Saturday, September 27, 2014

Prompt #202 – Postcard-Sized Apology by Guest Prompter Peter E. Murphy

This week’s prompt comes from Peter E. Murphy, founding director of the highly-praised annual Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway and other programs for poets, writers, and teachers in the U.S. and abroad.

Peter is the author of Stubborn Child, a finalist for the 2006 Paterson Poetry Prize, and three chapbooks of poetry. His essays and poems have appeared in The Atlanta Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Green Mountains Review, The Journal, The Lindenwood Review, The Literary Review, The Little Patuxent Review, Rattle, Witness and elsewhere. He has received fellowships for writing and teaching from The Atlantic Center for the Arts, The Folger Shakespeare Library, The National Endowment for the Humanities, The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Yaddo, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars.

From Peter

Assignment: Write a postcard-sized poem in which you apologize for or argue against something or someone for an offense, real or imagined.

Requirements: Choose three postcards that attract you and one that disgusts or confuses you and incorporate one or more of these images into your poem.

[Note: When Peter uses this prompt at his Getaways, he provides participants with postcards from which to choose. He also offers a site for postcards at which you’ll find several postcard examples:

Alternatively, Peter suggests that you might choose from your own postcards or even old photographs or letters.]

Variation: Have someone apologize to you instead. Wouldn’t that be sweet?

Challenge for the delusional: C’mon, do you really need any more stimulation? Oh, all right. Integrate some writing from one or more of the postcards into your poem.

Note: Speaking of “challenges for the delusional,” be sure to check out Peter’s book Challenges for the Delusional: Peter Murphy’s Prompts and the Poems They Inspired (“a selection of Peter Murphy’s infamous and eccentric poetry-writing prompts. For 19 years he’s shared these prompts at his writers’ conference, the Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway, and this collection features a sampling of the many diverse and wonderful poems that they’ve inspired. Contributors include: Stephen Dunn, Kathleen Graber, Dorianne Laux, James Richardson, and more.” Click Here to Order


"Sorry" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (Though this one is definitely not postcard-sized!)

Thank you, Peter!

This prompt calls to mind one that was posted in August of 2012 . If you missed it first time around and would like to try a different spin on the apology poem, here's the link.


  1. This is interesting. Does 'postcard-sized' mean, literally, 'small'?

    I'm going to look for Peter Murphy's book on eBay UK.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Jamie! Yes, postcard-sized means small. Hope you find Peter's book on eBay UK.

  2. Nice prompt. I've heard about the Getaways and how great they are.

  3. Always so much to enrich the poet's work on this blog. Thank you!

    Amita (from India)

    1. Thanks for your comment and kind words, Amita!

  4. Aleppo

    A post card of 3000 years
    weeping through the streets
    Where has your greatness gone, Aleppo?
    Death walks the alleys
    Ghosts weep

    1. Well done, Risa! You really embraced the postcard-sized concept (a good fit for your style) while evoking a sense of what has been lost.

    2. Very nice, Risa! I think I would know your style anywhere by now. Thanks, as always, for sharing with us.

  5. I remember this prompt from one of the Getaways. Peter supplied lot of postcards. Great fun!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Linda. The Getaways are great, so glad you remember this prompt.