Saturday, September 24, 2011

Poetry Prompt #72 – Stuck in the Middle

Have you ever started the day with a tune that pops into your head unbidden and repeats throughout the day as if it’s stuck on a continuous loop that won’t quit? Yesterday morning, an old song called “Stuck in the Middle with You” popped into my mind and stayed with me well into evening. It was never a favorite of mine, I don’t know all the words, and there was no good reason why that song spent so much time haunting me. 

(Here's the song if you'd like to give it a listen.)

This morning I did some research and learned that the “offenders” behind songs getting stuck in our minds are earworms (ohrwurms, as they’re called in German). Earworms! Egad! Sounds like earwigs, but they’re not parasites that crawl into our heads through our ears and plant song-eggs. Earworms create a kind of compulsive experience (some say “brain itch”) that causes a tune to repeat in our minds. Various theories explain why this happens and, whatever the cause, it’s a common occurrence. In fact, Mark Twain used it as a plot device in his story "A Literary Nightmare."

All of that notwithstanding, yesterday, between choruses of “Stuck in the Middle with You,” it occurred to me that a poetry prompt about being “stuck in the middle” might be an interesting idea. So, this week, let’s make some poetry-music that will stay in our readers’ heads!

Think about:
  • being in the middle of a relationship gone sour
  • being in the middle of a family conflict
  • being in the middle of a loss, a grief, or an illness
  • being in the middle of a divorce
  • being in the middle of making an important decision
  • being in a middleman/middlewoman (intermediary) situation
  • being middle aged

Has there been a time in your life when you felt "stuck in the middle" of something? Use that time as the "historical" background, and tell the story in a narrative poem. (Caveat: Be sure not to get so caught up in story-telling that you neglect poetic techniques: imagery, figures of speech, line breaks, and sound quality.)



In literature, in medias res (in the middle of things) is a technique in which the narrative starts in the middle of the story rather than at the beginning. This allows the writer to open with “dramatic action” and/or flashback to establish setting, characters, and situation. For an added challenge, you might want to try this technique in your poem about being in the middle of something.


  1. Adele! How do you come up with these amazingly creative ideas? I love this one!

    I remember that song! In fact, after listening to the video you provided, I can't get it out of my head!

    Thanks, as always,

  2. Thanks, Jamie! Your comments are always appreciated!

  3. That was a great "oldie" from 1972 by Stealers Wheel, written by Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan. I read somewhere that the song was intended to be a parody of Bob Dylan's style.

    Amazing creativity on your part in developing a great prompt from the song!

  4. Thanks Bob!

    1972 -- yikes, I didn't realize the song was that old!