Here is my introduction to documentary poetry (wherein I mention Charles Olson’s comments on the documentary method).


Don’t miss Linda Russo at Warwick Thursday in the Writers’ Room (3/1), 1:30-2:30. Linda will visit our workshop afterwards.

Inhabitory Poetics


Don’t miss Peter Gizzi at Warwick Thursday in the Writers’ Room (2/25), 1:30-2:30. Peter will visit our workshop afterwards. Here are some links:

Author website
Paris Review Interview
Poetry Foundation
Academy of American Poets


Why not try writing a poem a day over the coming month? If you can commit a half hour each day, you can do it. Work at least a half hour on these, preferably in the morning, and type up your results at the end of the day. Do not look at your drafts until you get to the end of the week. Over the weekend, go back through and revise the best ones. You will have a substantial body of work to choose from by the end of the month for your portfolio, and then some . . .

1. For today’s prompt, write a resistance poem. There are many forms of resistance, including militant resistance, resistance to new ideas, the resistance in exercise, and maybe even a little resistance to starting a new project. I hope you don’t resist the urge to write a poem today.

2. For today’s prompt, write a secret poem. The poem itself could be a secret, or it could be about keeping secrets or, I suppose, not keeping them. Or maybe it’s about a top secret project, or the poem is a riddle with some sort of secret meaning. Or, well, I’ll let you figure out how best to poem secretively.

3. For today’s prompt, write a machine poem. A machine could be a car or a robot, obviously, but simple machines include levers, pulleys, and screws. There’s also “machine learning” and “deus ex machina.” But there are many other ways to come at this prompt as well.

4. For today’s prompt, write a departure poem. Many people depart to school and/or work every day, and they depart on a plane, train, or automobile–some even walk or ride a bike. Of course, that’s keeping things rather physical; there are also emotional and psychological departures. You may even decide to make a departure from your normal writing style in tone or structure today.

5. For today’s prompt, write a vegetable poem. I once wrote a poem titled “Tomatoes,” and that would count. If you want to write a poem about a specific vegetable, go for it. If you want to write a poem that just has a vegetable mixed in somewhere, go for it. If you want to praise or curse vegetables, go for it. If you want to play with the idea of vegetables, including a vegetable mental state, couch “potato,” and so on–well, you know, go for it.

6. For today’s prompt, write a things-not-as-they-appear poem. Poetry is filled with metaphors, similes, symbols, and layered meanings, so this should be a softball prompt. If you’re struggling, look at your current surroundings, pick an object, and turn it into a metaphor for something. Or think of somebody in the real world (mail person, gas station attendant, etc.) and make up a secret double life for them. C’mon, you can do this.

7. For today’s prompt, write a dare poem. This poem could be written as a dare to someone. It could make a daring proclamation. It could involve a dare that someone has accepted…or refused. In a way, each day of this challenge is a dare to write a poem. Are you ready for the challenge?

8. For today’s prompt, write a work poem. For some folks, writing is work (great, huh?). For others, work is teaching, engineering, or delivering pizzas. Still others, dream of having work to help them pay the bills or go to all ages shows. Some don’t want work, don’t need work, and are glad to be free of the rat race. There are people who work out, work on problems, and well, I’ll let you work out how to handle your poem today.

9. For today’s prompt, take the phrase “How (blank),” replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Possible titles include: “How to Write a Poem,” “How Mechanical Pencils Work,” and “Howling at the Moon After Midnight in the Middle of a Thunderstorm.”

10. For today’s prompt, write a seasonal poem. This should be a snap for haiku poets; after all, inserting seasonal words is a rule for the form. However, you don’t have to write haiku to write a poem that references or happens in one of the four seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. Pick a season or include them all.

11. For today’s prompt, write a damage poem. Since my baby brother is a storm chaser, my mind usually jumps straight to storm damage. However, there’s more than the physical damage created by things like hurricanes, trains, and war planes. There’s also the emotional and psychological damage we inflict, survive, and conceal. The bright side of any damage is that it can be transformed into a poem.

12. For today’s prompt, write a confession poem. For some poets, this may come naturally–confessing feelings, actions, and/or intentions. For others, it may be hard to get personal. That’s OK; take on another persona and write a “confession” for that person, animal, inanimate object, whatever.

13. For today’s prompt, pick an adjective, make it the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. If you’re feeling stuck on this one, go back through your poems earlier this month and find adjectives you used–if any. Or crack open a dictionary. Or scan other poems for ideas.

14. For today’s prompt, write a science poem. Your poem could be about science in a general sense, but you can also latch onto a specific field or story. Maybe write a poem about the scientific method, or juxtapose science against another idea like love, war, or cuisine. Remember: Science is the springboard; which way you jump is up to you.

15. For today’s prompt, write a swing poem. Sure, there are park swings and mood swings; there’s swing music and swing dancing; and there are swingers. Some people swing one way; others swing another. In politics, there are swing votes and swing states. And many people have swung a bat, an ax, and/or a hammer in their lifetimes.

16. For today’s prompt, pick 2 vowels and write a poem using words that only contain one or both of those vowels. For instance, write a poem with words that only have a “u” and “o.” Also, the letter “y” is wild–so the words “my” and “gypsy” are freebies. And I’ll allow text-speak (or maybe I should say “txt spk”).

17. For today’s prompt, write an authority poem. Maybe you are an authority on something or know someone who is (or who thinks he or she is). Maybe you respect authority, or maybe not so much. Maybe you are on the run from the authorities, in which case I can only say good luck, but this blog probably isn’t the best hiding place–especially with so many folks poeming away.

18. For today’s prompt, take the phrase “My (blank), the (blank),” replace the blanks with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Possible titles include: “My Dentist, the Torture Expert,” “My Lunch, the Thing I Got Out of the Vending Machine,” “My Father, the Comedian,” or “My Life, the Punchline.”

19. For today’s prompt, write a nature poem. For many poets, the first thing that may pop to mind includes birds, trees, waterfalls, rivers, and such. But there’s also human nature, nature vs. nurture, and other things natural, including natural selection and being a “natural” at something. Let your nature take it where it will today.

20. For today’s prompt, write a historic poem. It could be a poem about a landmark event, specific battle, an era in time, or whatever you consider a historic happening.

21. For today’s prompt, write a moment poem. The moment can be a big moment or small moment; it can be a good moment or horrible moment; it can affect thousands or matter to just one person. Some moments happen in crowded rooms; some happen in the most quiet of spaces. Find yours and write a poem.

22. For today’s prompt, write an across the sea poem. This could be a love letter, an electronic submission through cyber space and time, or a travel poem (by air or sea, though probably not car). Modern travel or back in the days of rugged explorers. Wandering or wondering, your choice. As always, the prompt is just the springboard to your poem; feel free to bend and break.

23. For today’s prompt, take a word or two invented by William Shakespeare, make it the title of your poem, and write your poem. Click here for a link <> to some words coined by Shakespeare, who was baptized on this date in 1564. If the link doesn’t work, here are a few: advertising, bloodstained, critic, dwindle, eyeball, hobnob, luggage, radiance, and zany. He invented more than 1,700!

24. For today’s prompt, write a looking back poem. Of course, some people just glance over their shoulders, and others stop and turn all the way around. Some look back in time and weigh their successes and failures, evaluate things they could do better. Some claim they never look back. Whatever your stance on looking back, capture it in a poem today.

25. For today’s prompt, write a what nobody knows poem. It’s easy to write a poem about what everybody already knows, though it may be difficult to write an interesting poem about such things. Still, use today’s prompt to explore things people may not know–secret stories, locations, and so on.

26. For today’s prompt, take the phrase “Bury the (blank),” replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Some possible titles include: “Bury the Hatchet,” “Bury the Body,” “Bury the Past,” “Bury the Hate,” and “Bury the Acorns.”

from Robert Brewer, Poem A Day Challenge 2015


Imitation prompts (from both contemporary and classical poets)

A poem of five tercets, alternating three and five stresses per line

A poem of four quatrains that contain no adjectives, no adverbs, no similes, and the word “wren.’ Alternating lines of eight and ten syllables.

Reading through a book, with free-write takeoffs from lines that grab your attention. Notes about the poetry. Write your own 20-line poem, using material from or taking inspiration from the read through. Do this for three days and end up with one three-part poem.

Take a poem or prose passage from any book by Maupassant or Chekhov or Flaubert or Proust or Simone de Beauvoir and use the content of that passage to provide the subject matter for a poem.

A poem based on the notebooks or blog of a writer you admire.

A praise poem.

A poem about food.

A prose poem in which you create, and sell, the scenarios for a number of new (implausible) game shows, e.g. “Release the Kittens!”

Write five pages of free association, then underline relevant or interesting passages. Construct some kind of logical framework with these lines and shape them into a poem of no less than five lines.

An epistolary poem, to a real person and which you will send to them while you are on vacation, perhaps in the ‘form’ of a postcard.

A poem that can be presented as a gift, and which you will give to someone on Christmas Day or some other day of celebration like a birthday or New Year.

A poem that addresses itself to an obsession.

A love poem that uses no words of endearment or adoration.

A poem of invitation. Send this poem to someone, e.g. an invite to a party.

A one-line poem that somehow performs some useful, practical function.

A poem in imitation of yourself.  

David Morley


W.H. Auden, “Musée des Beaux Arts


You might try using this sheet to structure your feedback: PoetryPeerReviewSheet


Creeley Audio

If you are having difficulty getting your head around Creeley’s content, or if you simply want to hear how some people talk about his poetry, or want to know more, you might enjoy this “Poem Talk” episode focused on the famous poem “I Know A Man.”

Here is a PennSound page with many Creeley recordings, including readings of the poems I’ve asked you to consider, as well as five different recordings of “I Know A Man,” grouped for comparison.

Also check out this text-audio alignment of “I Know A Man.”

(Note link toward the bottom to a lecture Creeley gave on Jack Spicer.)

Some Creeley Jazz

A crucial context for Creeley’s poetry and compositional method is jazz. Here is a brief interview he gave Jazz Times.

And here is a brief note on Creeley’s jazz collaborations.

You can listen to Creeley himself, talking about the importance of jazz to his prosody, on this 1991 Naropa panel with Clark Coolidge, Steve Lacy, Nathaniel Mackey (listen from 13:20 -20:00).

If you are unfamiliar with the bebop classics, the most direct introduction to the metrical and rhythmical context of Creeley’s poetry in For Love could be the two following albums:

Charlie Parker: Bird & the Savoy recordings

Miles Davis: Kind of Blue

When I asked my fellow poets and critics for some recommendations of specific jazz tracks to go with Creeley, they suggested the following. Nothing required here! For your pleasure, to listen to as you are (re)reading Creeley, writing your own work, shuffling ’round in your pyjamas, or getting somewhere. The suggestion is that reading Creeley is a lot more like listening to this stuff than it is like studying for an exam. The kind of attention this music demands is, I think, the kind of attention we might bring to For Love. As Creeley says, in the Naropa discussion about jazz, this kind of music for him was indispensable for learning “ways to articulate rhythm within the fact of a serial order . . . where I learned to listen to the possibilities of time in an organisation of rhythms”:

The Dave Brubeck Quartet –Balcony Rock

Charlie Parker – 52nd Street Theme

Dave Brubeck Trio – I’ll Remember April

Dick Twardzik

Coleman Hawkins – PICASSO

Charlie Parker – Koko

Thelonious Monk – Epistrophy

Eric Dolphy – Springtime

Jack Kerouac, with Al Cohn and Zoot Sims – Blues and Haikus