Prompt: An Object Poem

I did this one yesterday and had a good result. From Western Wind, an Introduction to Poetry by David Mason and John Frederick Nims. Write a descriptive poem (of, say, a dozen lines) about a familiar object or anything of interest to you. Do not use any adjectives until the last line; then try to use, effectively, a series of three. Here’s a famous example from Charles Simic.

Fork – by Charles Simic

This strange thing must have crept
Right out of hell.
It resembles a bird’s foot
Worn around the cannibal’s neck.

As you hold it in your hand,
As you stab with it into a piece of meat,
It is possible to imagine the rest of the bird:
Its head which like your fist
Is large, bald, beakless, and blind.

Elizabeth Kerlikowske

Prompt: Reverse a Problem Poem

Every once in a while, this will work. Take a poem that seems lost but has some good lines. Reverse it. That is, take the last line as the first line and rebuild it from the bottom up. Usually last lines are good, so start with that one. If it changes, so be it. I think Sekou Sundiata taught me this.

Elizabeth Kerlikowske

Prompt: Let’s Cut

Let’s cut. I edited a prose poem from 237 words to 99. It was much better for it. I didn’t think I could do it, but it got easier and easier to lose things that weren’t working. So take a piece of flabby, unsuccessful writing and see what you can lose from it, trim it to see the real beauty under the fleshy flesh.

Elizbeth Kerlikowske

Prompt: Syllabic Verse

Syllabic verse: count syllables. It can help shape the poem. I had a poem yesterday that was doing nothing, so I thought maybe syllabics would help. I counted the first line: 12 syllables. I counted the second: also twelve. The first four lines were all twelve. This was educational. It’s a better poem now. Like rhyme, syllabics force you to reconsider your word choices. Try it with a floundering poem, not that you have any of those.

Elizabeth Kerlikowske