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prompt 167 kaleidoscope poems

July 25, 2013

make yourself a cup of tea. kind of a long description here. but the poem is actually an easy thing to do.

kaleidoscopekaleidoscopes. we’ve all played with these optical toys haven’t we? look into the eyehole and twist the tube. a seemingly endless array of colored patterns emerge and change with each movement of our hand. while random in precise result, there is a theme or general range of possibilities. the motion of our hand is fully participant in the process. mirrors and colored bits of glass, simplicity making complex patterns of itself.
this is the playground we’re suggesting you engage this week. write a kaleidoscope poem with your words! we are looking to marry randomness within a general theme. you are obviously participant in the process but not so much like holding a steering wheel. rather we ask you to trust imagination and language itself, allowing your inner associations of thought and feeling to contribute but not control the process as a whole. be willing to discover and be surprised by your own poetic results.
          some details here:
so what’s our source or seed for this poem? find something, anything, which is presented as a related theme. just a few examples would include:
   o various pieces of prose from some story (something that makes a strong
   image or question to examine).
   o multiple poems from the same writer with some connection of theme,
   or from different poets but written to the same topic or theme.
   o dialog from one or more characters in a play.
   o perhaps a longer newspaper/magazine article.
   o a series of related poem prompts, as per our Irene’s recent prompt series.
the source doesn’t really matter, except that the theme within the source is what provides the continuity for the poem you will write.
now that you’ve gathered your source material, what’s next?
in whatever sequence feels right to you, read each source piece of text, and one-by-one, write down your poetic “response”. this is the actual raw material of your poem now. your response might include:
   o your own personal restatement of the impression from reading the source
   o an emotional or free-association derived from your reaction of the source.
please, don’t fret about being “reasonable” in your responses. whatever comes up for you is perfectly appropriate and right (maybe even, ripe!). you might include some reference to the source (making the continuity more visible) but then focus more in detail upon your own poetic associations (images). maybe this would all be in one line, or a few, or even micro poem-sentences, again, howsoever feels right to you. physical poetic form is not important here.
however, to make the source theme more visible to the reader you might want to make each “response” its own stanza or stand-alone line. when you’ve gone through the source material, writing your responses, that’s it, your poem is done!
why a kaleidoscope poem? well aside from just being another poetic form to investigate, it has a singular usefulness when the writing turns reluctant for us. even when feeling empty-of-poems we can near always come up with at least a line or two. kaleidoscope poems are built up from just that sort of short inspiration attention! you only need focus upon the one specific line or phrase or two of the moment; the source reference takes care of the connected theme. and we always, always, have some measure of response to input (the source material). if I say “grandma’s in the swimming pool” or even just “blue”, your associative mind will indeed have some response if we simply listen. besides, I think this is a lovely poetic “tool” allowing imagination free play to write.
we can learn to allow language itself to contribute more directly to the poems we write. poems are about more than only us. they have a life of their own.

by way of example I’d offer the poem I wrote in response to Irene’s recent series of prompts. I was decidedly out-of-poetic-sorts with nothing to show for the whole series of wonderful prompts. just too too much to ever “catch up”. then it came to me, make a single poem, adam’s apple, each line (or two) some sort of response to each of her ten full poem prompts. thus the birth of this poetic form.

  1. July 25, 2013 3:08 am

    “when the writing turns reluctant for us”
    This so beautifully sums up the state I find myself in.
    After a serious head injury, sustained six months ago, I find my mind is still on poetic empty, with just a glimmer of brightness here and there. Such a struggle not to give up completely.
    So glad to read your method of beginning to cope with that state of feeling linguistically bereft.
    A wonderfully written prompt post. Thank you.

    • July 25, 2013 11:19 am

      maybe all of life is poetry? maybe we just need listen and allow? I know I can resist the obvious as well as any. editing that wants a thing to be something other than it is can surely impede a poem, or simply stop it from being anything. maybe life is the same?

      you make me glad for sharing this prompt (for me as much as anyone). my thanks. healing and writing my wish for you, and all of us.

  2. July 25, 2013 7:22 am

    A bit work this prompt, for me. But hopefully while sad…still enjoyable.
    I have also added a link to the series from which I took the ‘bits’.

  3. July 25, 2013 7:59 am

    I haven’t written to this, (yet), but I wanted to say how much I enjoy the idea and how you came to it, Neil! Excellent and thank you!

  4. July 26, 2013 11:10 am

    Couldn’t quite get out of the way, but I like the method.

  5. July 26, 2013 11:43 am

    I’m very taken with this idea – have lots of thoughts on how to go about it, including writing the poem in colours on a kaleidoscopic picture, then photographing it – maybe linked to the chaos my life is in, and making scrap quilts and and and. The problem is finding time and place to do it! I will get there eventually, that’s a promise.

  6. aprille permalink
    July 27, 2013 5:33 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed working to this prompt. Thank you.
    My post is HERE

    • August 1, 2013 3:24 am

      Thanks for playing with us! (can’t leave comment on your blog, so… ) There is a very nice sound-quality to your poem. It is pleasant on the ear. And thanks for giving this new poem form a try.

  7. July 29, 2013 5:02 pm

    A response to some rhetorical questions culled from Kay Ryan poems, in the style of Kay Ryan. Guys, I promise I am taking a break from my Kay Ryan fanboy phase after this: Trimming the Tree

  8. July 31, 2013 5:59 am

    Thought I’d never get here.

    Sophie is thinking about a kaleidoscope

  9. July 31, 2013 3:26 pm

    Read this prompt several days ago and was deeply interested, but had no time to even try it until today. Better a bit late than never,

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