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

Saturday, April 15, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #15 - To Make Human


The Easter Bunny is an
anthropomorphized rabbit.
The assignation of human traits or humanity to an inanimate or inhuman object is a common device in poetry. For example, Silvia Plath gave human life to flowers in her poem "Poppies in October." The final lines are:

Oh my God, what am I
That these late mouths should cry open
In a forest of frosts, in a dawn of cornflowers

The poppies now possess mouths that can cry like human mouths. It emphasizes the speaker's feelings, their astonishment at being in just this place, at just this time, to witness this spectacle.

So what's the difference between "personification" and "anthropomorphism?"  Everyone seems to have their own answer for this, as the two terms are so closely related.  The Merriam Webster Dictionary says this about personify: "to conceive of or represent as a person or as having human qualities or power" or "to be the embodiment or personification of : i.e. a teacher who personified patience."  Anthropomorphism is defined as "to attribute human form or personality to things not human."  A lot of Disney sidekicks are animals that have been completely anthropomorphized such as Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio or Sebastian the crab from The Little Mermaid.

Prompt #15:  Write a poem in which an object, deity, animal, or other inhuman object is given human traits, or acts as a human being.  How has it become the embodiment of human characteristics?  What is this object thinking, doing, and feeling?  How does this personification or anthropomorphism work in your poem?  Consider these questions as you craft your poem. 

For something more specific, try following a rhyme scheme in your poem.

There are so many options for "to make human" in fantasy, horror, or sci-fi i hardly know where to start ...

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: Easter Bunny Postcard 1907 Wikimedia Commons.  Public Domain

Friday, April 14, 2017

Top Ten Reasons You Don't Have an Agent Yet - AWP Panel

Want to seal the deal with an agent?
Check this top ten and see
if you are ready to go.
This is a continuation of my previous post "Demystifying the Business Side of Writing and Publishing" which was a panel at the 2017 AWP conference.  One of the topics the panel spent the most time on was 'getting an agent.'  The panel had so many ideas related to this that I figured it deserved its own post.

To reiterate, the panel members as listed in the guide are: Whitney Davis, Tarfia Faizullah, Paula Munier, Joshua Shenk, and Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum.  Again, I was completely blocked in a packed room and could not see the panel table, so I wasn't sure who was speaking when.  But I think the bulk of this was shared by Paula Munier, who was introduced as an agent.

Top Ten Reasons You Don't Have an Agent Yet:
  1. You are approaching the wrong agent.  You need to have a similar sensibility to the agent you have selected.  These people are swamped with submissions they will never represent because the authors have not done their homework.  Send only to people you think will really resonate with your work.
  2. You are not being strategic.  This is related to the above.  Don't just send work out to anyone at all, have a solid plan and reasons for that plan.
  3. Your query letter isn't working.  The query letter needs to be "sales copy" and many writers are not good at that kind of writing.  A query is a pitch, and needs to be written like one.
  4. Your story idea isn't unique.  The story has to stand out against the competition or against those that are in the same market.  Focus on what makes you and your work unique or special and enhance those traits.
  5. You don't know the competition.  Related to the above.  Read more within your own market and community to know how to make your work stand out.  Support your own community by reading.
  6. Your story idea isn't strong.  Even a unique idea must be strong enough to sustain a book length narrative.
  7. Your story idea is not well executed.  It's unique and goes the distance, but there are other issues ... can you cleanly pitch this story in 50 words or less to sell it?  If not, there may be issues with execution of the story.
  8. Your craft is not high enough yet.  Again, related to the above.  Stories have to be crafted at the highest level to have a chance, since competition is so keen.  Look to your community to find ways to bolster your craft and make your story flawless.
  9. You are not active.  You need to be an active member of your writing community, at the local, national, and perhaps even international levels.  An agent wants to see you as a contributing part of this body of people.
  10. You are not prepared to be an author.  This is different from being a writer - being an author requires signings, social media, personal appearances, and more.  If the agent does not feel you are ready to be that person, they will not sign you.  Get good recommendations from established authors in your market.  Publish your work in other formats.  Have a solid writer's platform.  Present all work and yourself professionally.
Image Credit:  Handshake  Wikimedia Commons, CC 2.0
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hermandad_-_friendship.jpg

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #14 - Nature Haiku

Japanese pond in a garden - with lily pads and frog.
Building on our theme from yesterday (nature poetry) we are going to focus today on the form of the haiku.  At Poets.org we read this succinct description:

"Haiku began in thirteenth-century Japan as the opening phrase of a renga, a form of spoken poem, generally 100 stanzas long, which was also composed syllabically. The much shorter haiku broke away from renga in the sixteenth-century, and was mastered a century later by the poet Matsuo Basho, who wrote this classic example:"
An old pond!
A frog jumps in—
the sound of water.
Basho executed the form with subtle perfection, including moments of reflection, joy, and even humor:

            now then, let's go out
            to enjoy the snow... until
            I slip and fall!

The traditional form is generally viewed as three lines with five, seven, and then five syllables each.  Although breaking the form is common in modern poetry.  There are many other aspects to a haiku, not just the length and form.  For example, a "haiku traditionally contains a kigo, a word or phrase that symbolizes or implies the season of the poem."  The specific words in Japanese were proscribed, and each pointed to a specific season.  Frogs, cherry blossoms, and swallows signify spring.  Summer is indicated by words such as the lotus flower, cicada, and the rainy season.  Autumn is denoted with the full Moon, crickets, and colored leaves.  Finally, the cold, fallen leaves, snow, and winter holidays all indicate the winter season.

Prompt #14:  Write a nature haiku based on a natural scene either before you, in your memory, or in a picture.  Include as many aspects of a traditional haiku as you can - the syllable count, a word or phrase for the season, and a 'surprise' moment for the end.  As you ponder your scene, consider what will evoke it in the shortest number of words.  What is the 'ah-ha' moment that comes to you, the twist or surprise that will make a reader nod or gasp, reading your poem?   

For something more specific, write four haiku about your scene.  Each should reflect the view in a different season.

As usual, I'm pondering nature haiku from a sci-fi, horror, or fantasy point of view.  I think this one will end up as another werewolf poem, but what can you do?

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: Japanese Garden  CC 3.0 Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, April 13, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #13 - Inspired by Nature

Akaka Falls State Park in Hawaii.
Our parks have a long, complicated
history between humans and nature.
A common source of inspiration for poetry is the natural world.  Poets have often been inspired by landscapes, the flora and fauna, and how these change with the seasons and over time.  There is a long history of poetry and poetic forms dedicated to nature.  Often, the poet uses some aspect of the natural world as a metaphor to illustrate or support some other idea or conflict.  Nature poetry can express the relationship with humankind in a variety of ways; pleasure over agricultural cultivation, guilt over mining, fear over storms and earthquakes, and more.

Prompt #13:  Write a poem inspired by nature.  You can use memory of a place you have been, or a photo of a place you would like to visit, to inspire you.  Find unique ways into the scene or the natural experience using all of your senses, what you see, hear, feel, smell, and even taste.  Consider the relationship between humanity and nature that you encounter in the scene.  Craft your poem using as many concrete images as you can.

For something more specific, consider how your natural scene changes or will change with time and the seasons, and include those changes in the poem. 

Today I might focus on the science end of sci-fi by using the universe as my natural scene.  But if that fails, as always there is a fantasy or horror element in there somewhere 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: My pic of Akaka Falls.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #12 - Refocus the Pronoun

Our usual starting focus.
We approach poetry from the base of our own experience.  It is therefore no surprise that many poems are written from the perspective of the first person - the "I."  But sometimes we gravitate to this kind of focus when another would better suit.  Especially for emotional poetry, the first person perspective can be overwhelming and sometimes even overwrought.  Exploring points of view can generate new ideas and new options we had not considered.  Exploring both second and third person pronouns can breathe new life into your creation.

Prompt #12Idea One - Take a poem you have previously written from the point of view of "I" and refocus it - either change the pronouns to something like "you," "they," "E," "Xe," or remove the need for pronouns completely.  What does this refocusing do to the poem?  Does it reinforce the main ideas, emphasize the imagery, or distance the reader?  Idea Two - If you don't have a poem to start with, then use this prompt as a chance to craft something new that's not from the "I" point of view.  Explore how the same poem changes if you craft it from different points of view.

Not sure which old poem I will choose, but of course it will be something in the sci-fi, horror, or fantasy genres.

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: "I" GNU Free Documentation License, Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Four Poems in The Were-Traveler

My poem 'Finish the Job' is a macabre
look at a mummy in the making.
Time is doing that thing it does where it flies by so fast I can't keep up.  I've realized that I had some poems published in December and never blogged about them here!  Since this is indeed already April, and National Poetry Month, I think it is appropriate to call your attention to the issue (which I think is a good read.)  It is Issue #19 - Speculative Poetry, over at The Were-Traveler.  I have four poems in this issue that is jam-packed with 71 poems of the sci-fi, fantasy, horror, science, or just plain strange variety.

The four poems I have appearing in the issue are:  Finish the Job, Token of Affection, Flight School, and The Perfect Poem … Tribute.  For three of these poems the editor selected a piece of art or other image to highlight the poem.  So if you haven't had your fix of speculative poetry today, pop on by and give them a read!

Image Credit:  Mummy, Wikimedia Commons, GNU Free Use 1.2

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #11 - Breaking the Rules

The Moon as seen from the International Space Station,
hanging over the limb of the Earth.  Not your standard
view of the Moon - this image evokes something new.
A common bit of advice in writing is "Learn the Rules, Break the Rules."  Something very fresh can happen when we seem to be following along a known path, and then go somewhere unexpected.  So what are some of the "rules" of poetry, if there is such a thing?  Here are a few you may have heard:
  • Don't write cliches.  Cliched poems include poetry about the Moon, your dog, and your breakup.
  • Don't use epigraphs.  These are those bits of quotes or song lyrics at the top of your writing showing your inspiration source. 
  • Don't use a word in all capitals.  This is SHOUTING in your poem.
  • Don't write "doggerel" forms like Limericks or "Greeting Card" verse.
  • Don't break classic forms.  For example, don't change the standard rhyme scheme of a sonnet.
  • Always be honest.  The standard wisdom is that the truth resonates with the reader.
Prompt #11:  Write a poem that breaks a "rule" of poetry writing.  Use an epigraph, write a Limerick, or tell a lie.  Why did you choose to break this particular "rule?"  It what way does breaking this rule give you as the writer some additional freedom?  It what ways does breaking the rule impose new limits?  As you craft your poem, look for ways to use this broken rule to bring something unexpected and new into the work.

There is no "For something more specific ..." today!  Just go and break rules.

Of course I'll be breaking the rules with some aspect of sci-fi, horror, or fantasy.  Maybe it is time for yet another poem about the Moon ...

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: Moon, NASA

Monday, April 10, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #10 - The Mundane

The mundane spoon.
Where can this concept lead?
Consider the spoon.  It is a simple, everyday object.  It does not seem to have much about it that one might consider poetic.  But there are many different ways to consider the humble spoon ... how about 'spooning' as sleeping next to someone, a souvenir spoon collection,  a spoon used as a percussion instrument, or 'spoon feeding' someone information?  And of course there are strange crossovers like the 'spork.'

There is a paradox in poetry - the more specific and concrete the language and imagery, the more universal and accessible the poem becomes.  A poem that is more general and less specific is less relatable.  Therefore, writing about the mundane creates pathways for the reader to enter and engage with the poem.   

Here are a few other thoughts about the spoon ...

"I was born with a plastic spoon." - Pete Townshend
"Gag me with a spoon." - Valley talk, attributed to Moon Unit Zappa among many others ...
"Ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife." - Not an example of irony, by Alanis Morisette
"Spoon!" - Battle cry of comic hero The Tick.

Prompt #10:  Write a poem about a spoon (or other specific, concrete, mundane object).  Consider some of the ideas above about the spoon, and others like taking medicine, measuring ingredients, or stirring tea.  Consider what it is made out of, what it holds (or once held) and if it still matches the set.  Craft your poem to be as specific as possible about your mundane object.

To make the prompt more detailed, you can write a sonnet about your mundane object, and put a little surprise about it in your final couplet.

Of course I'll be wondering what mundane aspect of sci-fi, horror, or fantasy I need to consider.

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: Dessert Spoon CC 3.0 Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, April 9, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #9 - Jargon

A slice of the gorgeous meteorite Esquel, with its clasts of
gem-like peridot (olivine).  Meteorites are often studied by
Cosmochemists to learn more about the early Solar System.
Continuing along the idea of language, our next prompt deals with "jargon."  Jargon is a unique vocabulary that is commonly associated with a job or discipline.  For example, let's look at some of the words found in the discipline of Cosmochemistry.  There we find words and phrases such as:  ternary diagram, cosmic abundances, chondritic, CRE age, presolar grains, and mass spectrometry.  These words all have a very specific meaning to me, and help me understand more precisely what another scientist is trying to say.  However, if I were not familiar with Cosmochemistry, many of these terms would mean nothing, or worse, create misconceptions.  Jargon can include slang or an in-group language.  It can separate those who are included from those who are not.  Or it can include more people by attempting to specifically clarify meanings.

Prompt #9:  Write a poem that uses at least one word of jargon from a single discipline or source.  Are you using this word to be more specific, that is, to better communicate an idea?  Or are you using it to create a lack of understanding and distance?  Is your use of jargon one that creates an air of authority or expertise around your poem?  Is the language used to protect and shield, or to open and reveal?  Consider these questions when crafting your poem.

For something more specific, and a little bit of fun, use a rhyme scheme in your poem where one or more jargon words are rhymed.  Need some additional fun?  When crafting your poem, use a discipline with which you are completely unfamiliar, so that is requires some research to write.

The fields of science fiction, horror, and fantasy have their own jargon.  So perhaps I'll look there for a bit of inspiration, myself.

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:  Esquel  CC 2.0 Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, April 8, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #8 - Absence

In a field / I am the absence / of field.
In the poem "Keeping Things Whole" by Mark Strand, we encounter a unique treatment of the concept of absence.  A recognition that, just by being, we must create a space for ourselves within the larger environment.  We push ourselves into the air, the flowers, the wheat.  Where we are, those things are not.  Then we pass through, and the field remains nothing but a field once again.  Absence is so much more than a empty place.  In some Asian architecture and decorating, the lack of a item or piece of furniture is just as important as a piece placed elsewhere. (i.e. Feng Shui)  The nothingness has both form and function.

Prompt #8:  Write a poem that evokes absence.  Consider the concept in its broadest sense.  Write the poem that grapples with nothingness - its definition, its function, and the emotions around it.  Consider loss - the space once claimed by a person, animal, or place that used to be in your life.  Perhaps it is the loss of a function, a role, a job, or friends.  Write the poem that explores something that is not there.

For something more specific, try playing with the white space on the page.  Play with line lengths, word spacing, and paragraph breaks.

And of course I'll be considering the concept of absence as reflected in science fiction, horror, and 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: A Field in Belgium


By I, Luc Viatour, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=998412

Friday, April 7, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #7 - Counting Up and Down

Counting - a way to win, and a way to know you've won.
The whole concept of numbers and the process of counting is fascinating.  Carl Sagan says, "The simplest thought, like the concept of the number one, has an elaborate logical underpinning."  Imagine then the processing behind the otherwise straightforward act of counting from one to ten.  Go from there to think about just how many things we count - time, music, money, collections, and so much more, and we realize counting is part of the complex language of culture - the how and why we count.

Prompt #7:  Write a poem that evokes the concept of counting.  Imagine some of these examples to get you started:  counting to ten when angry, counting the minutes going by as we wait impatiently, counting in a number system other than base ten, such as binary, counting and skipping a number, countdowns, awarding prizes in order of first, second, third, counting cards, and all the words we use for things that are counted.

For something more specific, try writing your poem in a verse structure, like a sonnet, that requires the counting of lines and rhymes.

And of course I'll be considering different aspects of counting as reflected in science fiction, horror, and 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: RoyalFlushHearts, public domain.  Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, April 6, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #6 - Poetry from Art

Medusa, the Gorgon of legend.  What do you see
in this work of art?  A creature of horror or of pathos?
 A mood that's grim or that is sad?  How does the dark,
monotone color palette work in this piece?
If you have been reading my blog through the years, you know my fascination with using art as inspiration for writing.  I've had the honor of posting some amazing pieces of art here, mostly with permission of artists on Deviant Art.  So of course, eventually, "poems inspired by art" would have to come up in the prompt list for this year's NaPoWriMo.  The official term for this is "ekphrastic poetry" and it has a long and glorious history (of course!).

Here are some call backs to great art that has appeared on this blog evoking fantasy, science fiction, and horror themes.

"Colchian"
"Reborn"
"A Fada Azul"
"Space"
"Yorick's Date Tonight"
"I Did Not Do It"

Prompt #6:  Find a work of art that intrigues you, and write a poem that invokes the piece.  Are you focusing on the colors in the art?  Is there an apparent 'theme' or story in the image?  Is there a mood or emotion that interests you?  Consider these sorts of questions as you ponder your poem.

For something more specific, use a photo that you took yourself as the inspiration for your poem.

If you, like me, are considering different aspects of science fiction, horror, and fantasy, then definitely check out the six pieces of art above, and flip through any posts labeled with "Prompt the Muse" for additional inspiration.

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: Medusa, public domain.  Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompts #4 and #5 - Making Words, Making Lists

Oldest known picture of a dragon, Ishtar Gate
What name would you make up for it?
Time to play a little catch up!  I was not feeling well yesterday, so I have two prompts to post for today (not to mention two poems to write).

So for prompt #4 we are going to expand on the language idea from prompt #3.  This time, you will be including a word or words that you make up!  You've probably seen plenty of poems with nonsense words or words the author has 'coined' themselves.  A classic is Jabberywocky by Lewis Caroll. 

Prompt #4:  Write a poem with a word or words that you make up.  Do your made up words have meaning or are they utter nonsense?  What is the reader's experience with these words - will they perceive a meaning from context, or will the words remain mysterious?  How do the words function in the poem?  Are they used to create a sense of confusion, playfulness, or perhaps alienation?  Consider these questions as you make up your words and craft your poem.

For something more specific, try writing your poem such that the nonsense word is repeated several times.  You can decide if this helps to underscore the meaning and emotion, or if it changes from one use to the next.

For prompt #5 we are going to take a look at a Japanese form known as zuihitsu - "fragmented ideas that typically respond to the author's surroundings" or "random jottings."  Kimiko Hahn says of the form that it is "a kind of randomness that is not really random, but a feeling of randomness ... can also resemble other Western forms: lists, journals ... Letter writing, diary form."

Prompt #5:  Write a poem in the form of zuihitsu.  To focus your writing, use the Western form of a list poem with at least 8 items on the list.  What is the relationship between the items?  How is the poem both random, and yet not?  How does the list form serve the poem?  Think about these questions as you create your poem.

To be more specific, try a list poem like a "Top Ten" list, numbering backwards from ten to one.  How does this sort of form change your approach to writing the poem?

And of course, as usual, I'll be trying to imagine how to do both of these through a speculative theme like science fiction, fantasy, or horror.

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: Dragon Image - CC 2.5 - Ishtar Gate Dragon

Monday, April 3, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #3 - The Lens of Language

A view juxtaposing language and culture.
This is the largest statue of Nichiren in Japan.
Sado Island, Japan.
Our prompt for the third day of NaPoWriMo 2017 is one that looks at language.  It is common enough to find poems with a word or line in another language, but have you explored this yourself, as a writer?  As we know, language is far more than a kind of code, it is an integral part of culture and how we form and express thoughts.

Prompt #3:  Write a poem with one line in a foreign language.  Do you expect your reader to be able to understand the line?  How does it work in the poem if the reader understands it literally, or not?  How does having multiple languages in your poem change the experience of reading the poem?  Is the change used for emphasis, to evoke a cultural association, or to express emotion?  Consider the answers to these questions as you craft your poem.

If you want something more specific, try writing your poem two ways, with long line lengths, and then short line lengths, and see how this works for you.

And of course, as usual, I'll be trying to imagine how to do this through a speculative theme like science fiction, fantasy, or horror.  I might try a fictitious language like Tolkien's elven tongue, if I'm feeling particularly ambitious.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credit:  My picture taken by me on Sado Island, Japan.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #2 - Longing for Place

The desert Southwest of the U.S. - I long for this.
Our prompt for the second day of NaPoWriMo 2017 comes from the Welsh word hiraeth.  This word does not exist in English; it is a complex mix of feelings centered around a longing for place.  It includes a sort of homesickness, a nostalgia for a location you've been, a deep wistfulness, or a yearning to return somewhere that may no longer exist.

So Prompt #2 is this:  Write a poem that calls forth hiraeth.  Is there a place for which you long?  It is somewhere you have been or only imagine going?  Does it really exist, or only exist in the past, or in your mind?  Have you been homesick?  Do you yearn for mountains, oceans, or fields of flowers?  Consider the answers to these questions as you craft your poem.

If you want something more specific, try writing this feeling in blank verse (a poem with distinct meter but no end rhymes).

And of course, as usual, I'll be trying to express this sensation through a speculative theme like science fiction, fantasy, or horror.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute and
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credit:  My pic of the desert southwest, Arizona.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 - Prompt #1 - The Moment of Connection

Peak cherry blossoms flowering in Washington, D.C.
Our first prompt for NaPoWriMo 2017 is fashioned around the concept of mono no aware.  I spent quite some time looking for one good site to point to about that concept, but it takes reading about ten sites before one becomes aware (see what I did there?) of the many possibilities behind this phrase.  So let us define what we mean for our purposes, briefly, right here.

Using the classic cherry blossoms as the example - there is a moment, upon looking at them, that one is struck with their fleeting, poignant grace.  It is a moment of both beauty and pain.  It is a moment out of the self, when we connect with all things.  It only lasts until we perceive or scrutinize it, and then it is gone.

So Prompt #1 is this:  Write a poem that reflects a moment from your life in which you encountered mono no aware.  You can consider why it is painful, what makes it fleeting, how it brings you out of yourself into the larger universe, or any other aspects of the phrase with which you are familiar.

If you want something more specific, try writing this moment in the classic form of a haiku.

Of course you can also try what I'm doing, and that is to express this moment through a speculative theme like science fiction, fantasy, or horror.

Happy Writing!

Prompts crafted by:
J.A. Grier, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute and
Amy Grier, Managing Editor, Solstice Literary Magazine
Image Credit:  My pic of peak blossoms from around the lake in Washington, D.C.