Category Archives: Poetry Prompt

$10 Online Writing Workshop Tonight and Every Tuesday

7:00PM Eastern via Zoom (invitation below)

Because no one has to write alone.

A prompt will be offered at the beginning of the workshop and remain available on screen the entire hour.
Prompts and exercises are suitable for any genre of creative writing.
The theme this week is: JUSTICE
A suggested goodwill donation of $10.00 helps greatly and can be remitted through PayPal or Zelle (lisahasejackson@gmail.com), Venmo (@Lisa-Hase-Jackson, or by check (send email for address).

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/5121949100

Meeting ID: 512 194 9100 (you will be admitted into a waiting room until the meeting begins)

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Dial by your location
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
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Meeting ID: 512 194 9100
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kBT7D7q41

You’re Invited to the Tuesday Writing Workshop at 7:00PM

Fuel your writing streak!

Join us this Tuesday, January 19 from 7:00 to 8:00PM (Eastern) for a writing exercise and to share your work, too!

A prompt will be offered at the beginning of the workshop and will remain available on screen for the entire hour.

Prompts and exercises are suitable for any genre of creative writing. Whatever can be done with poetry can be done in prose (to great effect).

The theme this week is: Justice

A suggested goodwill donation of $10.00 helps greatly and can be remitted through PayPal or Zelle (lisahasejackson@gmail.com), Venmo (@Lisa-Hase-Jackson, or even with a check (contact me for address). 

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/5121949100

Meeting ID: 512 194 9100 (you will be admitted into a waiting room until the meeting begins)

One tap mobile
+13126266799,,5121949100# US (Chicago)
+19292056099,,5121949100# US (New York)

Dial by your location
        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
        +1 929 205 6099 US (New York)
        +1 301 715 8592 US (Washington D.C)
        +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
        +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
        +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
Meeting ID: 512 194 9100
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kBT7D7q41

A Focused Free-Write Poetry Prompt

For today’s poetry prompt, we will try a focused free-write.

What is a focused free-write, you say?

A focused free-write is when you free-write, in longhand, with a particular passage – or in this case poem – in mind.

And if you’re not sure what it is to “free-write,” it simply means to write non-stop without lifting your pen or pencil or stopping to make any corrections to grammar, spelling, or punctuation, for a set period of time not to exceed 20 minutes.

The idea is to get your good ideas down on paper and capture your inspired thinking.

The focus of today’s free-write is Emily Dickinson’s poem “Hope is the thing with feathers,” which I discussed in an earlier blog post. The poem reads as follows:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity
It asked a crumb of me.

Your free-write can focus on any image or line from the poem or perhaps on the abstract idea of hope itself.

Later, see if you can lift a line or two from your free-write and generate a poem draft.

Good luck, have fun, and write on.

 

 

 

You’re Alive, Damn It: A Poetry Prompt

Misc iPhone 2015 004

It’s amazing that we are here at all.

What I mean is, we human beings are a complex mix of resiliency and vulnerabilities. We take risks dashing across busy streets, regularly travel great distances over vast oceans in planes and boats, forget and leave the oven on, encounter dozens of harmful germs and bacteria while moving through our lives, and still manage do out best to help others every day. We survive heartache, bounce back from job terminations, mourn the death of loved ones, and still, on a whole, manage to get up every morning and, more or less, do it all again.

Maybe we deal with insomnia or indigestion, maybe our cholesterol is high and our metabolism is low, maybe we get depressed, and maybe we drink too much, but were’ alive, damn it, and as long as we are, we remain determined.

For today’s prompt, write a list of every near miss you’ve had in your life. Include the time that guy in the red Corvette DIDN’T hit you when he ran the red light, or the time you THOUGHT you were drowning but really just got water up your nose. Also include those near misses you don’t distinctly remember but which likely happened, like surviving 300 consecutive days of rush-hour traffic in Los Angeles, or something like that. Get fantastical, get lyrical, and make your list long, true, doubtful, and outrageous.

Once you’ve compiled an impressive list of near misses, which may or may not have really occurred, use them as inspiration for a poem.

If you feel up to a challenge, include every singe item on your list, even though the resulting poem may feel contrived. It’s OK, you can always revise.

Otherwise, just pick and choose the most interesting, significant, or unusual instances on your list and use them as motivation to write your next AMAZING poem.

And don’t forget to revise.

When you’ve finished your draft, take a look at this finsihed poem by Laura Kasichke, which is all about “Near Misses.”

Write A Modern Ode

Thanks to Erin Adair-Hodges for today’s poetry prompt inspiration:

Today’s prompt is to write an ode. Not a classical or even English ode, which follow particular formats, but rather, just write a poem in praise of something. Except, since we’re post-post-post, not really. Write an ode to something not usually praised or for which you have, at best, mixed feelings. Here is a great example, Kevin Young’s “Ode to the Midwest.”

This exercise is inspired by my trip to the dentist today. There were kitten posters on the ceiling.

Help Yourself

Here is my version of an exercise that’s been floating around the writing world for some time. It’s simple, straight-forward and pretty powerful. Please complete each step before moving on to the next.

—–

First, list the things in life that get between you and your writing and creativity – even those things that are legitimate, like taking care of the kids and washing the dishes. Include on this list any pesky internal obstructions and voices, like “I can’t write about that, it would hurt ____.” Make the list as long as you have time for – you can return to it for future writing exercises.

Second, read over your list and select one or two things that are particularly vexing for you at this very moment. It might be different the next time you approach this exercise – that’s fine. For now, go with your instinct and choose one or two items from your list that are really giving you a tough time or bogging you down in some way today.

Third, imagine yourself in a private sanctuary or someplace like Superman’s fortress of solitude. You are safe and everything you say is completely protected and will never be heard by another living soul. Spend the next 20 or so minutes writing, in first person, a detailed description of a specific time you wrestled with one of the challenges on your list. Where did it happen? When? How? It’s important that you don’t generalize here. Be as specific as you possibly can.

Fourth, reread the story you’ve just written but change the voice and perspective from first to third person (that is, change every I to a she/he or to a proper noun – like Joe). You may need to adjust verbs while you’re at it.

Fifth, do not continue until you’ve completed step three.

Sixth, read and listen to yourself as you read the new story (aloud or silently in your fortress of solitude). Put yourself in the role of sympathetic advisor and offer some useful, helpful and empathetic words of support and advice for the person (that’s you) in the new story. Notice how you feel a little lighter and more empowered?

You can use these steps as a kind of template with which you can experiment in order to overcome writing or any creativity block. It is adjustable and can be made to fit any circumstance.

Happy writing!

Write With Joy!

Today’s writing exercise is adapted from Rebecca McClanahan’s “Write Your Heart Out. ”

We find it relatively easy to write when times are tying or when we experience grief, sadness or anger. We are, after all, encouraged to use our journals to vent about difficult situations so that we might work through them. Experience may have even taught us that this approach to our discomfort and confusion is preferable to sitting with these frustrations for an inordinate amount of time. McClanahan refers to this tendency to write only when in pain as the “foxhole syndrome: writing as desperate prayer.” When happiness returns, we suddenly have nothing to say.

Perhaps this is because happiness so absorbs us that we don’t stop to think about writing. Maybe we fear writing about our happiness is tantamount to testing the fates. McCallahan writes that:

French theologian Francois Mauriac called happiness the most dangerous of all experiences, ‘because all the happiness possible increases our thirst and the voice of love makes an emptiness, a solitude reverberate.’ Seen this way, happiness is a scary proposition. As our capacity for joy increases, so does our capacity to feel all emotions. So won’t we be sadder than ever when the happiness ends?(98)

Or maybe we just forget to notice the small things that do make us happy. Our brains are finely tuned to notice the dangers that surround us and dismiss that which cannot immediately hurt us. If it is not a threat, we do not make note of it.

Take some time this week to notice things that bring you joy, no matter how small, and make a daily list. Start with yourself – your eyes, hands, ears, nose, etc. From there, take in your surroundings and note that which bring you joy – music, books, a warm blanket and a comfy couch.

This exercise only takes minutes a day and will result in a more joyful you.

Good luck, and happy writing.

How to Use Automatic Writing

This exercise involves writing “automatically” for five to ten minutes at a time when the mind is in a slightly altered (but unimpaired) state. Ideal times for automatic writing include first thing in the morning, when tired, emotionally charged, cranky, elated, physically drained, late at night or anytime synapses are firing a little randomly. Ever wake up in the middle of the night to see a lunar eclipse or a meteor shower? Engage the same enthusiasm and devotion for your writing by setting your alarm for 3:00 am to write for ten minutes before going back to sleep. You don’t even have to leave your bed.

Focus (or attempt to focus) on concrete images and sensory details. When your five or ten minutes are up, save the document and close it. Do not read what you’ve written.

Try this approach a few times a day and/or for several days in a row. Once you have ten pages of automatic writing (doesn’t matter how many days it takes), read through them for passages containing images or ideas that seem interesting, weird, fresh, irreverent, inventive, astonishing or whatever. Underline or cut and paste them into a new document. Trust your instincts as you choose what seems right for keeping. You may discover that you don’t remember writing most of it.

Finally, select fragments and ideas which seem to belong together or perhaps juxtapose in a particularly significant manner, and use them for the basis of a story, poem or essay.

Good luck, and happy writing.

Write Despite Distraction!

Even writers with a room of their own have to deal with distractions. Family members, loved ones, and friends all quickly figure out how to encroach on whatever protected time or space a writer manages to carve out for herself. Fight fire with fire by desensitizing yourself to distractions. Set an alarm clock or kitchen timer to go off in increments of varying length, ten minutes for the fist session, fifteen or twenty for the second, five for the third, or whatever combination suites your needs. Try this exercise for a period of sixty full minutes if possible. Each time the alarm sounds, take just enough time to reset it, then get right back to writing.

If it is difficult at first to shift your focus from alarm to page, and it probably will, try taking a few deep breaths and center yourself mentally by repeating the following incantation before returning to your writing: inhale and say,  “I am…” exhale and say “writing right now.”

Remember, learning to regain your writing focus after a distraction is the goal of this exercise. It will likely feel uncomfortable and difficult at first, but will become easier with practice.Completing this exercise will give your brain a point of reference – a successful experience of dealing with distractions – that it can recall when more pressing distractions arise. It’s not possible to eliminate all distractions from life, but it is possible to learn to write despite them.

Good luck, and happy writing.

Do It Standing Up

Among writers who are known to enjoy writing while standing are Vladimir Nobokov, Thomas Wolfe and Ernest Hemingway. This week, take a stand and dedicate at least one of your writing sessions to writing standing up and discover the many benefits, including: freedom of movement and therefore freedom of thought, better posture and therefore less back pain, passive exercise (you burn more calories when standing than you do when sitting), and a general change of pace that may result in clearer writing and fresh ideas.

Not sure what to write on while taking this new approach to working? Try a clipboard, your kitchen counters (clean and dried), the top of a waist-high bookshelf, a piece of plywood resting atop a few bar stools, or one of those tall tables at the library.  If you like the results, you can build or purchase something permanent, like a drafting table, later.

Remember, the best way to get your writing done is to write – so don’t over think it, just write right now!

Writing Exercise: Do it in Bed

DSCN3581Numbered among authors known to enjoy writing in bed are Edith Wharton, Winston Churchill, Colette, and Mark Twain. Certainly there a others, well-known and novice alike, who also find the benefits of writing in bed worthwhile. And why not? Writing in bed, especially first thing in the morning (before fully rising to begin the day) is an excellent way to tap into the interstice state of mind that exists between dreaming and waking states. Writing while reclined, more than any other position, also reduces the effect of gravity, thus encouraging the mind to wander. Worried your muscle memory will put you to sleep the minute you hit the mattress? Try writing while reclined on the living room sofa or your favorite recliner. If you wind up dozing between lines, all the better. You may find your writing takes an unusual, even refreshing, turn.

This week, try writing in a reclined position, at least once, and embrace the nonchalance this exercise will bring to your prose or poetry.

Poking Your Psyche with a Stick: Fun with Writing Exercises!

Today’s guest blog is written by good friend and amazing poet who goes by the moniker “Oh Hells Nah.” We I met in Albuquerque sometime between 2007 and 2009  through a network of mutual friends (a.k.a – our boyfriends).

I love this writer’s wry sense of humor and honest appraisal of the writer’s life – she likes to keep it “real.”  She offers a frank discussion of the writing process as well as several great writing exercises, including some of the dadaist absurd variety (and my personal favorite).

At this very moment I am spraining my arm from patting myself on the back for being smart enough to ask Oh Hells Nah to write something for ZingaraPoet. Watch for future writings from this featured writer and be sure to visit her blog at ohhellsnah.com. In the meantime, enjoy!

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My writing process is messy and somewhat nonsensical. I believe ideas grow in my subconscious like moss (or a fungus, depending on what), and that I must excavate them with a metaphorical scoop. Sometimes I see an image and then feel it nestle in the folds of my memory. They hatch eggs in my brain! I know that I may not know how to respond to it at that moment, but eventually, perhaps many years later, it will manifest itself in a poem. I’ll be peeing or washing my hands or something equally mundane and then suddenly remember. I will run to my journal before it disappears, hopefully without my pants around my ankles.

I’ve felt this way since I was a little girl. There were times the sight of something like a green sunset or a glittering puddle would leave me speechless. I think I always had a keen eye for beauty in surprising places and forms. That ineffable feeling is what made me want to write—the determination to make it effable. Needless to say, I didn’t have many friends, so time to write was plentiful. (Also plentiful were bad haircuts and ill-fitting clothes.)

I wish I still had that kind of time. It’s hard to make myself write after I get home from work exhausted and disgruntled. Sometimes I’m convinced that a lobotomy was performed on me at work when I wasn’t looking. Maybe some sort of corporate gnome stealthily climbed in through my nose and then hacked away at my brain. However, I believe that a major part of being a writer is writing even when you’d rather slow dance with a possum, when you think you have nothing at all to say, when all you wanna do is watch a that nasty show about Brett Michaels.

I admit I have a chip on my shoulder when people I meet tell me they are writers. Many of them say that they write  sometimes when they’re sad or angry or some shit. There is so much I want to say at these moments, i.e. I bet your poems are full of adverbs and crying fairies, but instead, I just keep my mouth shut and smile politely. I suspect this makes me an asshole.

I don’t have a specific writing schedule, but I write, in some form or other, nearly every day. I’ve been writing a lot of prose lately. It’s enjoyable, and in some ways, so much easier for me than poetry. When writing nonfiction, my goal is always to address some sort of timely issue and find a way to make it funny. Poetry, however, requires a different sort of concentration. And poetry is what truly makes my heart flutter.

A major component in writing poetry for me is exploring my subconsciousness and challenging myself to use language unlike my own. I’ve compiled a list of writing exercises that help me exhume the mess in my brain or force me to use words that I rarely use.

Dada

I have taught this one numerous times. It learned it from my zany poetry professor in Madrid. It’s weird, but I promise it works. (If it doesn’t, you can find me and give me a severe noogie.) I have adapted it slightly.

1. Before you go to bed, write the word “fish” on a sheet of paper and leave it nearby.

2. Upon waking, write down whatever comes to mind on that sheet.

3. Later in the day, close your eyes and count to 30. When you open your eyes think of the word “needle.”

4. Write down whatever this word evokes. Do not let reason or rationality limit you. Be as absurd as your subconscious allows.

5. Immediately after, write three lines in iambic pentameter.

6. Then write: “This poem is about” then the first 7 words that come you.

7. Write a word that that references the first word, “needle” then take a word from #4.

8. Join these two words in a long line. The reference to “needle” should be the first word and the word from #4 should be the last.

9. Immediately write 6 lines. Lines 1,3,5 should start with the same word. Lines 2,4,6 should end with the same word.

10. Try to use all this hooha in a poem in some form or other.

100 Things Worth Living For

I got this one from an undergrad professor whose guts I ended up hating. I don’t want to name names, but his very famous book has a bird in the title. Man, he was douche… But  anyway, this exercise worked very well. I came up with all sorts of precise images. You will get very specific and surprise yourself, trust me. All you do is write a list of 100 things worth living for. It may seem easy, but it gets difficult after a while. One of my last ones was Pup-Peroni and I don’t even own a dog.

The Ole Translation Exercise

I’m sure most of you know this one. All you do is take a poem in a different language and translate it to English based only on the way the words look and sound. Don’t try to make sense. Your brain will come up with something strange and compelling. I, for example, came up with “octopus carrot orgy ” in one of them. Jealous? I recommend that you use a language that is really unfamiliar to you. I am fluent in both English and Spanish so I find many of the romance languages too familiar. I often use Gaelic, Welsh, or Irish poem. Those languages look funky!

Language Stealing

I know this is wrong, but I call this one poem raping. (Please don’t send me angry emails.) The point of this one is to force you to use another’s language when your diction becomes predictable. I got this one from Kim Addonizio’s The Poet\’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry. From what I remember, you take a poem you admire and then make three lists—adjectives, nouns, and verbs. In each list, circle five words that stand out. Try to use these words in a poem.

Speech Acts

This one I got from my former professor Dana Levin who I believe got it from Helen Vendler. I wrote a lyric poem that I was quite pleased with (and was later published) as a result of this exercise. The point of this exercise is to try to use several speech acts that you don’t typically use.

Here is a short list of speech acts. For some examples, click here.

apology

complaint

compliment

response

refusal

boast

request

lament

Those are just a few exercises that help me get some creative juices flowing. I hope your writing is fruitful and unsettling. I hope you unearth some nuggets of weirdness.

Love and Squalor,

Oh Hells Nah

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www.ohhellsnah.com is like hot dogs for your brain! I am a small Mexican American woman who likes to bitch, eat good food, and write poems. I cover some of the following topics: writing, hot dogs, feminism, weird fashion, Buddhism, misanthropy, humanism, culture, Chicago, Muppets, race, travel, time travel, manners, and gnomes.

More Fun with Cut and Paste

Pick up a daily newspaper from your local newsstand or newspaper machine – or your neighbor’s recycling bin. Leaf through its pages and randomly select and cut out interesting words and phrases as you encounter them. Don’t worry about making connections during this stage.

After you have collected a respectable number of cut-outs – enough to build a poem – arrange and paste them onto a piece of paper; you get to pick the controlling pattern.

Take a digital photo of your new poem and post it on your facebook status or other preferred social network.

Writing Exercise: Memorize

Poetry is meant to be spoken, and it is meant heard. So this week, memorize a favorite poem – preferably one of your own. Make memorizing fun by trying any of the following approaches:

  • Sing your poem out loud in the shower.
  • Write it a hundred times in a notebook.
  • Post copies of it on the refrigerator, on the bathroom mirror, or on your car’s dashboard.
  • Perform it in front of a mirror or in front your stuffed animals or portraits of your family and friends.
  • Record yourself reciting the poem and listen (or watch) your performance – repeatedly.
  • Prepare as if you were going to perform in front of a live audience of hundreds. Someday, you might.

Feel free to share the poem you choose to memorize in the comments section below.

Writing Exercise: Reminisce by Proxy

Photo Courtesy Moriah Beagel

Look through someone else’s old photo albums for photos of people and places you know little to nothing about. Old black-and-white-turned-sepia photos work well for this exercise. The less information you have about the context and the people in the photos, the less likely you are to just retell the “true” story leading up to the moment the photo was taken; the less information you have, the more your imagination can fill in.

Not sure where to find old photographs? Consider asking your grandmother, or your aunt, or even your friend’s brother’s mother-in-law for a gander at their old albums. They will likely be thrilled that you are interested in looking at something that is personally important to them, and in fact took pains to preserve over the years. If this is not an option for you, consider cruising antique shops in your area for boxes of old photographs. In many ways, these are the best. You can develop full characters and entire histories for the individuals whose likenesses appear on these little squares of photo-finished paper.

Post your resulting character sketch, narrative, poem or paragraph in the comments section below.