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

Writing Prompt: Spirit of Place

Writing Prompt–Spirit of Place (by Valerie Fox)

Here’s an exercise for writing about a place. Choose a place that’s important to you (emotionally resonant) or simply very memorable.

Step 1
Make a list of questions (10 plus) about each of the following:

Your town or hometown
One or more houses you have lived in
One room in the house (or each of the houses) you have lived in)

Answer these questions in detail.

Step 2
Locate one or more artifacts relating to your writing.
Include words and descriptions based on this in your next draft of your poem.

Step 3
After some time has passed, return to your writing. Try to convey the sense of the place through the language and syntax of your poem. Try to reorganize the ideas, stanzas, or images. (Try something completely different from the original order.)

For discussion–
How is the spirit of place being hinted at or pictured?
Are you using place names and other proper nouns? If so, how and why?

Here’s a phenomenal resource, the Poetry Atlas, for writers and teachers:
http://www.poetryatlas.com/