Writing in Their Shoes

Many times, inspiration can be found simply by looking at other people. Sit down somewhere you can people watch. Pay close attention to other people’s outfits, particularly their shoes. What do their shoes say about them? Write a poem based on their shoes: it can be about the shoes themselves, how they are walked in, where they have walked, or many other things. Try to expand on the small details of the shoes without wearing their soles too thin (har har).

Special bonus round: write using only long lines, or at least lines long enough to mirror how far the shoes have walked.

As the posts before have said, share this poem! Staple it to the bottom of your shoes! Staple it to someone else’s shoes (with their consent, of course)! Walk 500 miles and 500 more and staple it to a telephone post – sharing it doesn’t mean you’re not the sole proprietor of your own poem anymore.

If you can’t seem to come up with something shoe related, don’t feel defeet. Try to write about another article of clothing! I am so sorry about all the puns.

Body of Words

Why do people get tattoos? Do they get words permanently etched into their bodies to represent their life’s experiences, or experiences they would like to have? Maybe you have one/more than one and could incorporate it/them into this prompt.

Prompt: What words would make up which body parts/organs/bones if you were made of ink? You might consider what words you would want to display proudly, and which ones you would want to cover up. Would there be any words that would demand attention over others?

So maybe you want to jot down a personal response to this writing exercise in your journal or wherever you keep your other words. Maybe you’ll then be able to go off of that response and then something so amazing will come of this prompt that it will take on a whole life its own and will be reborn an island unto itself. If you achieve that level of awesomeness, praise be and keep doing you. If you achieve another, lesser level of awesomeness that us mere mortals might possibly be able to handle, share it in a comment! 🙂


Search for the definition of the word “contradiction” on Google and it is defined as “a combination of statements, ideas, or features of a situation that are opposed to one another.” I believe that contradictions are important to poetry because contradictions can sometimes reveal something greater than the contradiction.

Here’s a prompt: Write a poem that contradicts itself. Maybe the title contradicts the poem or vice versa. Maybe each line contradicts a previous line. Maybe an idea in the poem contradicts another. Try to reveal something important with the contradictions.

Share it here, if you want. Share it with your pet giraffe. Share it with your David Lynch Film Club. Share it with fellow Pluto Supporters–it’s a planet, how dare you tell me it’s not! Or don’t share it at all–that’s cool too.

The Great Poet

What makes a poet great?

It’s 10:30am on a Tuesday and class is about to begin. Two poets are just taking their seats while three others near the door chat about the weather. On each desk is a copy of the same three poems, scribbled on in varying hues of ink and shapes of handwriting. Workshop is open to the poets.

So we’ve all produced some amazing poetry, despite the fact that we spend what sometimes feels like forever critiquing every detail of each poem. There are some basic guidelines to poetry that we have learned to stick to in order that we might keep from writing anything less than stellar–avoid cliches, keep the adverb count down, etc.–but what’s the secret formula? It seems easy enough to point to a poem and label it, “needs work” (cough–bad–cough), but how do we distinguish the good from the great? A friend of mine recently read aloud a poem to me, and he writes poetry himself, so I had assumed this poem was his own work. When he finished, I was all ready to critique the poem and suggest some specific edits. Turns out, the poem was written by some famous Such and Such, and who was I to judge this famous Such and Such poet when I am merely a lowly college student? Certainly we could send our work to every publication out there and get a few uplifting replies, but who’s to say today’s poems we’re workshopping can’t be the next “The Road Not Taken”?

The Collective Poem

The poetry exercise this week was about putting people in conversation with one another in a poem, and I started thinking about this concept in a more literal sense. When I was involved in slam, group pieces were often the most appreciated and told the most complex stories. I have always wondered how this would transfer to the page. Do poets ever write something together and also present it together? I feel like page poetry is such an individualized craft, although one could argue that slam is as well.

I wrote one spoken word piece (kind of between slam and page poetry) with friends. We came with our own poems on the same topic and literally cut and pasted our words together. Has anyone ever tried this with page poetry? Is having a second poet involved just too much to deal with and still be able to make something both parties find authentic?

This is my favorite (youth) group slam piece:

Art from Art

Recently, I was inspired by a song to write a poem. This is the first and only time I’ve ever felt compelled to write a poem based on a song, not the first time I’ve been inspired by music, but the first time I’ve been inspired to occupy the space of that song and create a poem that occupies that same space. I went to speak with Professor Lytton about how to “cite” or give credit to the song in my poem without just “stealing” (the song and the poem share the same title). He told me about a poet who often based poems on other works of art. Inspired by this, I wanted to see if I could do more. So I tried to write a poem occupying the same space as one of my favorite paintings. Normally, when I sit down to write a poem, I’ll have one image or topic in mind, and from there begin hours of painstakingly uninspired lines appearing slowly on the page. But when I sat down to write these two poems, based on other works of art, the whole process just felt quicker, smoother. I wonder if this is because, rather than creating a work of art from nothing, I am actually just converting art from one form to another. This is to say, translating the atmosphere of the song to the atmosphere of a poem, or transcribing the space of the painting to written words on the page. Of course it’s a little more complicated than this because the space this song or this painting creates for me will be inherently different than the space it creates for someone else (at least in some small way). But the point, I think, might be that it creates the space for me—these works of art provide an atmosphere that only needs to be worked into words. One could say that that is the nature of any poem, that the world around us is full of little “works of art” that provide atmospheres/ spaces for us to write in (a similar sentiment to Donald Revell’s statement that imagination hinders poem writing). What do you think? Maybe I’m just imagining an ease of writing when occupying the space of another medium of artwork, or maybe there is a certain easiness to it. Let me know if you’ve had a similar experience!

Prose Poems vs. Lyric Essays

In my reading of Aaron Shurin’s poetry for this week, I found myself very caught up in the fact that most of his poems seem to be prose poems. While I don’t want to detract from Sara’s presentation, I am very interested in some of the issues that his poetry brings up–particularly the idea of what prose poetry is.  We’ve talked a little about it in class, but I don’t recall us ever coming to a succinct definition as to what prose poetry is.  Building on that, where is the line between prose poetry and lyric essays? What is the difference between the two?  In my mind, a prose poem is typically rather short, while a lyric essay is longer.  However, a lyric essay seems to embody a bit more of a sense of the narrative than a prose poem does, as prose poems are a space to explore images & more abstract ideas. So what happens if (as in the Shurin) a poem is both long and abstract?  Is there a defining line between prose poetry and lyric essays? I’m not sure there is, but you all might have different/more concrete definitions. How do you all differentiate?