Monday, April 24, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #24 - Music

Since yesterday's prompt focused on "silence," today we are looking at "music."  Of course, for some people silence may seem like "music to the ears," so you can consider words like: quiet, noise, ruckus, cacophony, and harmony as you think of music and poetry.  The two have long been in close association, with the natural rhythms of poetry playing like music, and so much of lyrical music being its own form of poetry.

Many people have strong associations with music, as some do with particular smells.  Here are a few lines from Katrina Vandenberg's poem, Record:

I regret giving up
your two boxes of vinyl,
which I loved. Surely

they were too awkward,
too easily broken
for people who loved music

the way we did. But tonight
I’m in the mood for ghosts,


Music is made by people across all cultures and has been made down through all of recorded history (and no doubt a lot longer than that.)  The variety is limitless.  Some music is made with instruments, and these can be created from material on hand like wood, or manufactured material like metal.  The human body is also an instrument, used for percussion sounds and also of course for singing.  Music can be composed ahead of time and preserved for generations, or it can be spontaneous, lasting just for that moment.  It can be performed solo or in groups.  Some music has strict rules, rhythm, and tune, while other music is more free form.  In many societies, the ability to perform music is a valued skill.  And of course some music never seems to get out of your head (ear-worm).  Music can make a strong cultural and generational statement.

Prompt #24:  Choose some aspect of the concept of music and write a poem.  What forms of music do you enjoy?  What instrument do you wish you could play?  What are your memories of music from major life events such as weddings?  What place does music have in your life?  What about the concepts of dissonance or being out of tune?  What are the implications for someone who does not hear music, or does not enjoy music?  In what ways is music viewed positively or negatively?  Consider these questions as you craft your poem.

For something more specific, write a poem that is inspired by the lyrics of a song, or a particular piece of instrumental music.

My mind is already bubbling with ideas to explore this theme in sci-fi, horror, or fantasy!

Did you use this or one of our other prompts? You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits: Cello Player Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Sunday, April 23, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #23 - Silence

Poster encouraging people to refrain
from talking about war specifics.
Silence here is equated with security.
Silence is a multi-dimensional and powerful concept.  It brings forth impressions both positive and negative.  Silence is something often desired when someone is trying to sleep, but at other times people want noise and music.  It is canonical in genre fiction that when someplace is "quiet ... too quiet" that something bad is about to happen.  In silence, one's internal voice is easier to hear.  For some this is a blessing and for others it is a trial.  In meditation, people sit with those voices and try to "quiet the mind."  Libraries are places in which silence is enforced, like the "quiet car" in a train.  Here is a stanza from the poem "Silence" by Billy Collins:

The silence of the falling vase
before it strikes the floor,
the silence of the belt when it is not striking the child.

Prompt #22:  Write a poem that includes some aspect of the concept of silence.  Consider how it is that people "confront" or "deal" with silence.  Think about silence as signs of both power and of weakness.  In what cases is complete silence an achievable ideal?  What are the implications of "being silenced" or as a child, not permitted to make noise?

Image from the Women's March
2017.  Personal sign equating
silence with violence.
For something more specific, can you write a poem that feels quiet, or gives the impression of silence?

As usual, I'll be exploring this topic through sci-fi, horror, or fantasy.

Did you use this or one of our other prompts?  You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits:  Women's March, Wikimedia Commons, CC 2.0; WAAC Securiity, Wikimedia Commons, National Archives Cooperation Project

Saturday, April 22, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #22 - The Sun-Earth Connection

View of the sunrise from the International Space Station.
Today's prompt celebrates both Earth Day and the day of the Science March.  The prompt centers around the connection between our Sun and our Earth.  This is not as clinical a prompt as it might seem at first - for example, poets have long been writing about sunrises, sunsets, and seasons.  All are phenomena that stem from the Earth's relationship with a nice, bright star. 

In the early 1600's, Galileo found himself at odds with the Roman Catholic church when he said his telescopic observations (like the phases of Venus) were inconsistent with the Earth being at the center of the solar system.  This was critical evidence for the change from the paradigm of the Ptolemaic system (with the Earth at the center of the solar system) to the Copernican system (which is centered on the Sun.) 

The energy from the Sun drives many cycles on our Earth, such as the water cycle.  So you can blame the Sun-Earth connection for rainy days, as well as other weather phenomena such as storms, hurricanes, and tornadoes.  Without the charged particles streaming off of the Sun, which subsequently hit our Earth's magnetic field, there would be no aurora.  The geometry of the Earth, Moon, and Sun are also responsible for solar and lunar eclipses.  And of course life as we know it requires what the Earth has to offer, such as liquid water, as well as the abundant energy of the Sun.

Here is an excerpt from the poem "Ah! Sun-flower" by William Blake

Ah Sun-flower! weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the Sun:
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the travellers journey is done.

Prompt #22:  Choose some aspect of the Sun-Earth connection and write a poem.  Consider which of the societal, cultural, historic, or spiritual, or scientific aspects of the Sun-Earth connection resonate with you.  What if the Earth had been paired with a much different star?  What would happen if there was too much sunlight?  What if the Sun became dim or disappeared?  Consider topics as varied as: using solar power, getting skin cancer from overexposure to the sun, the worship of Sun deities, the the fear of the nighttime absence of the Sun, telling time with a sundial, and the eventual fate of the Sun and the Earth.

For something more specific, try writing about the Sun-Earth connection without mentioning the name of Sun or Earth directly.

As usual, I'll be exploring this topic through sci-fi, horror, or fantasy.

Did you use this or one of our other prompts? You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits:  Sunrise.  ISS.  NASA.

Friday, April 21, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #21 - Dystopia Utopia

Some believe King Arthur will
return and once again bring about
the mythical utopia that was Camelot.
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines dystopia as "an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized (deprived of human qualities, personality, and spirit) and often fearful lives."  Its opposite is the utopia "a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions."  These definitions paint such places as imaginary, or so idealized as to be unachievable.  But aspects of both conditions exist on Earth today.  Places are always in flux between these two extremes.  Yet people do not agree on what makes something a perfect place to live.  Neither do they all agree on what potential aspects of our lives are dehumanizing.  Some find carrying passports to be dehumanizing, while others see it as a helpful way to keep order.

Imagining strict utopias or dystopias means delving into all of the implications for people, families, food production and consumption, music, child-rearing, transportation, employment, and more.  What do cities look like in these cases, or do they even exist?  How about countries, continents, or the entire Earth - what do these things look like in a utopian or dystopian world?  How do things function, or has all function broken down?

Prompt #21: Choose the concept of dystopia or utopia and write a poem.   Consider what caused this state.  What brought about the utopia or dystopia?  What are the features of this place?  In either case, is it possible for people to find happiness there?  How are these states maintained over time?  What pressures exist to change them, and how could they be made to break down?  Consider some of these ideas in your poem.

For something more specific, try to match the form of your poem to the theme.  If you are writing abut a rigid society, choose a strong meter and rhyme scheme.  If you are discussing an Eden-like Earth, choose a form that flows more freely.

Dystopias and utopias are both common themes to explore in sci-fi, horror, and fantasy, so I have it easy today.

Did you use this or one of our other prompts? You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits:Marriage of King Aurthur Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

Thursday, April 20, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #20 - Money

Money is the theme of today’s poetry prompt. This is a loaded word with a vast amount of imagery and implications for use in poetry. Wealth can represent power, greed, luxury. A lack of money can result in poverty, hardship, and debt. People associate money with social strata. Money can be an obsession, and can make one think of gambling, the lottery, or of someone being a workaholic. Money can be earned, stolen, or even just found on a sidewalk or in the couch. Love of money is canonically “the root of all evil” yet philanthropy is viewed positively. Here are a few lines from some poetry dealing with money:

More Money than God by Richard Michelson

But still he checked each lottery ticket which littered
the empty lot next door, praised their silver latex glitter,
praying to the beautiful unscratched, like little gods.

Money by Howard Nemerov

The nickel: one side shows a hunchbacked bison
Bending his head and curling his tail to accommodate
The circular nature of money. Over him arches
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and, squinched in
Between that and his rump, E PLURIBUS UNUM,
A Roman reminiscence that appears to mean
An indeterminately large number of things

Prompt #20: Write a poem about money. Does it represent safety and comfort, or does it seem there is never enough? What about the imagery of debt - being in the red or the black? How about different economic models such as capitalism? It also has implications for what you then purchase with that money. What ideas about money seem to resonate with you? Include those in your poem.

For something specific, use some words in your poem that you find on actual forms of money - bills, cheques, coins, or credit cards.

Money in a sci-fi, horror, or fantasy aspect will be very interesting to explore!

Did you use this or one of our other prompts? You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USCurrency_Federal_Reserve.jpg Money, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #19 - Body

The face - a part of the body that garners
much attention.
Today's prompt deals with the body.  It is something every person lives with, and so provides a powerful shared experience.  Yet at the same time, nobody has the same relationship with their body.  Bodies function differently from one another - some have chronic illness, others disability, some are optimized for sports, while others are honed to create art through excellent hand-eye coordination. Every body is just a body, and yet each is perfectly unique.  Each part has a form and function, and of course a body is far more than the sum of these parts.

Poets have long celebrated and castigated the body in verse.  A classic example is Walt Whitman's poem The Body Electric:

"To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough,
To pass among them or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly round
his or her neck for a moment, what is this then?
I do not ask any more delight, I swim in it as in a sea.
There is something in staying close to men and women and looking on them,
and in the contact and odor of them, that pleases the soul well,"

Also then there is Lucille Clifton's poem Homage to my Hips:

"these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips."

Prompt #19: Write a poem that features some aspect of the body.  Think about the senses, illness versus wellness, what the body can do and how it enables or inhibits how we interact with the world.  Imagine bodily experiences that create a strong impression, such as childbirth, running a marathon, injury in a car accident, a heart transplant, or the first dance at a wedding.  Also imagine experiences such as dissociation that take us away from our body.  What does it mean to "live in the body" or to be "grounded in the body?"  Think of the general concepts we have surrounding the body such as nudity, shame or pride, body shapes and sizes, how body relates to concepts of beauty, etc.  Consider these questions as you craft your poem.  

For something more specific, use a standard form to write this poem that includes both meter and rhyme.

As always I will be considering the body as my theme while looking at sci-fi-, fantasy, or horror poetry.

Did you use this or one of our other prompts?  You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits: Venus of Arles CC 2.5 Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #18 - Games

The game of Go.  More than 2,500 years old.
People have been playing games for thousands of years. Games are integral to culture, and are played to learn skills, for recreation, to determine rankings, to educate, for exercise, to win money or prizes, and more.

Games may include items that are manipulated, like balls, pieces, or dice - or they can be played entirely without props of any kind, like a game of "twenty questions" or chase games like "it." There are usually some kind of rules to the game, and often a strategy or approach that is expected to yield a good result. Some games have an aspect of luck or chance, while others do not. Some require physical ability while others emphasize knowledge or other skills.

Prompt #18: Write a poem that includes a game. This can be a formal game, like a board game or game of skill, or it can be something more subtle, like a power play between people. What about this game interests you - the rules, the structure, the interplay, or the outcome? How does the game play out in your poem? Does there have to be a winner or loser? Is someone cheating or breaking the rules? Consider these questions as your craft your poem.

For something more specific, write your poem from the point of view of someone watching the game from the outside, not one of the 'players' (however you choose to define that).  Then shift the point of view to be from one of the players' perspectives.

Games will be a good prompt for something sci-fi, horror, or fantasy, which makes things easy on me for this poem :)

Did you use this or one of our other prompts?  You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits: Go Game.  Wikimedia Commons, CC 2.0

Monday, April 17, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #17 - Choices


Actual paths diverging in an actual wood.
With an actual copy of Frost's poem posted there.
In the book Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the wizard Dumbledore says succinctly, "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are ..."  The importance of choice in shaping character, destiny, relationships and more has long been explored in literature.  A famous example in poetry is The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost:

     I shall be telling this with a sigh
     Somewhere ages and ages hence:
     Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
     I took the one less traveled by,
     And that has made all the difference.

A search for choices in poetry reveals many gems ... here are a couple of stanzas.

Choices by Tess Gallagher

     saw in hand, I see a nest clutched in
     the uppermost branches.
     I don’t cut that one.
     I don’t cut the others either.

Choice by Emily Dickinson

     When figures show their royal front
     And mists are carved away, --
     Behold the atom I preferred
     To all the lists of clay!

Prompt #17:  Write a poem that includes an important choice.  Is this a choice that defines a future fate?  Does this choice influence relationships with people, animals, or the Earth?  Or perhaps it is a choice that elucidates or reinforces some aspect of character?  Consider these questions as you craft your poem. 

For something more specific, make your poem very short.  Choose each word with great care, thinking not just about the words you are choosing, but the ones that are not being chosen, as well.

As as always I'll be using the prompt somehow in a sci-fi, horror, or fantasy context.

Did you use this or one of our other prompts?  You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits:  Woodland paths Wikimedia Commons CC2.0 Tony Atkin

Sunday, April 16, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #16 - Supernatural

The Raven - Good or bad omen?
We've done several prompts dealing with nature and natural elements, so it is time to flip that and consider the supernatural, instead.  These are poems that contain elements that are beyond the natural world as most people perceive it.  They might include magic or ghosts, professions like medium or sorcerer, or abilities like telekinesis or telepathy.

Themes such as these are common in classic poetry, such as represented in this last stanza from "The Raven" By Poe:

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
    And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
    And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
            Shall be lifted—nevermore!

Supernatural poetry hardly has to be grim.  There are poems of good fairies, kindly ghosts, and benevolent powers.  Some prophesies and omens lead to the fabled chest of gold.

Prompt #16:  Write a supernatural poem.  What elements will you include that are beyond the usual conception of the natural world?  Will your poem be uplifting, dark, or will it strike a balance?  How does the use of a supernatural element in the poem free your creativity, and on the other hand, how does it limit you?  In what ways does using supernatural elements change how you approach writing a poem?  Consider these questions as you craft your poem. 

For something more specific, shape the bones of your poem to reinforce the theme.  Do something unexpected with the line lengths or spacing. 

Supernatural is of course a perfect prompt for sci-fi, fantasy and horror - lots of options.

Did you use this or one of our other prompts?  You can post your poem in our comments, if you like.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credits: female raven, GNU Free Documentation, CC 3.0, Wikimedia Commons