Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Friday, November 22, 2013

Some prompts for writing L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poetry and/or surrealistic poetry

(Some prompts we used in a poetry class today, based in part on some reading we did (Breton's Surrealist Manifesto, poems by Hejinian, Bly, and Tate, among others.)

#2 was the most popular choice, followed by #4


1. Describe any ordinary task or activity—brushing your teeth, buying a cup of coffee, whatever—and interject random images, actions, or utterances to create the effect of a dream.
2. Write down memories of your life, one sentence per memory, but put them in random order. Events, images, things you said, things you heard others say, etc.
3. Think about a boring situation you had to/have to endure. Waiting at an airport. Listening to a professor. Etc. Then describe it with a list of extravagant comparisons. “Waiting at the airport is like cooking dragon-flesh with a Zippo lighter.” And the similes should be unrelated to on another; that is, you are not developing a conceit.
4. Describe a situation or an event that, as you recall it, did in fact seem surreal at the time. Try to capture that quality of surrealism.
5. Write down things (phrases, utterances, opinions) you hear quite a lot—from friends, room-mates, professors, co-workers, family, people you overhear. They should be unrelated. Don’t try to organize them.
6. Think of unrelated objects. A blender, a shovel, a book, a hubcap (e.g.). For each object, describe an action, which need not be logical. “The book ate a moth.” One description or action per object, then move on to the next object and its action.


hans ostrom
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