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Filtering by Tag: difficulty level 3/5

NaPoWriMo Poetry Prompt 20: Where Do Ideas Come From?

Sarah and Jeff Boyle

Difficulty 3/5

One of the most mysterious questions about writing is where do ideas come from? No one really knows; for those of us who write, sometimes the ideas seem to be jumping out from behind every corner, and sometimes they are invisible and silent and nowhere to be found. Those are the hard days as a writer.

But today, you're in luck! You don't have to wait for the ideas to arrive in your head. They will be provided for you, but not in any sense you're used to. There are, by the miracle of the internet, magical things called Idea Generators. Here's one (there is occasionally language your mom might not appreciate). Here's another (this one gives both the idea and the structure for the poem).

Basically, you click a button and you get an idea. Use that idea to write your poem. It's a pretty straightforward proposition.

Here's the one I did, based on the prompt 7 Problems with Music.

7 Problems with Music

Only 7? It seems like there are
several thousand more than that,
including rhythm, sore throats, dearth
of artistic spaces and
bongo drums. But music will always
have its bitter grumblers,
desperate for their silence, insisting that
even the birds put a sock in it.
They miss the good old days (that never were)
of doo-wop, boogie-woogie, and rock-a-billy,
before the computers came with their antiseptic
sense of architecture,
the crystalline beats and their bass lines
that sound like trudging thru mud.
But what can you do? We live in the future.
These are the chairs we have built.

Let the idea serve as a jumping-off point. Let your mind drift on it like an inner tube down a lazy river. Enjoy the ride.


Have you registered for the Poem-A-Thon yet? Sign up to write poems and raise money for the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council today! And don't forget to send us your poems for publication on this here blog: flashbangwriting@gmail.com.

NaPoWriMo PoetryPrompt 16: Poem as Back and Forth

Sarah and Jeff Boyle

Difficulty Level 3/5

You need a partner for today’s prompt. Go ahead, go find one. While you’re at it, find a recording device, too. You can use your phone or a computer or a micro-recorder. Anything that will record what you say so you can play it back later. We’ll wait while you get yourself in order.

Your task today is to write a poem out loud with your partner, taking turns saying one word at a time. Record yourselves while you do it, so you can go back and transcribe the poems later. It should go something like this:

Partner 1: Once
Partner 2: 1
Partner 1: sneezed
Partner 2: so
Partner 1: suddenly
Partner 2: my
Partner 1: brother
Partner 2: screamed
Partner 1: Oh
Partner 2: Why!

Today’s prompt is based on Nice Hat. Thanks. by Matthew Rohrer and Joshua Beckman. Rohrer and Beckman wanted to make poetry together, so they headed out into the park together and recorded themselves composing poems aloud, one word at a time. When they did it, they wrote two line poems:

I fell at the party.
I'm still at the party.

*

Bring me the bloody head
of your last boyfriend.

*

He heard a crash
and blamed himself.

*

They wrote three-line poems:

Staying out all night
they came to a ravine
where it was morning.

*

We're so serious
we can't even change our shoes
without crying.

(Poems from Nice Hat. Thanks. Copyright 2002 by Joshua Beckman and Matthew Rohrer. Published by Verse Press. Reprinted with permission of the authors and Wave Books.)

They wrote longer, poems, too. But today, we want you to focus on creating a series of 2-, 3-, and/or 4-line poems. Challenge yourselves to make jokes, describe something in as few words as possible, create images and juxtapositions that will surprise the reader. The trick here is to keep the poem going by saying a word that follows from the previous word but isn’t the most obvious choice. When you’re done, play back your recording, type out your poems, and send them along to us. If you’re feeling bold, send us your audio, too. We're at flashbangwriting@gmail.com.


Have you registered for the Poem-A-Thon yet? Sign up to write poems and raise money for the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council today! We just ordered some pretty sweet one-inch buttons that are yours for free if you play along with us. Join us in person in Pittsburgh on April 26th at the East End Book Exchange for the Poem-A-Thon Write-In and Reading

NaPoWriMo Poetry Prompt 12: What's Old is New

Sarah and Jeff Boyle

Difficulty: 2/5

After yesterday's excursion inside your dictionary, we're leaving the contemporary and heading way back to one of the oldest forms of poetry: the ghazal. It originates in ancient Arabia, before Islam. Generally speaking, a ghazal is a series of five or more couplets each ending with a single refrain, which can be a single word or a short phrase. What makes the ghazal different from the couplets you may be used to is each couplet should be a complete thought able to stand alone while also relating to the other couplets in the poem. As Suzanne Gardinier once explained to us, the couplets in a ghazal should be like pearls in a necklace: each individually beautiful but strung together into one perfect object. For more details on the form, read this.

A good start is to think of a word or phrase that can be applied to many different contexts. If you're going to repeat something, give yourself the best chance you can to look at it from all different angles. It's one of those ideas that's hard to describe, but makes more sense when you look at it. For an example of a contemporary master of the form, here's one from Suzanne Gardinier, who wrote a whole book full of ghazals:

~56~

The capital streets made cattle chutes
for the four horsemen of the coronation

Roses and crepe Commandos Consent
All arranged in the night for the coronation

The checkpoint faces wreathed in sable
and scarf masks for gas At the coronation

The children imitating the republic are
more beautiful than the republic at the coronation

The horses dressed The riders missing
A pageant of absence A coronation

As if it were not ours but his
Watching the screen of the coronation

At the edge a stenographer Listening for the monologue
gun salute's answer at the coronation

(From Today: 101 Ghazals by Suzanne Gardinier. Reprinted here with permission of the poet.)

As you can see, this ghazal turns around the word "coronation," building different scenes of that coronation as it goes. To write your own, pick your refrain. Build couplets around that refrain. Then order and reorder them until they are pearls perfectly strong on a necklace. See where you can go with your refrain. And have fun with it!

Bonus Level Up, Difficulty Level 3/5: Sign your ghazal. Traditionally, ghazal writers incorporated their names into the final couplet as a way of signing their names. Can you think of a way to include your first or last name into your last couplet? If you've got a name that's also an thing (Leif, Daisy) or a job (Mason, Smith) you've got it much easier than the rest of us.


Have you registered for the Poem-A-Thon yet? Sign up to write poems and raise money for the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council today! We just ordered some pretty sweet one-inch buttons that are yours for free if you play along with us. And don't forget to send us your poems for publication on this here blog: flashbangwriting@gmail.com.