December 29, 2017

Finding Poems in Prompts

Years ago, I was in a haiku workshop where the teacher gave us a find-a-word puzzle as a writing prompt and asked us to look it over and write down the first three words we saw. We were then to use each of those words in a different line of a haiku.

Many writing prompts seem "artificial." You are asked to "write about an article of clothing you once owned that you wish you still had." How odd. But in another workshop where that was a prompt, my friend, Jim, wrote a beautiful poem about his father's coat that hung on a hook by the back door for most of his childhood. And when Jim read that first version of his poem, I was prompted to write a poem about the Navy pea coat my father wore in WWII and that I wore after he died. Why did I give it away?

Below is that original find-a-word puzzle that I found in with some poetry papers during my annual end-of-year cleanout. If you need a bonus prompt to write something here at year's end, try this: Look over the puzzle below and write down the first 5 words you find and then use each as part of a line of a poem about the year that is ending.

Of course, you could also find just 3 words and write a haiku, or get into puzzling and find 14 for a sonnet or any variation.

I think the value of writing prompts is that they can push you into places you would not have otherwise gone in your writing. It seems counterintuitive that given as "assignment" you have more freedom. In the same way, forms are freeing. As a young poet, I despised formal poetry in my own writing. It seemed like I was being forced to select a word or line break etc. when I didn't want it. But my imagination was forced to not only conform to the form or prompt, but find creative ways to do it.

If you like the poem that comes from this little prompt, post it as a comment here and put the words you found and used in CAPITAL letters.

1 comment:

  1. The Milky Way

    This NIGHT I look for a RED giant in the darkness.
    A star in the late phase of its stellar evolution.
    Seemingly beside a CLOUD, but so far away
    that SPACE seems an inadequate word to describe
    how old we are, how DIFFICULT it is to be dying,
    how much we want to end our shining as a supernova.


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