or 100 Jackhammers for the Poet with Writer’s Block;
or 100 Ways to Jumpstart the Engine;
or 100 Pencil Exercises;
or 100 Ways to Stimulate Your Next Wine, Cheese, & Poetry Night
Table of Contents
- Finding the First, Discovering the Middle, & Chasing the End
- Imaginary Worlds
- Science, the Universe, Time, & Other Evolutions
- Fun with Letters, Words, Language, & Languages
- Forms: Obscure, Updated, & Invented
- New School; or Double Vision; or WWI (Writing While Intoxicated) & Its Repercussions
- Miscellany; Trying to Relate the Unrelated; or These Gotta Go Some Place . . . So Here
- Stupid Money, Dumb Politicians, & Celebrating America
- Responses; or Calling All Poets (Dead & Alive); or Talking to Eternity
- It’s All About You
Responses; or Calling All Poets (Dead & Alive); or Talking to Eternity
The Dr. Carlos Response Poem
Write a response to William Carlos Williams‘ “The Red Wheelbarrow.” There is enough information in this poem to piece together a story, i.e. the wheel barrow is glazed with rain water suggests it has recently rained. You may even want to fill in the spaces between the words or lines in the “The Red Wheelbarrow.”
(9-16-06 addendum) Notice how each stanza in the poem looks like the profile of a wheelbarrow. Thanks for sharing that observation, William Heyen.
The Dr. Carlos Response Poem II: The Wrath of Flossie
Pretend you are Flossie Williams (Dr. Carlos’ wife) after having read the following note on the refrigerator door:
This is just to say I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox and which you were probably saving for breakfast Forgive me they were delicious so sweet and so cold
a: The Dr. Carlos Response Poem III: City Talk
Yes, another response poem idea, but . . . Ok.
In Dr. Carlos’ Paterson, at times it seems the city of Paterson is trying to talk or is being talked for, though sometimes it is Dr. Paterson. So here’s the assignment: pretend you are a city writing a poem.
Other alternatives are to be a mountain or a lake, but something with a history & a story or stories to tell. I guess this means you are limited to narrative, but if you can break free of that, then most cool!
b: The Beatific Beatrice Response, or Dante? Who’s He?
From what I’ve learned, Dante & Beatrice met only four brief times, but Dante was horribly in love with Beatrice. And I think Beatrice didn’t pay him much mind after their visits.
With that in mind, we should explore how Beatrice felt after The Divine Comedy was finished & published. How would she have responded?
c: Beatrice Takes A Journey With Sappho, or Hell Hath No Fury Like a Beatrice with a Pen
Write a new Divine Comedy but from the point of view of Beatrice & using Sappho as her guide. Or maybe just write a canto for the Inferno, a canto for Purgatorio, & a canto for Paradisio.
As we know, we only have one complete & full poem/song of Sappho. The rest are all in fragments. Sometimes translators leave those blanks in their translation. This assignment, which I imagine has been done before, attempts to fill in those blanks – not all blanks to all her poems, but for just the blanks of one poem. For instance, consider fragment 24C:
] ]we live ] the opposite ] daring ] ] ]
] ] ] ] ] ]in a thin voice ] Quoted lines from If Not, Winter by Anne Carson, copyright © 2002 by Anne Carson. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
So put words, lines, stanzas where the brackets are.
One may also just take a fragment like “I would not think to touch the sky with two arms” (fragment 52) & wrap a poem around it.
I imagine in your final draft, to tip your hat, you should italicize Sappho’s words.
Other poems with only fragments from poets like Anakeron or the iamb inventor Archilocos, etc. can be used in place of Sappho.
Good Sappho books are 7 Greeks by Guy Davenport (NY: New Directions, 1980), or If Not, Winter by Anne Carson (NY: Vintage, 2002). The former is awesome, & the latter is equally as impressive. Mary Barnard’s book, while also impressive & awesome, doesn’t leave the blanks.
This One’s for the Ladies; or “Oh, Please. Enough With the Worms, Already. If That’s What You Want to Call It”; or “Andy, Andy, Andy. Will It Ever End With You?”
Andrew Marvell wrote a wonderful poem, among many others. But the one we are concerned with is “To His Coy Mistress,” which is quoted below.
Alas, then. You are to be the Coy Mistress & respond to Andy’s pleas. Using meter & rhyme might be nice, or you can contemporize the whole situation if you wish. That’s it.
To His Coy Mistress Had we but World enough, and Time, This coyness Lady were no crime. We would sit down, and think which way To walk, and pass our long Loves Day. Thou by the Indian Ganges side Should’st Rubies find: I by the Tide Of Humber would complain. I would Love you ten years before the Flood: And you should if you please refuse Till the Conversion of the Jews. My vegetable Love should grow Vaster then Empires, and more slow. An hundred years should go to praise Thine Eyes, and on thy Forehead Gaze. Two hundred to adore each Breast: But thirty thousand to the rest. An Age at least to every part, And the last Age should show your Heart. For Lady you deserve this State; Nor would I love at lower rate. But at my back I alwaies hear Times winged Charriot hurrying near: And yonder all before us lye Desarts of vast Eternity. Thy Beauty shall no more be found; Nor, in thy marble Vault, shall sound My ecchoing Song: then Worms shall try That long preserv’d Virginity: And your quaint Honour turn to dust; And into ashes all my Lust. The Grave’s a fine and private place, But none I think do there embrace. Now therefore, while the youthful hew Sits on thy skin like morning dew And while thy willing Soul transpires At every pore with instant Fires, Now let us sport us while we may; And now, like am’rous birds of prey, Rather at once our Time devour, Than languish in his slow-chapt pow’r. Let us roll all our Strength, and all Our sweetness, up into one Ball: And tear our Pleasures with rough strife, Thorough the Iron gates of Life. Thus, though we cannot make our Sun Stand still, yet we will make him run.
Dealing with Rejection
With my 99th literary-rejection letter just received, & number one hundred at hand [as of November 7, 2016, I am at 1085 rejection letters], I was reminded of Mike Dockins’ poem “Monsoon” about his one hundredth rejection letter, which then sparked this assignment.
Your assignment is to write a poem dealing with rejection, & if it deals with rejection letters from literary journals, all the better, & perhaps even more preferred.
MONSOON Dear 100th rejection slip, I am learning to spell monsoon. I look forward to your square blue ocean: starfish and whales of polite sentences wriggling on harpoons, black tide awash with monsoon, my lamp a fiery moon rising on krilly semi-colons, maybe a sleek marine scribble. Soon, soon. I see the in the Arabian Sea, approach Panaji from the southwest. How kindergarten, how 1978, how monsoon. I am in love with your maps and hieroglyphs – how jejune. When you cry à la loon from my blustery mailbox I’m going to order a fat drink speckled with plankton, festooned with a paper umbrella bending in monsoon, tiny tsunamis crashing the salted rim. I might even kiss the postal clerk, Irishman that I am, monsoon I long to be. I’m a candle-boat on the anniversary of something terrible and beautiful, some atom balloon, adrift on a waveless lagoon, wailing monsoon monsoon. Used by permission of 5 A.M.
On Second Thought
This one has a long tradition, & now it’s your turn. You are to write a response poem to one of your friend’s poems. You can pick up on a theme & say “Yes, & in addition to that . . .” or “No. It’s more like this . . .” or “What about this?” Etc. (Of course, phrase those utterances with a more poetic sensibility.) Most important, it’s gotta be a response to your buddy’s poem!
Here, Let Me Try
This is in line with the above assignment, “On Second Thought.” This time, however, you will take one of your buddy’s poems & revise it for him/her.
Whether you keep the revisions for yourself (& be a kinda cool literary thief who won’t go to jail, but who may have to buy their buddy a bottle of wine if the poem comes out good – you know, a fine) or whether you return it (like Ez did with The Waste Land to Tom) is up to you.
This idea comes to me from Kat Smith after she heard W.S. Merwin read a poem at Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA. It is also something that Lorca has done, & should provide for a good summer long exercise.
The assignment is a celebration of our clothes.
You are to write a poem about a particular piece of clothing you wear or someone else wears.
I plan on writing every time I go to the laundromat, so by the end of summer, & after all the laundry, I hope to have a series of clothing poems.
Ok. Go Sing, celebrate, & clean your clothes.
The Wally Stevens Anecdote
[This assignment arose from a Michelle Bonczek idea, and is used with permission.]
It is simple. Here it is.
Write a poem with the title “Anecdote of Me Reading a Wallace Stevens Poem.” You can insert your name in place of “Me.” I imagine you can do it with any poet, but I imagine it is funnier with a Wally Stevens poem.
Art Response Poem
Find a painting or a sculpture, one that isn’t too famous or popular, & write a poem about it, or a response to it, or let it evoke something. Perhaps even create a narrative about the scene. The Pre-Raphaelites might be most helpful for the latter.