A Big Pot of Prompts

A poetry friend and I used to send each other prompts, ten at a time. She was a prolific writer and could write poems for all ten of my prompts pretty much in a day. I used to take one or two of them, and it would take me a week. But I have had poems published that were written from those prompts.

But I noticed during that process that it’s so much easier to write prompts for someone else than generate ideas for yourself. I think  you just relax and let your mind go for it. So, to prove my point, I’m going to write as many prompts as I can in ten minutes. Feel free to dig in if one of them grabs you!

 

  • Think of someone you know who doesn’t seem to quite fit in. What do you imagine they are thinking?
  • Imagine that you wake up in an alternate reality, very close to our own but subtly different. What is the difference? Does it make this reality better or worse?
  • Think about a part of your body you don’t usually give a second thought to. Express your admiration for it.
  • Think about a path. Where is it going to or from? Who might travel it?
  • Imagine you are reading a prophecy. What does it say? Do you want it to come true? Do you not? Why?
  • Write a poem about spices. How do their tastes relate to the way you feel?
  • Write a poem about something below your feet.
  • Which animal do you most feel like today? Describe yourself as that animal.
  • Imagine you are hiding. What are you hiding from? Where are you hiding? What will it take for you to come out?
  • Think about spinning. Wheels, the earth, your mind. Imagine if the spinning stopped for just a second. What would that second be like?
  • Imagine someone is filming a documentary about your life. How would the script sound?
  • Write a personification poem in which you are a vehicle. Does the vehicle enjoy what it does? How does it feel when it is still? How does it feel when it is moving?
  • Think about a negative emotion you felt recently. Describe it, but only in positive terms..
  • Imagine the two most unlikely people who could swap roles. What would happen if they had to?
  • Write a poem in which you die but discover that dying is not all it seems.
  • Write a poem in praise of your favourite food or drink.
  • Describe your favourite sound or sounds.
  • Describe your most treasured possession. Why do you love it?
  • Imagine you are a creator god. What would be your current assessment of your creation?
  • Think about repetition. What would  you do again and again and again if you had the chance? Why? How does your body feel doing this? How does your mind feel?

So there you go! Twenty prompts in ten minutes. (Yes, alright, I jotted them down in ten minutes and then typed them up — I’m not superhuman!) OK — back to not having a clue as to what to write about…

 

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FROME – Launch this Friday!

Just a little note to say that my in-person launch for Split, Twist, Apocalypse will be taking place this Friday, 26th August.

Venue will be the finest bookshop in all the land, Hunting Raven Books in Frome, Somerset, and we kick off at 7.30.

It’s going to be a poetry double-header, with Gordon Vells, who will be launching his beautiful, sharp and touching collection “Wasp Disentanglement for Beginners.”

It’ll be an informal and fun evening, and I don’t know whether to be excited or petrified, but if you live locally to me, please do come! It’s free! There will be wine!

ONLINE LAUNCH NEWS COMING SOON!

I was hoping to be announcing my online launch very soon, but it’s going to be a little later than initially planned, due to Unavoidable Things. Should be later in the autumn, so watch this space!

“Split, Twist, Apocalypse” is available to order!

I’m so excited to announce that that my debut collection “Split, Twist, Apocalypse” is now available to order! Yesterday I “had a moment” when I signed the first copies (with my special signing pen), took them to the post office and sent them out into the world. It’s such a busy time in my life at the moment, I have to make sure I take these moments in!

My current challenge is answering the question “so what’s it about”? A very hard question to answer when it comes to poetry, and I tend to blether, “Oh, life, magic, gods, science, stuff…”! I think I’ll just photocopy the eloquent blurb that Ronnie at my publisher Indigo Dreams wrote onto slips of paper and hand them out. Take a look at the blurb below to let Ronnie tell you all about it!

Split, Twist, Apocalypse Cover

Anyway, if that blurb (and not my blethering) grabs you, and you would like to see some sample poems and/or order a signed copy, visit the “My Books” page on this website! (And if you can’t do PayPal for any reason, email me, and I’ll send you my bank details.)

Cover Reveal!

I’m absolutely flippin delighted to announce that my debut collection “Split, Twist, Apocalypse” published by Indigo Dreams will be OUT OUT OUT on July 18th! Details of how to order will follow shortly, but in the mean time – here is my GORGEOUS cover!

Three Tricks to Beat the Themed Submission Brain Freeze

tumbleweed
Actual footage of my brain when presented with a themed prompt

Three Tricks to Beat the Themed Submission Brain Freeze

Maybe I’m the only poet who finds this, but when I see that one of my favourite journals is running a themed submission window, I panic a bit. Because when faced with a theme to write to, my mind always goes completely blank. Themes are often just one word which is either very specific (“Playing Cards!” “Cauldrons!”) or quite ethereal (“Sustenance!” “Longevity!”) and my mind just doesn’t know where to go with them. The result? Brain freeze.

But themed prompts can be quite useful ways of writing poems I never would have thought of. Plus – cynically – there’s probably more chance of publication in a themed issue, since the issue ie likely to attract less spurious submissions. So here’s three tricks I’ve used to turn the prompt into a poem.

  • Recycle

Have a look through all those random lines, couplets and starters  you’ve scribbled down and done nothing with. If you had to incorporate the prompt into them, what would you do? This is quite a good way of prompting connections you might not have otherwise thought of – and reviving lost ideas!

So I have found in my phone:

They made a crisis out of looks and sellotape,
Hung it on a headline to air,
watched the panic germinate.

Adding in the “cauldron” prompt sparks me to carry this poem on:

They threw some news into a cauldron,
s
tirred it up with a brand new slant
and folded it into paper…

A start maybe?

Or maybe I could have added in the “Longevity” prompt

They cultivated it with jealous fingers,
drew out the flowering as long as they could…

…and so on. Maybe if it was the sustenance prompt, they would have ended up eating news cucumbers. Who knows.

  • The random adjective trick

My favourite trick – pick a random adjective. Stick your finger in a book, look round the room and describe something, or or just pick the most mismatched adjective you can think of! Then pair it with the prompt. Suddenly you have something specific to work on. Picking adjectives randomly from George R R Martin’s Game of Thrones to pair with my example prompts above gives me a few phrases which immediately set off more ideas. Don’t hold me to the lines, they’re just what came into my mind!

Empty-eyed playing cards

“On Thursdays, she plays solitaire / gazing at empty-eyed playing cards”…

Guilty cauldrons

“Only the cauldrons and the cats / know what they have made / but the cats don’t care, or else, they don’t say…”

Reassuring sustenance

“And thank god for the biscuit that flops into my tea like the best and worst of friends”

Dark longevity

“I swear, each moon, the night lasts a little longer…”

Now there’s a bit more to get my teeth into!

  • Google Images

Ah, good old Google. If in doubt, and if you’re a fairly visual person. just google the word and click on images. Have a scroll and see what inspires you. Even googling “playing cards” gave me a few ideas:

“I started seeing eyes in the playing cards,
not kings or naves, but the people I have lost.
Unlucky as black sevens,
stark as deuces,
they grew from the pack like impossible houses…”

So there you go! Three tricks to get your themed submissions singing! Now, where did I put my three poems on the theme of caustic soda…

 

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“BUT THEY MIGHT THINK I’M A DICK!” Seven words which stand between me and writing success

Writing is easy. Well, OK, it’s not. But for most writers, writing is easier than the other side of being an author – selling books.

This year, amazingly, wonderfully, I have a book coming out. It’s my first. During a workshop last night, I was forced to address the question: what is it that makes me so nervous about publicising it?

Much overnight soul-searching later, the answer is clear. BECAUSE PEOPLE MIGHT THINK I’M A DICK.

Let me give you some examples.

I need to approach journals, blogs, podcasts, in-person events and festivals to try to get myself, and my work, out there. But might think I’m too forward!

I need to organise a launch event, or maybe two, but what if, like, five people come and two of them are my Mum?

I need to get myself out to some poetry nights and open mics, and this will probably involve initially turning up on my own, since not many of my friends are into poetry. But what if they all think I’m Billy No-Mates? What if I fluff it on stage?

I should probably get the sales ball rolling by getting some friends to buy and review the book. But a lot of the book reveals the inner me! There is anxiety and nerdiness and weird humour and sex and oddness! What if they’re all talking about me behind my back?

In summary: BUT THEY MIGHT THINK I’M A DICK!

My challenge to myself: to spot those words in my head. To put them away. To run every doubt through the BUT THEY MIGHT THINK I’M A DICK filter, call it out and have none of it. I don’t think any other author putting their work out there is a dick, so neither am I. And if let these seven words stand in my way… well then, I really am a dick.

 

Last night’s workshop was run by the fabulous Elizabeth M Castillo. https://www.elizabethmcastillo.com/

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Photo by Geralt on Pixabay

I Think, Therefore I Write

Whether we think in words, images or concepts, does this affect the type of poetry we write? 

 

What’s it like for you when you think? What about when you read? Do you hear words in your head? See images? Both? Or do you experience something else?

 

I love discussing this, particularly with those who are only just realising that it’s not the same for everyone. Frankly it freaks people out. Someone who has a noisy inner monologue, for instance, is often quite shocked when they realise that another person just thinks in wordless concepts. Or that a third person practically watches a movie in their head when they read. 

 

But what about how we experience, and indeed write, poetry? Recently it struck me that perhaps the type of poetry we create may be very influenced by our thinking style. 

 

For example, I’m a very word-based thinker and reader.  I don’t really picture anything at all when I think – it’s all a big chitchat in my head, and all in my own voice. Reading is almost the same, although there is sometimes a little mental “picturing”.  So a poem for me is a platter of sounds, throwing up ideas, connections and the odd fleeting, fuzzy image. 

 

And what type of poetry do I write? Well, I love soundplay and very passionate about sounds that meld and clash. They are a very important part of the poem for me. Not all my poems rhyme, but rhyme is a great love of mine. I enjoy half-rhymes and not-even-that-close rhymes, I love alliteration and I cannot get enough assonance and dissonance. Likewise, I’m slightly obsessed with rhythm, and even if a poem doesn’t have a classic rhythmical structure, I usually need the rhythm to have some kind of shape in order for me to find writing the poem satisfying.

 

Which is all a long winded way of musing: do I write like that because for me the experience of a poem, the way I process the ideas, is almost nothing but words? That, for me, hearing an inner rhyme is as satisfying as looking at a sunset? That I cannot disconnect the meaning of a poem from the sounds that frame it? And, a big question – if I didn’t think like that, would I find wordplay to be just an irritating? A noisy and unnecessary distraction? 

 

Or maybe not. Maybe this is just all nonsense. But if it is, it’s nonsense that sounds awfully good to me. 

 

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