"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde
The quantity may have dropped off, but the quality of poems being written in response to my prompts on Facebook and Twitter remains humbling. I love developing new ones that can be concisely expressed. Here are the latest ones –
16th April – write about work. It can be yours, someone else’, the job you hated most or what ‘work’ means. Look at Alan Dugan’s Monologue of a Commercial Fisherman: Cornelius Eady’s The Cab Driver Who Ripped Me Off, and Gavin Ewart’s Office Friendships.
17th April – Blessings. Here’s one by me (blushes) and one by Galway Kinnell, the justifiably famous Saint Francis and the Sow. Now – write a blessing…. but hang on, that’s too easy and trite. I want you (on this day of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral) to write a blessing for someone you dislike. Make it sincere, not snide or sarcastic. Dig deep and find the best of yourself.
19th April – Read Bodkin by Vona Groarke, which is clearly about a favourite word. Think of a favourite word of your own – either you like its meaning, or simply its sound – and write about it. See where it takes you.
20th April – A springy prompt, with video accompaniments. Watch this best ever poetry video and observe that the poem is not just about daffodils. Watch this and observe that the Edward Thomas poem is not just about Tall Nettles. Watch this and remember that Housman’s poem is not just about cherry trees. Now get outside and walk, or sit, for half an hour. Write about something green, something growing. Your poem may (indeed should) turn out to be about something else.
21st April – got your Sunday paper? Well then, you can do one of these. Your blackout poem may not be a work of genius but it might spark off a train of thought that leads to another poem.
22nd April – To Do Lists. Make a list of the life ambitions you haven’t yet achieved – climb Everest, learn to make the perfect omelette – and write about one of them. Inhabit it as fully as possible. What would it smell, sound like? How would it feel to actually achieve it?
23rd April – Read Sharon Olds’ First Sex. Now write about the first time you did something – anything!
24th April – A Museum Visit. Read these three poems – Waka 99 (a waka is a war canoe), In the Museum at Teheran and Beginnings. Now visit a museum. Haven’t got time? Then look at the British Museum, The Wellcome Collection or an oddity like Leila’s Hair Museum. Pick an object and write about it. Try, as ever, to make it about something more than the obvious subject.
25th April – An argument poem. Get mad at someone. Hit the ground running. Open with a strong statement and let rip!
26th April – Write about your parents in a rough sonnet. Six lines on your mum, six on your dad and two on yourself to conclude. If you want to make it a Shakespearean sonnet, it should rhyme ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.
27th April – Read (and more importantly, listen to) Michael Donaghy’s A Repertoire. Now make time to listen to your favourite piece of music, or to one with strong associations. Remember where you first heard it, what it means to you, who you were with when you heard it at a concert etc. Write about that – don’t worry if the poem takes you a long way from the music.
29th April – Proverbs. Read this by Eliza Griswold, and this by Geoff Page, and my own duet with Max Wallis based on an Arabic proverb, here. Now – make a list of sayings or proverbs (or cheat by looking here). Write a poem starting from one of these.