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Thursday Prompt #3: Where have you been recently?

May 20, 2010

Our third poetry prompt comes to us from Joseph Harker, who asks us to consider some significant places in our lives:

Write down two places where you’ve spent time recently. They could be as mundane as the crosstown bus you rode yesterday, or the farmers’ market last weekend, or as personally meaningful as your bedroom or a particular corner of the cemetery. Think about those places, and write down at least five images/things associated with each — again, get as plain (cabbages, Amish women, and the scent of fresh blackberry pie at the market) or as nuanced (your bedroom populated by mementos of departed family members and all the emotions they summon up in you) as you wish.

Now that you’ve filled in the details of your places, think about the symbolism of those things you’ve picked; why did you think of those cabbages, and what significance do they hold? Build a mythology around those places, reflected in their components: explore the mood of the places and how it colors/is colored by what it contains. Really bring it to life for us, make us not only see and sense them, but also feel what you feel and notice what you notice when you’re in those places.

Finally, bring those two places together with your poem, however you choose to. Maybe one is a dark reflection of the other; maybe you’re going from one to the other along a path (or the path itself could be one of them); maybe one reminds you of the other, or they’re right next door to each other. Geography plays tricks inside our brains, but it’s much more than the simple study of where things are in space; that’s just the easy part of the field that you can display on a map. The challenge with this exercise is to clue us in to the other parts, the personal geographies and mythologies of place we all carry in our heads, that we create anywhere we go.

Spend the week with your chosen spaces, and come back on Wednesday to share your poems!

  1. May 20, 2010 7:48 am

    I enjoyed getting started on this prompt, most specifically – I appreciate the thought of “hanging out” in these places and in these images for several days before writing the actual poem. The process of “steeping” a poem rather than using a microwave approach always delights me.

    (I chose Mercado Latino, a unique marketplace I visited in order to purchase a prop last Friday and the Empty Space, the theater I spend my most time these days. I wonder how they are connected? The poem will tell me!)

    THANKS for the prompt, Joseph.

    • Irene permalink*
      May 20, 2010 3:49 pm

      Thanks Julie for your interesting heads up. I’ll be following your trail like a puppy.

      I also like the idea of steeping. That is the not writing part. When writing begins it feels like microwave.

    • May 21, 2010 11:54 pm

      Ditto! You oft come up with really interesting takes on prompts. I look forward to what percolates for you here.

  2. May 20, 2010 6:12 pm

    well, I can’t get past cabbages and amish women.

  3. May 21, 2010 4:06 pm

    A most challenging and fascinating prompt.

  4. May 21, 2010 9:02 pm

    This is a great prompt, needs layers of working… will allow this to settle in.

  5. Peggy permalink
    May 24, 2010 3:41 pm

    I finally got working seriously on this prompt and look forward now to posting my results on Wednesday. It was a hard prompt for me but I kind of made it my own by simplifying the process some: picking the places, focusing on images and letting them steep in unspecified ways. (I like that description of the process, Irene.)

  6. May 24, 2010 8:40 pm

    thanks for prompt Joseph….My tired worn out brain will try to come up with something…Spring time in the moutains with gardens and yard work is an all day…everyday thing. I will come up with some words for Thursday.

  7. May 25, 2010 7:19 am

    I got it! I finally got it! 🙂 I’ll be posting mine in the Post Your Poems post tomorrow. Thank you Joseph for an awesome prompt!


  8. May 25, 2010 11:41 am

    Joseph thanks for a great prompt.


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