Today’s prompt comes to you courtesy of poet Kristin Latour, with whom I have the good fortune to spend a writing day once in a while.
You are a writer, which means you are also a reader. So grab a book – and let’s get started.
Choose a book, any book. (Kristin brought old, used books when we tried this prompt.) The book itself is your prompt. This could mean the words found on its pages, but it could also mean any of the following:
- The cover (image or leather or embossed)
- The front pages (cities, dates, other titles by the author.)
- Illustrations (including author photos, center inserts, etc.)
- Table of Contents/Index/Appendices
- Marginalia, bookstore markings.
The day we used this prompt, Kristin had brought an old copy of Bartlett’s quotations. (It had no copyright date or publisher, but it was old.) I hardly knew where to begin – the white leather cover was embossed with gold columns and a bouquet of purple flowers. There was a stoic portrait of Mr. Bartlett on vellum, and an author’s introduction that showed great humility, as he hoped the collection was accurate and worthy. Then, of course, there were the quotes. But I was drawn to the index.
Arranged alphabetically, the index had topic words followed by pieces of quotes. I noticed an entry that almost read as a poem and decided to try and create a piece from the index fragments on one page. (I also ended up with one of the quotes as an epigraph.) Here is my draft (Index phrases are in green text):
The Farmer Chides the Weekend Country Drivers
And fools who came to scoff remained to pray.” -Oliver Goldsmith
Far into the bowels of the light that is never on lies my own,
my native land. Here my whole soul knows itself. Seven hours
to any city, the world and its dread are held at bay. We catch
the conscience of the wind – it makes us gods. Call us untaught,
unmannerly – then crook the hinges of your neck as you drive
on through. You will see heaven’s gate. This one look, snatched
hasty, leaves you wondrous, summons you humble, like a kitten.
Carry back all you know. Tell them how, rung by fairy hands, you
had your vacant mind opened and how, for a moment, you believed.