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.
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.
Think of a common everyday activity that you might do: feed the cat, scratch your head, make the bed, etc. Choose one activity. Let your imagination go wild. How can you make this activity into something weird, wild, or bizarre (or beautiful)? Write a poem that does that. Since you want to emphasize the physical as well as the strange, concentrate on good verbs. Limit the poem to fifteen lines.
Reading poetry can be good in hard times. Writing poetry can be better. How else do we figure out what is truly on our minds unless we set it down on the page? Because we are not seeing many people now (I have seen four people other than my husband and the mail carrier since early march) it is more important than ever that we communicate, even if it is with ourselves.
Sometimes I sit in front of the keyboard with nothing on my mind, and not in a good way. There’s actually too much spinning in my brain and I can’t seem to pluck one thought out of the mess to explore. So I use writing prompts from old textbooks, from books of prompts.
From now on, I’m going to post a prompt each day for you. I’ll tell you what book it’s from. At some point in the future, we can read each other’s when we meet again. And about prompts, do it even if you hate it. The point is not to write exactly what the prompt suggests, but just to write.
Today’s prompt, May 19, 2020
The Negative Inversion (from a hand-out I got somewhere)
Take a poem by someone else, place it on your desk and add a blank piece of paper beside the poem.
Go to the first line. On the blank paper, write the opposite of that line. For example, How I love thee? might become Why do you hate me? It’s kind of fun deciding what is the opposite of The Red Wheelbarrow: the blue LeSabre? the gray mitten?
Do this with each line. You may find yourself wanting to write something else, so go with that. After you run out of steam, go back to the prompt poem. Revise as needed. Keep surprises. Check the diction. Make it better.
Now you will never have a day when you can’t write anything! Enjoy.