One Minute Lecture: On Generating Ideas For Poems
One of the things I have learned about ideas in poetry is that they are often generated by stimuli. As tempting as it is for me to subscribe to the idea of a poet being a vessel that is divinely inspired by the muse, I just don’t buy into it. Oddly enough I have never had writers block. Any time there has been a slowing down in my writing, it has been directly connected to a slowing down in my reading. You see reading for me gives me permission to have ideas. Not to copy ideas but to stimulate new ones. Conversations, magazines, movies and plays also become catalysts for poem ideas. One of my favourite things to do is to create prompts for poems and see where the exercise takes me. Not every exercise leads to a great poem but some do and at the very least they keep me sharp for when a great poem comes. Exercises also sharpen the poetic eye needed to recognise a poem when it comes. Here are eight poetry prompts I’ve devised for you and I hope that they lead you to great poems.
Pick 7 people you hate (or really dislike) and write a composite portrait with a two-line description for each of them.
Write a15 line biography of your life so far as you remember it, but with a few slightly embellished fantasy lines.
Take a passage from a book, like a bad romance book, a pulp detective novel or horror story and elevate it into a sonnet with a tie-in to your daily life.
Pick a poem that you like and borrow the first line from it and then write the rest of the poem based on your inspiration from the first line. When the poem is finished erase the first line and substitute your own.
Try to identify the latest thing that you think you will remember all of your life. Write down everything you can remember about it. Rewrite it as a scene. Make sure that your reader can smell, taste, touch, hear and see this moment.
Remember a heated discussion you had with another person. Write a poem called Why I Was Right, which blurs the line between being right and wrong.
Start with the final line of your poem first and then write the poem towards that. Make the final line anything you read in an article that tickles your fancy and build the poem from the bottom up.
Write a poem that talks about the struggle to overcome one of the most difficult things in your life but never say what that thing is.