(image from Cleaver)
Insights from Lynn Levin in latest issue of Cleaver—
First sign of the zodiac.
Recycling human refuse.
I am ruler of the underland.
Industry, and intelligence.
A prisoner of science,
With my body and my soul.
It is only language that separates us.
Deadline JUNE 1 for chapbook submissions for The Head and the Hand.
(See directions for specific guidelines.)
Calling dancers, musicians, actors, bankers, scientists, teachers–
Deadline: May 31
She finds herself wandering the after-school playground
on tall leaning metal twists of uncertainty,
starting a new life after what once was stable.
A single push of the memory of Dad packing his bags
gives her all the momentum to keep the
two-by-three arc of her turns:
an effort to keep her head on straight by making
Everything Else spin.
The slide keeps this six-year-old girl occupied,
swiveling between houses of outgrown love,
curving tightly into itself.
“Three-times-five is fifteen” she rotes in preparation
for a cruel test of aptitude forced on a kid
who can barely hold her pencil straight from the trauma
of a cycle where she only sees Dad on Saturdays.
On a different dawn she finds the merry-go-round,
her head much taller than the guarding bar now,
half of her stressing about a boy in class, and half
watching over brothers of a new family,
five and eight, tossing crunch golden leaves.
They don’t really need her there but the gap between
eight and thirteen justifies her presence in her mother’s eyes.
Thirteen through twenty-one years stretch beyond their time,
or at least that’s what the dissonance between
her mind, the dates on the calendar,
and her syllabi shouted out to the gaping darkness
of that same after-school playground.
She sprints a perfect arc in the dark looking for answers,
or an escape from the spiral where she got caught
between battles of two sets of families
that would never make one whole.
This is the first in a set of prompt/formal ideas for starting poems or other writings.
Make a list of song titles from an album. You could select the collection at random, perhaps one you have on hand, or alternatively you could select a collection that has specific meaning for you, already.
For example, here are the titles from “Johnny’s Greatest Hits” (Johnny Mathis, Columbia).
All the time
The twelfth of never
When sunny gets blue
When I am with you
It’s not for me to say
Come to me
Wild is the wind
Warm and tender
I look at you
Use the titles as the spine or structure for a writing. I love vinyl and tried it with quite a few collections. I was doubtless influenced by the object itself, the photographs, memories associated with the music or the physical object, etc. As the goal for the first draft, at least, I made a few rules. I used all of the titles. I kept them in the same order. I made only slight changes (like a pronoun or verb form). My strategy was more to expand on the word or phrase. Usually I’m ending up with poems that are (at least in early form) 14-16 lines.
I tried to allow myself to use the words/ideas suggested by the titles. A phrase like “warm and tender” is familiar, almost too familiar–next door to cliche, really. So using those words is a good challenge. Isn’t defamiliarizing language a big part of writing, after all? I’m cautiously optimistic, having written numerous poems–at least some have potential to be finished.
Recently my parents gave me a bunch of their old records. I’m finding it most appealing to use albums for this writing with which I’m not familiar. Before editing, I might listen to the songs a time or two. Even if you usually don’t need a “prompt” for your writing, this writing could still work as warm-up, or as a section or chapter in an ongoing project you have, even relating to a theme or character you are developing.
Dada-inspired–see guidelines at Maintenant
Jan. 8th deadline–
When There’s Lightning
Read the skies for storms
Thunder rolling in
Close the doors
Close your eyes
Hold fast to your breaking heart, darling
The sky is a velvet black,
stallion stampeding stopping for no one.
Thunder treading ground
There’s a tornado surely coming
Clouds are crying
Tossing thunder like children throw tantrums
Whipping winds howling
Peek from your covers
Peek out the windows
Singing birds and sunshine
But you know
there’s thunder coming for you
It’s all in your head
But there’s thunder rolling in