Rachel Bunting

poetry prompts

A huge part of the Getaway weekend in Cape May is the poetry prompts: first thing in the morning, all the poets gather in the Penthouse Ballroom to read and discuss a handful of poems selected by Peter Murphy, and then the prompts are distributed. Peter is a lot of things: a good teacher, a good poet, a good person all around. He’s absolutely sadistic when it comes to poetry prompts, though.

I’ve had a few people ask for the prompts from the weekend, so here they are, kids:

Saturday’s Prompt:

“Angels dancing on the head of a pin dissolve into nothingness at the bedside of a dying child.” (Waiter Rant)

“There is nothing more notable in Socrates than that he found time, when he was an old man, to learn music and dancing, and thought it time well spent.” (Michel de Montaigne)

“You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.” (Friedrich Nietzsche)

Get some dancing in a poem that touches death.
Use action verbs and concrete nouns to create a frenzy of chaos.
Include language from “Random Dance Terms.”*
Tell a secret, tell a lie, and never tell anyone which is which.
Write a poem unrelated to dancing, but using language from “Random Dance Terms”* in a non-contextual way.
Challenge for the Delusional:
Make your poem sound or move like it’s dancing.

Illustrated by the following poems:
“American Smooth,” Rita Dove
“Tarantula, or the Dance of Death,” Anthony Hecht
“Gym Dance with the Doors Wide Open,” Jill Allyn Rosser
“Buddha with a Cell Phone,” David Romtvedt
“Dance the Orange,” Rainer Maria Rilke
“Danse Russe,” William Carlos Williams
“The Bald-Headed Doll,” Hal Sirowitz
“Wedding Pinata,” James Hoch
“The Edge,” Bob Hicok (apologies for the terrible formatting on that page)

*Random Dance Terms: Peter provided us with a whole sheet full of dance terms and definitions; if you’re looking for it, email me at rachel [dot] bunting [at] gmail [dot] com.

Sunday’s Prompt:

Write a poem celebrating something or someone unlikely to ever have been celebrated before.
Drop a clown into poem or and/or include language from “Clown Wisdom” (check out quotes from Rodney Dangerfield, Charlie Chapman, Soupy Sales)
Use repetition repeatedly without tiring the reader or yourself.
Tell a secret, tell a lie, and never tell anyone which is which.
Address poem to a clown or politician
Challenge for the Delusional:
Make it funny!

Illustrated by (coming soon)

Monday’s Prompt:

Write a “Dear John” letter that is witty and fun.
Choose three postcards which attract you and one which disturbs or confuses you, and integrate some of these images into your poem.
(The poem should be postcard sized.)
Write a love letter instead.
Challenge for the Delusional:
Steal writing from one or more of the postcards and use it in your poem.

Illustrated by the following poems:
Amy Gerstler
“Kore,” Robert Creeley

Happy writing!

0 Responses

  1. I just realized I need to fix my link to this blog on my blog. I’ll get right on that (after my nap)! But I love these prompts! I particularly think I would enjoy a stab at the witty dear john letter. 🙂

    Glad you had an inspirational visit to Cape May again! Hugs to you and the family!


  2. Could you please send me a copy of the “random dance terms?”
    thanks so much for sharing the prompts!

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