May 30, 2013

Prompt: Traveling

I know of several new books out this spring and summer that offer prompts and inspiration for poets. One of those is Writing Poetry To Save Your Life: How To Find The Courage To Tell Your Stories by my friend and mentor, Maria Mazziotti Gillan.

Maria's book is all about how she writes and on some of her beliefs about poetry. First off, she says we all have stories to tell. Our stories. And those stories are best told and most universal when they are rich with the details and truth of the actual experiences.

Whether she is working with her graduate students as director of the creative writing program at Binghamton University-SUNY, or running a weekend retreat with old and new poets, she has her ways of helping writers get into that dark and frightening cave that holds our stories, and ways to get past that crow that sits above us and frightens us from saying what we know is the truth.

The book offers a series of short, readable chapters on ways to find those stories, make your writing stronger and get past the many fears that poets (including herself) encounter.

The chapters include model poems, generally her own writing with background on the situation, and exercises.

The final section is more than a hundred pages of short prompts in groups of five. They are often a phrase and rarely more than a sentence. In workshops, Maria will often call out a half dozen suggestions to a group and just ask you to choose one that resonates, or combine several.

I have chosen a group of Maria's prompts that share the theme of traveling.

Write about:
a train, bus or plane that you missed
riding on a school bus
leaving Penn Station, Canal Street or any specific location
a cab ride
running away from home
Start with "I have driven highways..." or
"on the street where we lived..."

For a sample traveling poem to consider, look on the main site's prompt page for "The Bus Through Jonesboro, Arkansas" by Matthew Henriksen.

This month, since we have two possible prompts for your June writing, you may choose either or both and submit one or two poems. As a new submission requirement, we ask that you include in your email submission subject line both the word "submission" (which sorts it automatically to the proper mail folder) AND also the short title of the prompt - this month it will be "traveling" or "headlines." We always get poems submitted that don't have the correct subject line and also don't have anything to do with the current prompt, so perhaps this will help with the sorting process. 

Submissions due by June 30, 2013. 

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