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NaPoWriMo Poetry Prompt 29: Do You Remember Mad Libs?

Sarah and Jeff Boyle

Difficulty: 4/5

Remember Mad Libs? When we were kids, we played them a lot, especially at school when it was too cold or rainy to go outside for recess. If you've never done it before, you're in for a treat, we hope. The basic premise is to make a list of parts of speech without any knowledge of the context into which they will be placed. Then you fill in a story with the words you've listed and what seems to be a very straightforward story becomes very silly (or at the very least, surreal).

So that's how we're creating today. Take a short poem (or section of a poem), strip out a few words in each line, making note of the part of speech the word is. Give yourself a few minutes away, then come back and assign new words for each part of speech. Then plug your new words back into the poem to see what you end up with.  Here's mine, based on "A Supermarket in California" by Allen Ginsberg:

What _______(plural noun) I have of you _____(time of day), Walt Whitman, for I ______(past tense verb) down the sidestreets under the ______(plural noun) with a ______(minor ailment)
self-conscious looking at the full ______(heavenly body). In my ______(adjective) fatigue, and ______(gerund) for images, I went into the neon ______(fruit or vegetable) supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations! What _______(plural noun) and what ______(plural noun)!  Whole families ______(gerund) at night!  Aisles full of ______(plural of family member)!  Wives in the _______(fruits/vegetables), (plural of family member) in the tomatoes!--and you, García Lorca, what were you doing ______(direction) by the ______(plural of fruit/vegetable)?

plural noun: refrigerators
time of day: dawn
past tense verb: tumbled
plural noun: wallets
minor ailment: impetigo
heavenly body: Mars
adjective: healthy
gerund: yelling
fruit/vegetable: kumquat
plural noun: doors
plural noun: oven
gerund: toasting
plural of family member: grandmothers
fruits/vegetables: avocados
plural of family member: cousins
direction: up
fruits/vegetables: eggs

New version:

What refrigerators I have of you at dawn, Walt Whitman, for I tumbled down the sidestreets under the wallets with  impetigo self-conscious looking at the full Mars. In my healthy fatigue, and yelling for images, I went into the neon kumquat supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations! What doors and what ovens!  Whole families toasting at night!  Aisles full of grandmothers!  Wives in the avocados, cousins in the tomatoes!--and you, García Lorca, what were you doing up by the eggs?

It's an intensive workout and multi-step, but it can yield some strange and interesting results. I found that prose poems work well, but it would be cool to see what you can do with more minimally-written work. Try a couple different iterations. If you're working with someone else, ask him or her to fill out your word bank just to make it more interesting and truer to the original spirit of Mad Libs! Let us know what you come up with. We'd love to know.


We're going to keep accepting poems to publish here on the blog! Keep 'em coming. This has been a blast to see what you guys come up with. Send us your work here: flashbangwriting@gmail.com. Thanks!