Saturday, June 22, 2019

Prompt #340 – The Letter I Never Received

Way back in the early days of this blog, I wrote a prompt about writing letters to ourselves. Strangely enough, that was blog post #40, and this prompt is #340! So ... here we are ... 300 prompts later!

Yesterday, while driving, an old song called “The Letter” came up on the radio (one of those “golden Oldies”—listen below), and I thought about important letters I’ve received and one or two that I wish had been sent to me but never were.

How often do we write letters these days? That is, real letters, not emails or text messages? Can a letter become a poem?

The challenge for this prompt is to write a letter poem from someone else, addressed to you. Think in terms of a letter that you never received but wish you had.

Suggestions and Tips:

1. Is there someone in your life with whom you have unfinished business? A relative or friend, former lover or spouse? In lieu of personal conversation, what would you like that person to say to you in a letter?

2. You might want to start with a free write and then begin to organize your thoughts from there. Be careful not to tell too much in your poem. Some details will be great, but don’t overdo, and don’t “tell” the whole story—leave something for your readers to imagine.

3. The body of your poem may be stichic (one long stanza) or may be composed of several stanzas.

4. Be on the lookout for prepositional phrases that you might remove (articles and conjunctions too).

5. The great author Mark Twain once wrote, “When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them—then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when close together. They give strength when they are wide apart.” This is especially true in poetry. So ... as you work on a poem, think about adjectives and which ones your poem can live without. (Often the concept is already in the noun, and you don’t need a lot of adjectives to convey your meaning.)

5. Avoid clichés (and, while you’re at it, stay away from abstractions and sentimentality).

6. Show, don’t tell—through striking imagery, a strong emotional center, and an integrated whole of language, form and meaning.

7. Challenge the ordinary, connect, reveal, surprise! And … remember that a poem should mean more than the words it contains.

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