Set a timer for 5 to 10 minutes and write as many metaphors or similes as possible for one concept (eg first love, confusion, or determination). Try not to lift your pen off the page for too long, or if you’re writing on a computer, keep steadily typing. Don’t question the relevance of any one metaphor while doing this, just write whatever metaphors come to your head, as you can always edit them later.
After you’ve done this exercise, either select your favorite metaphor and expand on it, or try writing a poem including many metaphors for the same concept, approaching the subject from many angles. How does each metaphor build toward the reader having a visceral understanding of the concept?
For an example of a poem that contains a lot of similes/metaphors for one concept, read: Tim Seibles’ First Kiss.
The latest prompt I have for you is inspired by Cortney Lamar Charleston’s Lesson for Cortney.
Try writing a poem in the voice of someone speaking to a small child. What sort of things do they explain to the child? What judgements do they place on the world around them (that’s bad, that’s good, etc.)? Try to remember things you learned as a child, or instead, you can think of a child in your life who extracts truths (or lies) from you.
Also check out the poet’s new book, Doppelgangbanger, from Haymarket Books.
First, read Andrea Cohen’s Circular, from Copper Nickel.
Then write a poem that mentions or uses a shape in some way (a circle, or a square, or a triangle, or if you’re daring, a dodecahedron….) The word could refer to a love triangle, or perhaps someone is being uncool, a real square. You could alternatively draw the shape on a blank page and try to write to fill that shape. How does the shape influence your choice of words?
Today, I did a series of writing exercises with Jersey City Writers based on writing after loss. I’m sharing the essence of them with you here. Don’t skip reading the poem suggested beforehand—I find reading good poetry before writing it is often like “priming the pump,” it helps your creative juices flow, and your writing will be stronger from the influence of the masters.
Read Natasha Trethewey’s After Your Death, included in The Art of Losing, edited by Kevin Young, and then try think about a serious loss you’ve experienced. Can you write a series of metaphors (try to get to ten!) expressing how you feel about it? Once you’ve gotten to ten, go back to one of the metaphors, and write more about it—go deeper into the metaphor.
Read Hot by Craig Arnold, one of my favorite poems of all time. Then, think of someone whom you’ve lost, but not on account of death—someone you’ve lost to something else, such as addiction, or the end of a relationship, or perhaps to Alzheimer’s. For bonus points, try to write the poem in rhyming couplets, modeled after Craig Arnold’s work.
Read Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art, then think about an object from your childhood that you’ve lost, and write about that. Make sure to decide whether the speaker is still a child or if the speaker is an adult looking back… there will likely be differences in how speakers of different ages would express the loss.
Read Mark Strand’s poem, Elegy for My Father, also available in The Art of Losing, and look especially at section 2, Answers. Try writing a poem in which you have a conversation with someone who’s passed away.