The Poet’s Toolkit
Five week self-paced online workshop for writers
While this five-week course will focus on several of the most integral craft elements of poetry writing, it is suitable for writers in any genre. Whether new to creative writing or a long-time practitioner, this online class will help you bring greater focus and new energy to your writing.
Each lesson will center on a particular skill and will include sample readings and discussion of the week’s craft element. A selection of representative poems meant to spark lively discussion will be included as will a number of fun and engaging writing prompts.
Students are invited to write a poem each week in response to any of the readings or prompts. While sharing is always optional, students may do so on a private discussion board. Students are also free to simply follow along with the weekly lessons.
Feedback on poems from me is available on request.
Week One: Drawing on vivid details and sensory images for your poems
Week Two: Creating surprising similes, metaphors, and other figurative images
Week Three: Narrative to imagination (moving from chronology to association)
Week Four: Reinvigorating syntax and sentences
Week Five: Serious fun with serious revision
Price: $20.00 for ala cart classes or $75.00 for all five weeks. Scholarships are available to students and recent graduates. Contact Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to register.
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.
Thanks to Rebecca Aronson for today’s awesome prompt:
Today’s prompt: a question poem.
For this poem, write only questions. Let each question lead your mind to the next question–these can be as loosely or closely associative as you feel like. The questions need not be answerable, but they should feel to you like real questions. I suggest at least ten questions on the list.
(once you have a list of at least ten questions, you might find that the list is a kind of poem itself, or you might decide to choose one or more of the questions, or their possible answers to write from.)
This week’s prompt is an adaptation of a great ice-breaker activity in which many of you may have participated at some point in your lives; but instead of getting to know your peers, you get to write a poem.
Write three statements, two of which are true and one which COULD be true, but is not. Use the premise of these statements as a basis for a poem in which the reader cannot easily discern if the speaker is reliable. This may feel like a perfect prompt for a narrative poem, but experiment and see what develops.
November drags major American holidays to the forefront of everyone’s attention. Christmas is close on the heels of Thanksgiving, though more and more, Thanksgiving barely gets its due these days. Less time to be thankful, more time for consumerism.
But these are not the only Holidays that mark the end of the year. Really, year-end consists of at least four months in which several holidays occur. They include Labor Day, Autumnal Equinox, Halloween, All Saints Day, Dias de los Muertos, Veterans Day, Election Day, Winter Solstice, Chaunakkah, Kwanza, and New Year’s Eve. Oh yes, and let’s not forget the biggest of all, Festivus.
For this week’s prompt, write a story, poems or essay about an end-of-year holiday, real or imagined, American or international, uplifting or depressing.
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.
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.
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!
Today America celebrates its declared independence from Britain. For today’s prompt, write about achieving your own independence. Perhaps this means independence from parents at the age of majority, or maybe it means gaining independence from a spouse through divorce. Independence can also be a a state of mind, so perhaps your independence has to do with thinking, and making choices independently.
To serve as inspiration for your poem, here is A.A. Milne’s poem of the same name:
I never did, I never did,
I never did like “Now take care, dear!”
I never did, I never did,
I never did want “Hold-my-hand”;
I never did, I never did,
I never did think much of “Not up there, dear!”
It’s no good saying it.
They don’t understand.
Good luck in your writing, and have a happy, and safe, Independence Day.
This past Wednesday, June 21st, was the longest day of 2011. Not literally, of course, for June 21st did not contain any more than the usual twenty-four hours allotted to that segment of time referred to as “day.” And yet, because more of those hours occurred while the sun was “up” than any other day of the year, we in the western hemisphere label it the “longest day.” Australianson the other hand, recognize it as the shortest.
For today’s prompt, consider what conditions warrant the superlative label of “longest” and juxtapose it with the concept that shortest exists simultaneously with longest. For example, sometimes time drags and brief minutes seem to go on for days as seconds stretch into hours. Recall a moment in your life which seemed to last forever – perhaps due to agony, impatience or bliss. Maybe your memory is of the longest car ride, longest parental lecture, longest wait, longest kiss…or the longest 10 seconds of your life. Maybe it is of the longest poem.
Let the image act as inspiration to craft a poem and share it in the comments section below.
There aren’t many people who would argue that walking isn’t good for you, and that certainly holds true for the poet. What better way to clear the cobwebs from the mind and lubricate joints that are aching from too long sitting at the writing desk than to take a stroll around the block or through the park. Make a conscious effort this week to take a walk, paying close attention to the world around you when you do. Leave pen and paper behind and really, truly use your five senses to take in the environment you encounter. Trust your senses to store your experience to write about when you return home, for nothing triggers memories better than strong sensory associations. No need to limit yourself to walking in your neighborhood, though that can be an adventure if done with an attitude of a foreigner. Consider taking a slightly bigger adventure and try walking a trail in the woods you’ve been thinking about since Autumn and didn’t get around to exploring before winter set in. If you are a fair weather walker, then check the forecast and make a concrete plan to engage with the outdoors on the nicest day this week. Better yet, use April showers as an excuse to don raincoat and goulashes for a child-like stomp in the rain to get in touch with your inner youngster (just let your inner parent keep the inner child from catching cold in the process.) Or perhaps the best way to approach this week’s writing “exercise” is to simply drop what your doing and take that walk right now!