Fortune Cookie Refrain Line Prompt (by Lynn Levin)

Lynn Levin
Lynn Levin

If you break open enough fortune cookies, pretty soon you’ll find a fortune with enough mystery, pithiness, and flexibility to serve as a refrain line in a villanelle or pantoum.  So have dinner in a Chinese restaurant, and you just might find that your dessert brings you a great line for a poem.

The fortune-cookie-refrain-line prompt is very effective in class. I sometimes buy a quantity of fortune cookies and hand them out in class, usually two to a student. Chances are at least one of the fortunes will work as a refrain line…and the students enjoy the snack.

Some of my students have written amazing poems with fortune cookie refrain lines.

–Lynn Levin

Submit to Ragged Sky Anthology (Chocolate and Coffee)


(The tiger is a shout-out to Small World Coffee [] which, like Ragged Sky Press, is based in Princeton, NJ area.)

Ragged Sky Press is accepting (starting February 14th) submissions for their upcoming anthology: poems related to chocolate and coffee.

RS News Page:

Submission Details:

“Non-Buddhist Paraclausithyron” (by Alan Seltzer)

Non-Buddhist Paraclausithyron

by Alan Seltzer

Should I be prepared to sit for years
cross-legged on this black cushion
staring at a point on the blank white
wall that is not there?
Should I do whatever it takes
to prove myself, to get your attention,
to have revealed to me the secret
that is not a secret?
Should I be like those of legend,
stand half naked in the snow
before your gate for days on end,
refrain from eating until you smile at me,
slash my arm with a ritual sword?
Do you doubt that I could stand unflinching
when you hit me with a stick,
ponder your cryptic riddles endlessly,
wander lonely mountain paths
until mountains become mountains?
Or do you fear I really will
cross the stream, abandon the raft,
and no one at all will be standing at your gate?

Used by permission of Alan Seltzer.