Prompt for August 28 – Virtual Barat House

The city is different, because yesterday it was just a city, and today it is alive.

N.K. Jemisin, The City We Became

Awareness of belonging to a place, of a person’s inner life being one with the inner life of a place, or a place possessing a soul and a face as distinct as a person’s. Use the prompt to inspire your work in any form (poetry or prose; fiction of any genre; creative nonfiction, essay, or memoir).

Log into our virtual meeting at 1pm for readings and discussion.

If you prefer to post your work to our blog, visit Submittable after 12pm to upload your work. We will do our best to publish everything we receive.

A note on the prompt

In N.K. Jemisin’s vision for The City We Became, New York City is a singular organism with the boroughs personified by actual, distinct humans with characteristics unique to their respective places. Without giving too much away, the Manhattan is smooth and attractive in appearance, but in constant and tensely controlled psychological chaos. Brooklyn is a striking sort of queen, while Queens is not, but is remarkable in other unexpected ways reflecting New York City’s multi-faceted whole. The Bronx “don’t trust nobody but the Bronx.” And Staten Island is almost too isolated from the rest to feel a sense of belonging.

Prompt for August 26 – Virtual Didier Dumas

The Gut-Brain Axis

This is the scientific term for the “bidirectional link” between the mind and the digestion. But you may have experienced other links between the physical and non-physical aspects of life in a human body that go far beyond the brain and the stomach. It can be fun and illuminating to explore this in creative writing.

Visit these links to generate random emotions and body parts. You can just do one random item at a time, or generate a list of, say, 5 emotions and 5 body parts to choose from. (Match bliss with knees, for instance, or love with pinky.) Use the prompt to inspire your work in any form (poetry or prose; fiction of any genre; creative nonfiction, essay, or memoir).

Join our virtual meeting at 8pm for readings and discussion.

If you prefer to post your work to our blog, visit Submittable after 7pm to upload your work. We will do our best to publish everything we receive.

Poetry by Steve Swank from our virtual circles

Place

The farm is a place,
the land is a place to be from,
earth sand, wind,
a buggy spills in the ditch.

The heat of summer,
the slog of fall,
common labor, heft, and haul
wipe the mind in daily routine.

Through the arching limbs of trees,
at night stars, a littler breeze
slopes down the shaded hill
through the kitchen door.

The troubles of man are clearly plain,
too numerous to ignore,
lost from view in the pouring rain
is the sign: kittens.

Save Your Breath

I
The prompt is like a box of chocolates,
save your breath—
save your breathe to cool the soup
a fox now guards the chicken coup.

II
A box of chocolates I did not buy
for valentines, I tell you why,
among the choices that seem so sweet
compared to you they can’t compete.

III
Unexpected, unique, quietly your smile
assured, elegant, content—the calm
of practice, and ready—honors the choices
that make you, you.

IV
I turn over the little stone,
gently lift the creature
living there that waits
my notice, my love

V
It was started with a meet-up ad,
the writers meet at Johnny Cakes,
a thousand cranes Tedo makes,
now look at all the fun we’ve had.

Prompt for August 21 – Virtual Carson McCullers House

Sometimes you just want to make something, and that something is made of beads, cardboard, artsy paper, and hot glue. Or sometimes it’s just made of words, thoughts, memories, hopes, and birdsong. The impulse nibbles at you until you do something.

I like this kaleidoscope craft idea, and I’ll probably make one this weekend with my daughter. In the meantime, we could write something about crafting. For today’s prompt use the steps and instructional mode of a craft how-to, and see where that leads you.

Tonight, we are joined by young writers from this summer’s Kaleidoscope Poetry Circle for a celebratory reading. Join us on Zoom at 7pm to listen, encourage, and share your own writing from today’s prompt.

This Friday evening salon takes a break indefinitely after today (waiting out the rest of the pandemic perhaps).

Prompt for August 21 – Virtual Barat House

Smile and smile, even if your smile is thin

The axolotl, also known as the Mexican walking fish, although it isn’t a fish at all, nor is it a reptile. Maybe it’s a baby dragon.

From dragons (see Wednesday’s prompt) to salamanders! Use the prompt to inspire your work in any form (poetry or prose; fiction of any genre; creative nonfiction, essay, or memoir).

Log into our virtual meeting at 1pm for readings and discussion.

If you prefer to post your work to our blog, visit Submittable after 12pm to upload your work. We will do our best to publish everything we receive.

A note about the prompt

The text is from World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil (Milkweed Editions, forthcoming September 2020). See a video of the author reading excerpts from her book here, featuring two lovely illustrations by Fumi Nakamura. I wish I could have shared Nakamura’s images! But I didn’t want to steal them. (Instead, I stole this one from a meme.)

And this copy from Milkweed Editions is so comforting and uplifting that I had to share: Even in the strange and the unlovely, Nezhukumatathil finds beauty and kinship. For it is this way with wonder: it requires that we are curious enough to look past the distractions in order to fully appreciate the world’s gifts.

Prompt for August 19 – Virtual Didier Dumas

Will you listen to the dragon?

“She doesn’t want to see you, man.”

Use the prompt to inspire your work in any form (poetry or prose; fiction of any genre; creative nonfiction, essay, or memoir).

Join our virtual meeting at 8pm for readings and discussion.

If you prefer to post your work to our blog, visit Submittable after 7pm to upload your work. We will do our best to publish everything we receive.

A note on the prompt: Where the dragon comes from

This cartoon is from the New Yorker, January 13, 2020.

With the turn in the weather, I find myself preparing for Michaelmas: traditionally, the season in which we defend the harvest from the dragon. The Princess sacrifices herself for the people, the righteous King George fights for her, to the death. The cartoon seems to turn the iconic image of King George slaying the dragon on its head—but personally? I’d let the Princess speak for herself.

Poetry by Steve Swank from our virtual circles

Gathers

Contrarious octogenarians
grouped as young writers,
put on the bus,
start out strangers,
arrive as us.

Seeds

I
The small, the purposeful, the divine
The tender, the willing, the sublime
The slender, the fulfilling, the entwine

II
I planted some of the seeds
you were giving out that day.
I scooped them off the floor
after everyone had left.
Now the seedlings are growing,
there are not many, but enough.
What joy to see them grow!
What colors will they be?

III
We did not speak, did you know
I was even there, I don’t think so.
Still, I remember what you said
about getting better ideas instead
of relying simply on chance.

IV
I raise my hand and wait my turn,
I water the flowers.
I tune my interest and try to learn,
I water the flowers.

Poetry by Nishu Aggarwal from our virtual circles

In The Night, the Warrior Queen Rises.

In the night
When all falls quiet
I face the dark rushes
Where I threw my true feelings
In the mire of denial
And the pits of politeness

In the night
When all falls quiet
I no longer walk the domain
Carefully picking worthy battles
Forcing their retreat with grace
Intimidating them with deep calm and unfaltering dignity.

In the night
When all falls quiet
I pull the true feelings out of the rushes
Cleaning each one until they are pure thought
Each stroke repairs the rents,
Holes I had kept hidden

In the night
When all falls quiet
I wash my mind
And polish my soul
In darkness I find light
In the quiet, steady strength

In the night
When all falls quiet
I find
Myself.

Prompt for August 14 – Virtual Carson McCullers House

We’ve arrived at the glory of tomatoes and peaches in the markets. The feeling of harvests, all kinds of emotions and all kinds of metaphoric leaps, come up. I think there’s a kind of beautiful melancholy in picking the vegetables and fruits of the year, the ones you’ve grown yourself and the ones that your neighbors beg you to take from their over-planting. Also, I read a really beautiful sentence in a novel at the end of a description of harvesting. It’s full of dramatic terror.

His shoulders flinched, and his hands moved as if to catch and hold her until she regained her balance, but he just looked on helplessly as she stumbled and fell onto the rails, and then, with the class watching in horror, slid down the other side of the embankment and out of sight from where they were among the apple trees.

Abigail, by Magda Szabo, translated by Len Rix

Write something and then join us at 7pm for our Zoom salon, where we will read and talk and dream of bountiful autumn days.

Prompt for August 14 – Virtual Barat House

For as long as the weather holds . . .

In our region of the world, something “turns” in August, although we are supposed to have over a month more of summertime. The weather coarsens, daylight wanes. But there’s still so much lushness! Let’s roll in it.

Log into our virtual meeting at 1pm for readings and discussion.

If you prefer to post your work to our blog, visit Submittable after 12pm to upload your work. We will do our best to publish everything we receive.