This week's prompt comes to you from Melissa Studdard, a special friend and one of my fellow editors at Tiferet. Melissa’s debut poetry collection, I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast was published by St. Julian Press. She is also the author of the bestselling novel Six Weeks to Yehidah, its companion journal My Yehidah, and The Tiferet Talk Interviews. Her awards include the Forward National Literature Award, the International Book Award, the Readers’ Favorite Award, and two Pinnacle Book Achievement Awards. Melissa’s poetry, fiction, essays, reviews, and articles have appeared in dozens of journals and anthologies. In addition to writing, Melissa serves as an editorial advisor for The Criterion, an interviewer for American Microreviews and Interviews, and a host for Tiferet Talk Radio. She received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and is a professor for the Lone Star College System in Texas. She is also a teaching artist for the Rooster Moans Poetry Cooperative.
Writing is always dangerous; defying genre makes it more so. But we writers are thrill seekers, and here we stand with one foot in the conscious realm, the other in the unconscious, weaving new worlds out of the stuff of life and dreams. Here we stand, willing to spelunk, to skydive, to swim oceans and cross deserts. Here we sit, willing to forgo food, leisure, and sleep. And we say it’s all worth it—every minute and every hour—if we can just return to the keyboard with a beautiful phrase or some small insight worth sharing.
In the first issue of The Prose Poem: An International Journal, Peter Johnson states that, “Just as black humor straddles the fine line between comedy and tragedy, so the prose poem plants one foot in prose, the other in poetry, both heels resting precariously on banana peels.” The same could be said of flash fiction, and, in fact, when the forms are functioning well, it’s difficult to tell them apart.
With this prompt, I’d like you to take defying genre even further, past the prose poem, past flash fiction too, and adapt another literary or non-literary form not usually considered poetic to your poetic ends. If you are stealing a non- literary form, you may choose to present your poem as a to-do list, an intelligence test, a menu, a recipe, an emergency procedure list, an instruction manual, and so forth. Choosing to adapt a literary form means you would choose to present your poem structured in acts or chapters, or you might add director’s notes as if it were a film.
Here's the link to a piece in the delicious form of a menu.
Here's a link to Emily Dickinson's "To-Do List."
And here's a link to a site with multiple stolen-form stories.
The technique of finding form first is often a great antidote to writer’s block. If you don’t know exactly what you want to say, you can allow form to guide you there. May you have a pleasant journey!
Guidelines and Tips:
Last week we “prefaced” this prompt with list poems. This week, think in terms of various forms of writing, and choose a form for your poem before writing.
Let the form of the poem be your first guide and, then, let your poem’s content lead you to wherever it may wish to go.
Take some risks!
From Melissa Studdard's Flashing the Borders workshop at
Visit Melissa online at www.melissastuddard.com
And be sure to check out Melissa's books at