Prompts for RWJ, Prompt 123

Write a poem that’s a hide out. Or hiding something. Or having something come out of hiding. It’s Writers Digest Day 9 Prompt. What mysterious thing? I think the heart is one that hides a lot. Why is it not more straightforward? It’s like a true force of nature, the heart is. Again I’m reminded of the Catherine/Heathcliff love story. Only a character like Heathcliff would speak like this: “Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living. You said I killed you–haunt me then. The murdered do haunt their murderers. I believe–I know that ghosts have wandered the earth. Be with me always–take any form–drive me mad. Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!” What do you make of such passion? Could you let your poem come to terms with it somehow? Include a line that you’re most afraid to say. That, serendipitously, is NaPoWriMo’s Day 9 Prompt.

Then of course, tie your poem to Red Wolf Journal’s theme: Song Of Myself.


Prompt #217: Yes, the River Knows

Greetings poets! This prompt is a community prompt which asks you to do something a little out of the ordinary. Together, we will all write a poem. So, we will behave like a river, flowing together with our poetic contributions — hence the title of this prompt, borrowed from the title of a song by The Doors.

How, you ask? Borrowing a little from the Surrealists’ “exquisite corpse” method, each of you will write one line at a time. In this case, of course, there really isn’t a practical way of being true to the original method (which would only allow you to see the last few words of the previous contributor’s lines), so we are modifying it a bit as described below:

  1. Someone here should start — post the first line of the poem.
  2. Then, other poets chime in, each adding a line in succession to continue from the previous line.
  3. You will be able to post a line more than once, but try to allow a few poets to contribute lines after you before adding another one (maybe 3-4?).
  4. If you want to suggest a stanza break, please indicate at the end of your line when you contribute. (Final formatting decisions are made by me, of course, but I will remain as true as possible to what I read from your contributed lines — no editing otherwise except for obvious typos.)

To allow the madness to continue as long as possible, comments will be open on this prompt until 8:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time on Wednesday, July 30. After then, comments on this post will be closed. The lines will be collected and then posted as one long poem, here, in a blog post sometime Wednesday afternoon.

Thank you, everyone, for making my time enjoyable with Red Wolf Journal. I am stepping down as an regular editor on the RWJ staff effective August 1 due to upcoming MFA studies, but I remain here in the community as Red Wolf Poems co-administrator and honorary RWJ editor as well as poet writing along to these prompts. It has been a pleasure helping put out such a fine journal.


Prompt #215: Talk Back to a Poem

Greetings poets! This week, I challenge you to talk back to a poem.

Red Wolf Journal, Issue 2

For this prompt, I’d like you to choose a poem out of this quarter’s issue of Red Wolf Journal — any poem you like — and write your own poem as an answer to the original. You can answer the speaker by sharing your thoughts, imagine yourself in the poem and tell your version of the same story, compare notes…anything you like. It’s your poem.

So, go off a-poeming! I’m excited to see what you come up with.


Prompt #214: Celebration and Ritual


First a shameless plug:  Red Wolf Journal Issue 2 is live.  Please follow the link and take a summer’s leisurely read down the “The River: Within Us and Without Us.”

Now with a smidgen more subtly, I bring you this week’s prompt.

What do you celebrate?  What are your rituals?  Family traditions, Christmas, cultural traditions–what traditions have touched your life.  If not larger traditions, then look at daily rituals.  Morning rituals, evening rituals, cooking rituals, writing rituals.  How did they come about?  What sustains them?  How do they sustain you?

You may find one that grabs you immediately.  Write down everything you can about it–origin, steps, impact, differences between you and others, sensory aspects, and so on.  If one does not claim your attention, brainstorm any you think of for.  Look at other people’s rituals and celebrations.

You don’t have to limit yourself to just one celebration/ritual.  You can braid associated rituals together or even patchwork quilt them into a poem.  For more ideas on celebrations and rituals and how our poetry might speak with them, read here.

Alright poets, show us how you rite.


Prompt #213: A Picture Is Worth A Thousand (More, or Less) Words

Greetings poets!

This week’s prompt is a image prompt featuring “San Antonio Riverwalk #1”, an art piece by our Issue 2 cover artist, Angela (Alex) Weddle.

San Antonio Riverwalk #1, by Angela (Alex) Weddle

Issue 2, “The River: Within Us and Without Us”, will be going live in a few days. In the meantime, we wanted to offer one of Alex’s other art pieces for your inspiration. What does the artwork say to you? Can you picture yourself walking by the river in the scene above? What kind of story might emerge within this scene — for example, what might be happening in one of the buildings? Or how about an ekphrastic approach?

Drink this in, poets. I’m excited to see what y’all come up with. And in the meantime, stay tuned for Issue 2.


Prompt #212 – Polishing Silver

I hope everyone has recovered from last month’s poetry writing.  If you participated in a fraction of the prompts and poetry activities out there, then I know you have a drawer full of poems and drafts.  Get ready to open the drawer.

What do I mean by polishing silver?  I mean revising, revising to the point of creation.  Whether you write and then revise or you write/revise as you go, changes are always necessary.  But what about those poems we abandon?  What about the ones with good parts or ideas, but we find the whole unsatisfying?

For this prompt, I would like you to find a poem (or more than one) which you know needs revision but you’re not sure where to start.  If you choose more than one, try to choose ones with complementary themes or images (or images that create powerful contrasts/synergy).  Once you have chosen your poem(s), go through the following steps, using the steps that work best with your writing and emerging poem.

  1. In your poem(s), pick out your favorite parts (the parts you feel you got right/near right).  Write them down.
  2. In your poem(s), identify imagery, metaphor, themes, etc. which enhance your choices in step one.  Write them down underneath the corresponding parts in step one.
  3. Brainstorm new ideas to add to step two and write them down.
  4. Now to find connective tissue.  What do the choices in step one have in common–themes, physical images, colors, sensory imagery, symbols, etc.?  Make notes.  Mark them on your paper.  Add new ones to your lists.
  5. Look at what you have on your paper.  Find what connects best and write it on a separate page.  Try writing it out in prose and see if a story emerges.
  6. Time to consider your form.  Will you rewrite using your original framework (free verse, sonnet, haiku, etc.) or try a new form?
  7. Finally, polish out the details–word choice, transitions, line breaks, etc.

This is creation at work.  Going back and revising is not one of my habits (confession time).  So I am going to do this prompt with you.  Take your time and put your heart into it.  I look forward to seeing your new creations and especially in hearing how the process worked for you.



Prompt #211 – Find the River

Howdy poets! And welcome to the first ever Red Wolf Poems prompt. We invite you to think, consider, and write. And your poem might be selected for Issue 2 of Red Wolf Journal. For more information about the upcoming issue, read our call for submissions.

Tawnya and I said this in our call for submissions: “Water, especially rivers, has been rooted in the human consciousness perhaps since the beginning of our existence as a species.” Maybe that’s why we keep being inspired by them, fascinated by them, and depicting them in our arts: visual, literary, and music. This week I’m going to ask you to use music as a jump off point to find your poem.

Middle fork of the Gila River, SW New Mexico. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Pick a song that is either about rivers or speaks of rivers in some way, shape, or form. My personal favorite is “Find the River” by R.E.M., especially these lyrics:

The ocean is the river’s goal,
a need to leave the water knows –
we’re closer now than light years to go.

(If you don’t know a good river song: here are some suggestions: “Take Me to the River” by Al Green or the Talking Heads; “Yes, the River Knows”, by The Doors; “Proud Mary”; “Big River” by Johnny Cash; “As I Went Down to the River to Pray”, “Dam that River” by Alice In Chains; “Green River” by Credence Clearwater Revival; “Old Man River”, “River of Time” by Van Morrison. Or…you could check out this list.)

The idea is, pick a song about rivers, or with a river in it, that inspires you. Listen to it, over and over again. Let your mind grab onto a lyric and wander. Let the song drip into you and look at your reflection in its clear, limpid pools.

A suggestion: if you’re like me and you normally come out with a coherent first draft, try to abandon your customary (especially if it is somewhat left-brained) way to produce a poem and just free-write first, letting your unconscious mind take the lead. Don’t censor, don’t edit in mid-poem, etc. You get the point. You can post your free-write as your final version, or clean it up — it’s up to you.

One more thing: we do ask that you include (whether in your process notes or just somewhere in your blog post) the title/artist of the song you chose.