perspectives or ways of looking at something. Not everyone sees, experiences, or recalls things in exactly the same way, and there are usually valid reasons for opposing opinions. As we come back to poetry prompts this New Year, let’s consider differing perspectives or points of view, different memories of the same experience, and other situations in which “things” may be seen from two sides. Think in terms of a poem that has two stanzas or two parts (one stanza or part for each side, each perspective, each point of view, each memory, each description).


1. Think about a particular incident in which you and someone (friend, family member, spouse, partner) had an argument or “falling out.” Write a two-stanza or two-part poem in which you tell about the incident from your point of view (stanza 1or part 1) and the other person’s (stanza 2 or part 2).

2. Select a painting and write two short poems or a two-stanza poem about it from two distinctly different points of view.

3. Select a well-known work of art and write a two-stanza or two-part poem in which the first stanza is your view of the artwork and the second stanza is the artwork’s view of you.

4. Think about a belief or belief system (your own or another) and write a poem (2 stanzas or 2 parts) from two perspectives: one that argues for the belief system and one that argues against it.

5. Think of one of the great loves of your life and write a poem in which you describe/discuss that love from your own perspective and the perspective of the object of your love. (Again, two stanzas or two parts.)

6. Think of a geographical place (city, state, country) or a topographical feature (lake, meadow, mountain, seascape, etc.) and write a two-part poem about it, describing from two different views.

7. Select a poem that you love and write a two-stanza or two-part poem in which you discuss the poem from two completely different points of view (love the poem, dislike the poem).

8. Write a poem in which you feature two voices to create a dialogue or argument. This may be based on imaginary people and ideas or may be based on an actual experience you’ve had.


1. Be sure to avoid the pitfall of simply telling a story (two ways in this case).
2. A poem needs to do more than tell—it has to move beyond its subject through heightened awareness of the subject’s deeper meanings. Identify the real subject of your poem.

3. Raise a question or two and, perhaps, leave them unanswered.

4. Don’t be afraid to experiment with sentence fragments.

5. Bring the poem to closure in an unexpected way (maybe even with a third point of view).


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Poetry Contest, Free Entry, Cash Prize & Publication

Regular prompt posting resumes next Saturday. 
In the meantime, here’s a contest announcement that might be of interest to you.

The Carriage House Poetry Series
& The Fanwood Shade Tree Commission

Announce The Carriage House Poetry Prize
 in Observance of Arbor Day 2014
First Prize – $250.00
Publication in the Autumn 2014 Print Issue of TIFERET

Selected Finalists Will Receive Certificates


• Entries should consist of no more than two poems—no more than 40 lines each.

• Each poem must be single-spaced on a separate sheet of paper.

• Submit 2 copies of each poem, one copy with the poet’s name, address, phone number,
and email address in the upper right corner.

• Poems must be previously unpublished and must contain reference to a tree or trees (not necessarily poems about trees). Any style or form. (Not re-writes or take-offs on Joyce Kilmer’s famous poem “Trees.” Judges will look for poems characterized by technical proficiency, striking imagery and strong sound quality.)

• Entry is free. (Poems will not be returned, so please keep a copy for your files.)

• Deadline: In-hand by March 1, 2014. Winners will be notified via email by April 7, 2014.

Send entries by snail mail only to:

Carriage House Poetry Prize
c/o Adele Kenny & Tom Plante
Fanwood Borough Hall
75 North Martine Avenue
Fanwood, NJ 07023


Tom Plante (Publisher/Editor Exit 13 Magazine)

Linda Radice (Award Winning Poet & Fanwood Arts Council Member)

Final Judges

Donna Baier Stein—Founder/publisher of Tiferet; Pen/New England Discovery Award & NJ State Arts Council Fellowship recipient; awards from the Poetry Societies of Virginia and New England; founding poetry editor of Bellevue Literary Review; Breadloaf Writers Conference scholarship; Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars fellowship; author of Sometimes You Sense the Difference; Iowa fiction awards finalist for Sympathetic People (published by Serving House Press, 2013).

Adele Kenny—Author of 23 books (poetry & nonfiction); Carriage House Poetry Series founder/director; Fanwood’s Poet Laureate (appointed March 2012), Tiferet Poetry Editor; two NJ State Arts Council poetry fellowships; Writers Digest Poetry Award; Thomas Merton Poetry Award; first place Merit Book Award; 2012 International Book Award; former creative writing professor (College of New Rochelle); twice featured at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival; has read in the US, England, Ireland, & France.