Welcome to National Poetry Month! Poetry will always be near and dear to our hearts at Three Rooms Press, which got its start as a poetry press and continues to foster community and Dada writing in our annual journal Maintenant. To celebrate National Poetry Month, we want to offer ways to spark your creativity. Poetic inspiration can come from anywhere, including your favorite prose. The prompt is just the jumping off point for your own writing, so let’s dive in!
- For the first prompt, grab any book at all. Flip to a random page and scan, making a list of ten or more words that catch your eye. Write a single stanza poem that incorporates at least seven of those words. For more of a challenge, write a sestina using six of those words as end words.
2. TINK AND WENDY, a queer retelling of Peter Pan, explores the roles of women in the original story and makes them new characters all their own, with their own motivations. Write a persona poem exploring the motivations of a secondary character in a familiar story. What did the original narrative leave out about them? What do they have to say for themselves?
3. In NEEDLEWORK, Kody at first feels like he must hide many things about himself, compartmentalizing his life with his religious Nanny, his mother who struggles with addiction, and the family secrets he uncovers. But one of the things that brings him together with his Nanny is knitting. Write a poem that stitches together parts of your own life that don’t quite seem to fit. What dialogue could exist between those parts of yourself? The words are stitches in a knitting pattern where every line is the same number of syllables or the same visual length; your pattern may also include a rhyme scheme.
4. VOYAGERS, the latest collection of Robert Silverberg’s work, departs from Earth and the familiar, and so can your poetry. Write a poem from the perspective of an alien who has made the journey to Earth. How would the routines and familiar objects of your own life look through their eyes? Or, reverse it: You have left Earth far behind. What comes with you? What happens when you try to go about your day?
5. Of course, there are other ways to leave Earth, and DOOR TO INFERNA showcases one of them as Khi stumbles into a world from which he has been missing. Fantasy novels often have rich world-building of their own, from cartography to customs to language, and often their imaginings of language acknowledge the power within it as spell, as incantation, as prophecy. Write homophonic translations into English (a la the Zukofskys’s translation of Catallus) of the otherworldly language which appears in the novel, and use these as a starting point. You can also “translate” any fantasy verse, but remember that it doesn’t have to make traditional syntactical sense—the goal here is play with language!
6. We can’t end a list for poetry month without suggesting you read poetry—and there is so much to gain from reading and engaging with the poets who are writing alongside you. So, two ways to write alongside any issue of Maintenant: First, try an after poem! Come across a poem in an issue that speaks to you? Write a poem that follows its logical (or illogical) structure, using that as a frame for your own language. How are their stanzas structured? Do they make an interesting turn or leap? Employ that in a draft of your own. Or, in the spirit of Dada, make your own literary collage in the form of a cento. Draw lines from pieces throughout the journal, arranging them to speak to each other in new ways.
Happy writing, happy reading, and happy Poetry Month!