The Sounds & the Fury…

I’m back. Although I didn’t write HERE on my Spring Break, I did write. And read a LOT. And submit poems to journals, which I haven’t done in quite some time. But after reading the round-up this week on Dave Bonta’s site, I have decided to embark on some sort of poetry endeavor for April.

Although I always fail at 30/30 attempts–this is not hyperbole, I mean ALWAYS–I decided to try something different. I am going to try to write something every day that plays with sound and tone – phrases, wordplay, etc. – and, in this way, I will free myself from the pressure to even make sense!

Somewhere, I truly cannot remember where, I was introduced to an exercise that I have already used both days of April so far. I will share it here in the hopes that it might give you some ideas about playing with sound.

  1. Start with a lengthy word that has a variety of letters. (I have used the words. ventriloquist, paraphernalia, hypersensitive, and inconsequential. You can use any word you choose!)
  2. Spend some time making a word bank of every word you can create from the letters in that long word. Three letters or more. You may only use a letter twice if it actually appears twice in the word.
  3. Once you have a substantial word bank, start to play with creating phrase combinations. Once you have a few that you like, see if you can use words on the list and other words that stay in that sound family to write a lyric or tone poem.

Last night, my husband gave me the word paraphernalia. My favorite phrases were: repel the leperthe bells peal, a panel of liars, the rapier’s rip.  I ended up with a draft that might be going in the direction of a “dark days” type of poem. Today with my students, we brainstormed a list from ventriloquist. My favorite phrase from that list was a quiver in the soil brings violets.

So I have a plan. Which may not come to fruition. But I am enjoying the music, nonetheless.


If you are looking for prompts for your 30/30, when I first started this blog seven years ago, I posted a prompt a week under the label The Poetry Tow Truck. That archive of 52 prompts can be found here – since it’s been so long, I may go back and try some of them again myself!

and…we’re back. Ready,set, April!

I couldn’t have asked for a better week of vacation. Along with the sunny weather and most excellent company, I had hours to read and write and think, a definite luxury. I wrote a lot of what I can only call fragments – not poems, not stories, just little chunks of text that I am looking forward to reading back and manipulating into something recognizable. I was absolutely blown away reading Dean Young’s Fall Higher, so much so that I read it at least three times and even wrote a cento using the first lines of Young’s poems.


And tomorrow begins National Poetry Month! If you haven’t already done so, head on over to this previous post and leave a comment to win some poetry books from me. I will NOT be attempting poem-a-day this year, but I will do as I did last year – I will try to engage with poetry in some way every day – writing, reading, attending readings, teaching poems to my class, submitting – all of these will “count” toward my daily goal.


If you are looking for some inspiration for poem-a-day, don’t forget that you have the tow truck archives (all prompts) and the Mix Tape archives (favorite poems with prompts) at your disposal.


Some new poems should be appearing online this month, including the debut of the pioneer wife – I will keep you posted about where and when. Write well, write often, and remember, April is only the cruelest month if you let it be.

Poetry Tow Truck 52: Changes (The last one…)

One of my favorite David Bowie songs is “Changes.” Every time I thought I’d got it made/It seemed the taste was not so sweet – a truth. So all things change, and changes can be difficult, but they are often for the better. Or, at the very least, they can take people in a new direction. As I end a year of Poetry Tow Truck prompts, I realize that it is time for a change here on the blog.

I want to talk more about poems that others have written that have been meaningful to me. I want to try and post more regularly about things other than prompts. And I am leaving you not only an archive, but the very capable and thorough Wordgathering of Margo Roby who will continue to bring you prompts from all over the web, including her own Tuesday Tryouts and The Friday Free-for-All, which hopefully will still include my blog on the weekends that posts include writing ideas.

Today is Christmas Eve – I set this post to publish over two weeks ago, so I am preparing to spend the day with family – good fun, good food, and lots of love. I wish you the same. And I wish you happy writing. On this holiday, reflect on some of the changes that have benefitted you in the course of your life.

Happy Holidays!


PS – Enjoy David Bowie and Bing Crosby…

Poetry Tow Truck 51: Aliens Exist?

Area 51 has long been a hotbed of conspiracy theory – is it just an Air Force base, or does it hide alien technology, weather control, and other inexplicable phenomena?

Television, movies, literature, and even pop music have long exploited the idea that Area 51 is a place where aliens have been captured and studied, the idea that we have been visited by creatures from another galaxy. Whether you subscribe to the theory that aliens exist or not, today we will use this idea for a new poem.

Option One: Abduction

Television shows like South Park and rock bands like Blink-182 and The Killers have all taken on the subject of abduction with great success. Imagine being abducted – it doesn’t have to be by aliens. You could be abducted by spiders, or cardinals, or friends from high school. How do you react? What happens? How are you changed when you return?



Option Two: Other Worlds

When we think of aliens, we often think of other planets, other worlds that have evolved far away from ours and usually with advances in technology that we do not yet have. For this poem, imagine living in a world that is either utterly advanced in technology or one that has no technology at all. How does either of these scenarios impact relationships? Education? Culture? Start with an imaginative spark and see where it takes you.

Option Three: Alien Forms

No, I’m not talking about humanoid creatures with large heads and eyes and long, pointy fingers here. I’m talking about other forms of writing that poets don’t usually try. Short or flash fiction. Essay. Memoir. Take one of the ideas from above and write in a form that is “alien” to you.

Poetry Tow Truck 50: Patterns

There are patterns everywhere in nature. Patterns in music and patterns in mathematics. Today’s date includes a number sequence – 10, 11, 12. Tenth day, 11th year, 12th month. So today, we will think about using a number sequence of some sort in a poem.

Fibonnaci Poem: This type of poem, based on a Fibonacci sequence of numbers. It focuses on syllables, and you can write a single one or you can reverse the syllable count to create a poem that expands and contracts.

Prime Number Poem: Using a sequence of prime numbers, instead of using them as syllable counts like the poem above, use them as numbers of words in each stanza for a rough draft.  The first several are: 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47, 53

Fractals as Inspiration: Check out the fractal images at the link to the left. Use one of them as inspiration for a poem that uses repeated words and images as building blocks, just as fractals replicate themselves. This page has an animated demonstration of a fractal snowflake. (Scroll down to the History section.)

Only two more Tow Trucks left!  Thank you to everyone who has stopped by for prompts this year. Remember that all of the prompts from this year will be archived on the Tow Truck Archives Page – I didn’t try all of them, so you probably didn’t, either!

After the first of the year, I will be posting poems that I love every Saturday and discussing them. Many of these posts will include some ways to be inspired to create by these poems, although they will not be written as traditional prompts. I hope that you will continue to stop by and keep creating.

And enjoy Simon and Garfunkel’s “Patterns” – a lovely song.

Poetry Tow Truck 49: Nothing Gold Can Stay

When you were young, you may have heard of the concept of “golden” birthdays – when you turn the same age as the date of the month you were born. Now, this can be an exciting proposition if your birthday is on the 7th when you turn 7 – or even the 13th when you turn 13.  But if you have a late birthday like me (the 23rd), at that point, this random declaration of something special becomes rather meaningless. But other things designated as golden – anniversaries (50 years!), opportunities – really are interesting or special.

Since I am 49 years old, I am designating this Tow Truck post (the 49th one) as our “golden” post. So for today’s prompt, use the word golden in one of the following ways:

1.  As an acrostic starter (writing the letters down the page)

2. To turn something traditionally golden (golden egg, golden sunset, Goldilocks, Golden Grahams cereal) and use it in a poem about darkness.

3. Using Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay” as inspiration, write a poem about ephemeral things.

Thanks for sticking with me – only a few more Tow Truck posts to go before we switch gears for 2012!

Poetry Tow Truck 47: By the Numbers


Everyone has a favorite number, a lucky number, a number that is meaningful to them in some way beyond its mathematical significance. Perhaps a special date. Or the number of the jersey of the boy you loved in high school. Or the address of the house where you grew up.  That’s where we will begin today.

Choose a number that has some significance to you. (I will choose 22, the day of my son’s birthday.)  Look the number up on Wikipedia. Seriously. Go do it right now. You will find something like this:

Skim through the facts and cultural ideas associated with your number. I am intrigued by the following 22-related facts:

  • There are 22 stars in the Paramount Films logo
  • Most TV sitcoms run 22 minutes with no commercials.
  • Two little ducks in Bingo parlance
  • Along with the % sign, URL format for quotation marks
Now try to work some of your new numerical knowledge into a new poem, or insert it into an old one.