Prompt: Questions?

From The Practice of Creative Writing by Heather Sellers: Write a poem that is a list of questions. make sure each is surprising, fresh and unexpected. (Is this asking too much?) Try to include images in as many of the questions as you can. Try to steer toward questions that are in front of us every day, but that few notice or take the time to articulate. If you’re around small kids, put some of their questions in there. (I once said something to my oldest daughter, who replied, “I can’t know that yet.” And I was, like, great answer!).

Elizabeth Kerlikowske

Prompt: Praise Song

From Thirteen Ways of Looking for a Poem by Wendy Bishop: You might try a praise song of a natural environment that praises a single element, like Gerard Manley Hopkins does when he praises spotted and dappled and freckled things. You might praise elements of flying things or aquatic things. You might praise the foods (and in doing so the culture) of your youth to explore what you felt then and what you know now.

Elizabeth Kerlikowske

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