In the second edition of Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets (Texture Press, 2019), authors Valerie Fox and Lynn Levin provide 18 entertaining and motivating prompts that range from the light-hearted to the serious and challenging. Drawing on both traditional forms and contemporary experiments, the authors encourage the use of found text, song titles, facts, and quotations. They propose scenarios and invite a poetic response. They even show how to “translate” the text of a poem written in a language you can’t read! Each prompt is followed by suggestions for getting started and sample poems written in response. What distinguishes Poems for the Writing from other poetry-prompt collections is that most of the sample poems are by undergraduates, community workshop participants, and some working poets. The responses are fresh, energetic, and unexpected.
This is an excellent book for poets and for teachers of poetry. The authors, both poets and teachers themselves, have selected prompts that work well in the classroom—for poets at any level and just about any age. They encourage emotional orientations, helping the students to plumb their personal experiences—and with just enough structure to help students struggling to organize and articulate emotional responses. But all of this comes with a touch of levity. Like Fox and Levin’s own approach to teaching, the book is friendly, open, and eclectic. The results are a testament to the extent to which prompts can trigger new and imaginative insights and jog one out of a routine approach to the blank page. Prompts are entry points—doors and doorknobs, as the authors put it—to new rooms, new emotional and intellectual spaces. The results are likely to be both surprising and satisfying.
Review by Antonia Clark
Antonia Clark has taught poetry and fiction writing and is co-administrator of an online poetry forum, The Waters. She is the author of a poetry chapbook, Smoke and Mirrors, and a full-length poetry collection, Chameleon Moon (2014, 2019), and the forthcoming Dance Craze. Her poems and short stories have appeared in numerous print and electronic journals, including The Cortland Review, Eclectica, The Pedestal Magazine, and Rattle, and she has reviewed poetry collections for The Rumpus, Literary Bohemian, Wild Goose Poetry Review, and IthacaLit. Toni lives in Vermont, loves French picnics, and plays French café music on a sparkly purple accordion.