Monday, July 07, 2008

It’s a French thing…

Almost everyone here takes a break in July and August, so AppleHouse Poetry Online will be doing the same. It will give me some time to paint more than a few walls in Villa Les Marronniers, and hopefully to get down to some writing myself. And reading… I have missed reading so much. So, all in all, I’m likely to be the palest person on the Cote d’Azur this year!

But so as not to leave you bereft for the summer, and if you have time in between barbecues, airport terminals and shaking sand out of towels, here’s a list of 10 prompts for poems/free writing over the next couple of months. I’ll choose a Best of Summer Prize Poem at the beginning of September from all those posted, and I’ll pop into the comments box from time to time too.

Take care, bonnes vacances, and write well.
Lynne x

AppleHouse Poetry Online Summer School Prompts

1. Experiment with writing at times you normally wouldn’t, for example:
a. the moment you wake up
b. in the dark without the light on
c. in a moving vehicle (but preferably not driving!)
d. while having a bath

2. Write a poem about how you have, or will, forgive someone or something.

3. Write about a time when you were lost, literally or figuratively. Maybe include both in one poem.

4. Open a dictionary half a dozen times at random and write down a word each time. Write a poem that includes all those words.

5. Walk in a place that you think is ugly and find something beautiful there. Write about it.

6. Write about salt.

7. Take the first line of a poem (preferably one you’re not familiar with) and carry on writing your own.

8. Write a page of statements about yourself that are completely false. Now add phrases like: I am, I have never, I will, I believe. Use repetition to try and convince your reader of their truth.

9. Write down five sounds you can hear. Then list the things you associate with those sounds. A car engine might remind you of being picked up at the station. The clanking of crockery of the time you worked as a waitress. See where these associations take you.

10. Brainstorm for associations – words, phrases, images, memories, emotions – around ‘heat’. Keep going until you feel there is nothing left to write. Then make yourself write some more even though it feels impossible. What we need to say often lies deeper than we realise.


Margaret Beston said...

Lynee - Have a great July and August. At least when you surface from painting activities you can enjoy the Mediterranean sun!
Thanks for all the great 'triggers' you have left on the site.

Vicky Wilson said...

Hi Lynne

Thanks for all the wonderful prompts. It's a great way for me to get back into writing. Here is a very short poem that started from the forgiveness prompt but moved in another direction. I sent you an email a while ago with my news - let me know if you didn't receive it. Enjoy the sunshine if you do manage to escape the painting. Vicky

Moment of separation

She does not answer, but bends
to retrieve the paperknife,
focusing on keeping her cool.
She carries on humming

as he stoops to lace his shoes,
exclaiming over the sad necessity
of getting married, insisting
he’ll always be there for her.

Lynne Rees said...

Hi Margaret, Vicky. Hope the triggers are useful - and have a great summer, both of you... though I don't think I should make any comparisons with the weather there and here!

Yes, I got your email, Vicky, and replied... maybe it was spammed - that happens to yahoo addies at times. Maybe send it again?
L x

anne.kenny said...

Hi Lynne,
Thanks for all your wonderful prompts.This eventually emeged from one of your earlier suggestions:

Helen Kongai
(Ugandan Farmer, July 2008)

I press clutch, push pedal, move gear,
drive to gather food from heaving shelves.

Her voice travels with me, unravelling:
After his death she’s left with stony soil,

infants to feed, & the gift of a treasured
cow. She wraps hands around udders, shudders

the flesh to reap its milky river, to feed her young.
A barren land, enriched with dung, she swaps

surplus for seeds, conjures pigweed,
sweet-corn, spinach, leaves hunger between

cowpats & cabbages - spreads her word.

Lynne Rees said...

Wonderful poem, Anne, and you have some great line breaks. I did wonder if you could start with the 2nd stanza but I also see the importance of setting up the relationship and the comparison of situations.

The last phrase is inspiring.

Have a good summer.

Mary Rose said...

Summer prompt No.1(d.)

Lines from the bath.

Relaxing after a day’s gardening
I lie, a flabby washed-up whale, pummelling
the mound of stomach above the water line.
I place a hand each side of what used to be a number eight
but they are miles apart. My waist is not there.

I pass a stalwort resolution. It’s four o’clock time for tea.
I heave myself upward,
lean perilously over the side of the bath to reach the towel,
spread it over the slippery edge, achieve dry land.

I sit outside with my mug of tea
but something’s wrong, back indoors
I make for the biscuit tin, extract three.
Mary Rose

Prompt No.3
Losing it …

Just part of aging you say,
happens to us all
as I grope for lost words,
lose my way, laugh
at myself.

I can cope at this level,
but must I wait till
my body fails,
limbs weaken, my mind
switches to ‘off’ and only the past remains
till I may be allowed to pass
into blessed oblivion?
Mary Rose

Lynne Rees said...

Mary Rose - you could never be either a 'whale' or 'washed up'. You're my model of how I want to be when I get to your age - full of fun, but also serious, and engaged with life.

Hope the summertime is treating you well.
Lynne x

charlotte segaller said...

Hi Lynne. Hope you're having a good break. Thanks for the summer school ideas. Here's one from the forgiveness prompt.

How she stood,
my seven year old self
watching younger children play,
guilty frozen.
No memory of

how at three she’d seen fire in
a man’s blaming brimstone eyes,
his monstrous arms,
and flown up and out of herself
breathless away.

One day captured
in my mirror
her blameless button eyes
forgiving me
for forgetting.

Round a pillow soft as
a little girl’s feathery hair,
my arms an aching circle
to show her
it wasn’t fair.

charlotte segaller said...

While writing about salt, this emerged. (I hope I'm not the siren in this poem!)

Siren’s sea salt song

like the moon pulling the sea,
which carries my love back to me,

like the bruising rock I sit on,
scanning the still cruel horizon,

like my raw stinging eyes
and my throat from longing cries,

burning like the tip of my tongue
from saying his name to make him come,

into water, as I will
when in my arms he cries his fill.

Lynne Rees said...

Hi Charlotte - two strong poems here. Glad the prompts are working for you.

I'm slowly getting into a routine with writing and have a couple of weeks coming up when I should be able to spend an hour or two with my journal and notes every day. It's too hot to do much else that requires a lot of movement!

charlotte segaller said...

Thanks, Lynne. Enjoy swapping the paintbrush for a pen!

margaret beston said...

My poem was prompted by the 'forgiveness' theme.

‘Pardonne, n’oublie pas’ *

He takes his slab of quarried stone
measures it, cuts to size
etches the inscription –
no space for names here,
just the numbers: one-six-five.
Sparkling fragments spill like tears
around his bench, as steel and tungsten
chip the hard cold marble;
hammer and chisel work together
coaxing words from their rocky bed
like echoing stuttered cries;
ash white dust clings to his fingers
as he sands and buffs the fine Carrara
smooth as a lip’s caress on infant skin.

Margaret Beston
August ‘08

* ‘Forgive, don’t forget’
165 Jewish children from the École des Hospitalères St Gervais, Paris,
were deported in July 1942. None returned

Lynne Rees said...

Thanks for posting Margaret. It doesn't matter how much time passes, events like this still thunder through our emotions. Maybe because no-one can be sure this won't happen again.

In the paper today I read about a monument in Berlin having been vandalised - a monument to tens of thousands of gay men who were persecuted, some castrated, and some sent to concentration camps in the 30s and 40s.

Some people just won't accept difference.


charlotte segaller said...

1.While I was writing about heat:

The heat of a moment

Under these closed eyelids,
the sun’s burning green disc is
a simple nought.
Then its perfect round ‘o’
spelling ‘one‘, makes
something from nothing.

A phosphoric spark leaps
naked from a tiny scarred matchstick,
particles in a frantic dance

and coals from the black bowels,
glowing orange, turn
ethereal icy white to inspire
cold unmoving water
into rising whirling steam
longing to be nowhere.

In love’s furnace,
two hearts hard like baked earth
find each other in the cracks.

2.Random dictionary exercise (ditch, under, fascia, join, draft, seed)

Salon Dreams

Salon Dreams, says her bright shop fascia.
Upstairs saying she’ll join him later,
she sits in the bedroom’s half light,
before the glitz of Friday night.

Now’s her time for highlights and hairspray,
blow drying her week away.
Laughter still in her crow’s feet,
on her forehead lines of sympathy

dabbed away, a face smooth and glossy,
foundation the colour of good strong tea.
Silvery powder, careful and precise,
above her forget-me-not eyes

and the soft sable brush
stroking sweet berry blush
onto those proud family cheekbones
there too in her favourite photos,

little nieces in silver frames,
the loves of her life on her dressing table.
Painting her nails passion pink,
staring at her palms she tries not to think

what she can see written there
what fate’s drafted out for her.
She steps into softest stockings
her legs into ripe peach skins,

hoping he won’t ditch her at the pub
that he’ll still have time for love,
not wanting him to see how she’s
like window box flowers going to seed.

From evening shades of black and white
into the showy orange street light
she’s Marilyn Monroe stepping from a car
going out to the world under her thick fake fur.

3. While writing in the bath:


Therapy Bath Soak, reads the label,
a strange blue liquid,
medicine in a bottle.
Sinking in, I think of
a woman who sits in a room
mostly listening,
the graceful way her hands move
when she talks.

I’m working up a lather
with the soap,
breathing out a sigh
which carves a sudden gash
in the pure white foam.
Under there, the naked
submerged truth,
my body remembers.

On one of the tiny bubbles
which are lifted in the air,
I fix a hope
that it’s not too late,
that the marks he left
on my soul
can be washed

margaret beston said...

This is in response to prompt 9 - familiar sounds ...

The key in the lock -
briefcase placed beside the stairs
clamour of children drowns the city
weary day lost in bedtime kisses

The key in the lock -
schoolbag and blazer dumped on the floor
music blaring, phone ringing
plans for weekend parties

The key in the lock -
comforting clink of keys on hallstand
soft footsteps passing bedroom door
relieved sleep falls on wakeful eyes

The key in the lock –
slowly through the empty hallway
out into the evening garden
two wineglasses chime under summer trees

linda w said...

This is prompt number 6, but it’s not just about salt………

Spilling the Salt

I spilled the salt. The tiny grains
rolled across the wooden floor
from the dresser to the kitchen door.

I tried to sweep them up: but now
they were no longer white but grey,
mingled with the dust of every day.

How could I be so careless? Salt
must be safely stored in a dry place
where damp cannot taint the taste

not left in a bowl for anyone
to dip their fingers in or tilt
so that the salt tips out and is spilt.

And yet I think it was too late:
the zest that should enhance the flavour
had gone: the salt had lost its savour.

I threw it all away, with a pinch
over my shoulder to make sure
of good luck in the future.

charlotte segaller said...


My car would start but I couldn’t,
not knowing the way.

I had the keys in my pocket,
coming down the soft muffling stairs

towards the daylight from the front door,
past the long mirror in the hall,

where I didn’t recognise
myself turning right into the

living room.
Numb as if I was her pain to be held in.

At night in a dream,
I walked down into the dark cellar

wearing a red coat, saying
“home is where the heart is lost”.

charlotte segaller said...

This is my continuation of the first line of Seamus Heaney's poem 'Digging':

Between my finger and my thumb
the distant cathedral an inch tall
where swallowed whole
among giant whale rib arches
high translucent blue windows,
I emerged taller.

In broad daylight she asks
‘will you be my keyholder?’
and we go down to her narrow flat.
She shows me how to unlock her door,
how to turn off her alarm,
how to get through to her by phone.

Her fridge door crammed with
souvenir magnets in perfect rows,
her mossy green untrodden carpet,
the smell of order.
‘This is the key to the shed’
she says

and I picture her as I’ve seen her
so many times before,
struggling to control the mower,
to handle it as it
cuts the grass
down to size.

An angel in a stained glass plaque
above her kitchen door says more,
how her neat hair, her sensible clothes,
her schoolteacher glasses
can’t disguise
the vast universe inhabited by her eyes.

linda w said...

Prompt No. 1:

Dawn Waking

I jolted to the dawn
heart hammering
from a nightmare
when I thought you gone.

You were nowhere
though I searched and searched,
bags packed, house empty,
a note on the stair.

Now after the night’s dread
I lie becalmed
in the warmth of your nearness
as daylight spreads.