Vibrant Words by Erica Goss
Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets is a book of writing prompts intended to spark creativity, banish writer's block, and inspire new ideas. Writers will find out why they need core strength to write well, that poetry waits in parking lots, and what you can do with just one word. This lively and entertaining book is sure to help poets and writers. It's on sale now at Amazon.com.
Author Erica Goss is the Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, CA and the host of Word to Word, a show about poetry. She is the author of Wild Place (Finishing Line Press 2012). Her poems, reviews, and articles appear widely, both online and in print. She won the 2011 Many Mountains Moving Poetry Contest and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2010 and 2013. Visit her website at www.ericagoss.com.
PRAISE FOR VIBRANT WORDS
"With her friendly, non-intimidating approach, Erica Goss coaxes out the poet in all of us. Open this treasure chest anywhere and do what the page says to do. Although these prompts were written for poets, many also work well for prose writers." ~Ann Marie Brown, travel writer, magazine editor, writing instructor at Sierra Nevada College
"Erica Goss presents inspiring tips, techniques, strategies, observations, and insights accrued through study and direct experience. Her book will prove a useful guide for new and experienced writers alike, especially those struggling to navigate a dry spell, desiring a poetic nudge, or seeking authentic creative direction." ~John Amen, editor of The Pedestal Magazine
"Many good prompts here, nudges to get you started if you're a beginner, or shoves if you're further along, but find yourself stuck." ~Nils Peterson, Santa Clara County Poet Laureate Emeritus
"In a relaxed voice made tender by experience, this is a mentor's approach to guiding poets onto new roads and greater destinations." ~Michael Dickes, editor, Awkword Paper Cut
"'Poems can and should be actively sought, captured, and written down'—Erica Goss's Vibrant Words is a little gem of poetry prompts: concise, efficient, whimsical, immediate...What a delight to read! Each of these prompts offers useful guidance with inspirational suggestions, ideas, and examples for poets and all poetry lovers. This is also a welcome tool for poetry workshops and other related settings." ~Fiona Sze-Lorrain, author of My Funeral Gondola (2013) and Water the Moon (2010)
"Erica Goss's collection of poems and inspirational exercises, Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets, teaches poets to peel back the noise to find the kernels of poetic story that will appeal universally." ~Serena M. Agusto-Cox, poet and reviewer at Savvy Verse & Wit and War Through the Generations
"Erica Goss's elegantly conceived and thoughtfully edited Vibrant Words will assist and inspire many an aspiring poet and storyteller. Like other artists, wordsmiths should welcome and respond to the challenges of surprise and demand. These warm, prodding pages quiver with enough prompts, suggestions, exercises, examples, and borderline ecstasy to keep any fledgling or practiced writer of poetry meaningfully focused and sharp for a lifetime." ~Al Young, California's Poet Laureate Emeritus
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Occasional Poetry 7
Faithful Husband of the Rain 21
I Left My Heart in the Los Angeles Basin 23
Delusions of an Erasure Poet: The Shadow Text 27
By Dave Bonta
Very Short Poems 31
Short on Time? Try a Zip Poem 35
By Jennifer Swanton Brown
Journal Lines 39
Variations on a Theme 41
Prove This Wrong 43
Brothers and Sisters 51
Try a Triolet 55
Take a Walk 57
Something About the Birds 61
I Scare Myself 63
How to Pirate a Treasure Chest 65
By Ellaraine Lockie
One Word 69
Copy by Hand 71
The Political is Personal 73
By Connie Post
God's Hobby 81
By K.S. Hardy
Poetry Bones 85
Strong First Lines 87
Strong Last Lines 89
The Sound of Poetry 93
Your Name 97
By Eileen Malone
Make a List 99
Try a Different Language 101
Thirteen Little Poetry Projects 103
Things That Get Me Writing 105
By Kelly Cressio-Moeller
Show, Don't Tell 111
Parking Lots as Inspiration 115
Endings and Beginnings 119
Heavy Roses 121
Stalked by Walt Whitman 125
Fifty Words 129
Deep Images 131
Way Back 135
Core Strengths 139
Work It Out 143
By Evelyn A. So
Food I'm From 149
By Evelyn A. So
Fairy Tales 151
Assemblage for Poetry 157
Using the Tip of a Medium Ballpoint & Black Ink 161
By Pushpa MacFarlane
SAMPLES FROM THE BOOK
Brothers and Sisters
The theme of the 2011 issue of Caesura, the literary magazine of Poetry Center San Jose is "Brothers and Sisters". The call for poems about brothers and sisters included this: "Think blood brothers, brothers in arms, sisterhood is powerful, sisters of mercy. What do we mean when we call someone 'brother'?"
My poem, "Buck Moon", recalls two juxtaposed events: the birth of my youngest brother nine days prior to the first moon landing:
I didn't ask why my country was
moonstruck, deep in the month of July
when I was nine years old. I didn't
care about the stiff unflapping flag
and even less about steps, leaps or
mankind. I was not impressed with the
lunar module and its spider legs,
or the black sky, or a man's footprint.
I didn't know the US flag, fixed
upright in the bone-dry dust, was a
challenge to the world: beat this. I had
no idea who the Soviets
were. None of it mattered in that hot
July, for I received a brother,
knowledge that filled me with lovely pain
and made me dizzy, like when I caught
my first glimpse of a photo of Earth,
its blue surface mottled with storms and
continents, my head a whirlwind of
ragged energy, spinning, spinning,
breathless, euphoric, alive. Beat that.
Write a poem about your experience being a sister or a brother. If you are an only child, write about not having siblings. Imagine famous siblings, or siblings from fairy tales and mythology. How about Cain and Abel, or Hansel and Gretel? Did Jesus have a little sister? Use your imagination.
The Political is Personal
What makes a good political poem? It's difficult to convey historical events such as war, government upheavals, and their impact on our lives in poetry, but perhaps no more difficult than writing about other time-honored subjects such as nature, relationships, or art. With all topics, the key is to make the universal personal. Examining a story through the eyes of a witness...
To get a feel for how political poetry can move from the quotidian to the universal in one short sentence, here's the first line from "The End and the Beginning", a poem by the great Polish poet, Wislawa Szymborska:
"After every war / someone has to clean up."
The fifth stanza reads:
Photogenic it's not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.
The poet forces us to see not only "corpse-filled wagons", which we can easily imagine on our own, but the journalists who leave when the excitement is over.
A few years ago, I visited Berlin and stood where my father had stood as a young man when he was a GI. I imagined my father, twenty-three years old and homesick in a freezing winter, and all of the daring escapes that people had made when Germany was a divided country. I wrote the following poem as a result:
In Front of the Reichstag
When he stood here in 1956
my father decided to set his life to music.
American jazz, the language of home.
To learn forgiveness, listen to the blues.
Fifty years later
I step across the mended street
to read about the girl
who bent herself into a quarter note
and escaped to the West,
wedged into a stereo cabinet,
her body twisted
like the fossil Archaeopteryx.
She was so small, a gamine –
airy as the swan-bone flute
dug up in the Hohle Fels cave
from which the oldest music comes.
Where else did the children hide –
crammed into cello cases, coiled into drums
as the little birds of Berlin
called out in tones of gold and mercy?
First printed in Lake Effect, 2011
No matter how removed from our daily lives we think politics are, we experience their effects every day. Think about a soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan. What is his or her day like? What forces moved that person to join?
For some excellent examples of poetry that deals with war, politics, and the consequences of both, I recommend Here, Bullet by Brian Turner; The Country Between Us by Carolyn Forché (Harper Perennial, 1982), and Miracle Fair, by Wislawa Szymborska (W.W. Norton, 2002).