Sunday, November 30, 2008

Totally Optional Prompt: Unsavory

Hello, everyone. I agreed to help Tiel keep TOP going so here is this week's prompt.

Have you read Maxine Kumin's Excrement Poem? In it she honors that which we all do but rarely talk about. She takes something distasteful and turns it into poetry.

So, that's your prompt this week: take an unsavory topic and find a way to make it glow. Polish it. Turn it into something beautiful.

Please come back on Thursday to share your poems and, remember, if this prompt doesn't appeal to you, it's totally optional. We'd still like to see what you wrote this week.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Request for Poems: Kyrielle

Kyrie, TOPers. Let's see what creative use of a repeated refrain we made this week.

Please welcome Linda for Saturday's prompt!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Totally Optional Prompt: Kyrielle

And what is a kyrielle? Briefly, a poem made up of four-line stanzas (any number of such stanzas) where the last line of each stanza is the same.

Traditionally, kyrielles are rhymed and metered. Many popular songs take this form. I think it might be interesting to write a free-verse kyrielle that reatins the four-line stanza structure and the repetition. Or you could try your hand at the traditional form: you can find a couple of examples here

Or you could try something else entirely. After all, it's
Totally Optional

Remember to leave your permalink on the Wednesday evening post.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Request for Poems: Sound

Let's hear those sound links, TOPers! (I had a really frustrating time getting sound to work on my blog, so don't feel bad if you had trouble!)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Totally Optional Prompt: Sound

Poetry has wandered far from its roots as an oral art. Time was when most people encountered poetry exclusively as a sung or spoken thing; mass-market printing and widespread literacy, which we now take for granted, are recent inventions. They've also meant that most poems now will be read by far more people than they are heard.

Technology has begun to reverse the pendulum oh so slightly. It's now possible to record poems and songs cheaply and easily and make them available in a wide variety of formats.

I'm working on developing audio capacity on my blog, and may eventually put together a collection of poetry recordings. In the meantime, I'd like TOPers to post sound links for this week's
Totally Optional

If you don't have some kind of sound enabled on your blog (or your MySpace or SoundClick or whatever page), then share your thoughts about poetry as an oral medium. Tell us about readings you've given or readings you've been to. Or link to recordings of other people reading poetry: there's plenty of good stuff out there.


PS: Gautami, if you didn't see my response to your question last week: TOP has been on its current schedule for over a year, and I'm reluctant to change it and make everyone go through the adjustment. Unless (a) there's a good reason and (b) no-one objects. You didn't mention what your reason was, and I'll leave it up to other TOPers to let me know if there's an objection.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Request for Poems: Expectations

So how did we go about creating expectations (and then satisfying, inverting, or ignoring them), TOPers?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Totally Optional Prompt: Expectations

This week's
Totally Optional
prompt is to write a poem that creates expectations. Specific ones.

You may choose to extend the poem to fulfill the expectations. Or to have something completely unexpected happen. Or leave the reader to fill in what happens: there can be a lot of fun in that.

What are some of the ways in which poems can create expectations? Mood and tone are certainly ways. Look at readwritepoem's recent "gothic" prompt for some good examples of mood poetry. Another is by setting a scene: an angry woman paces up and down, looking at her watch. The door opens. Another is by pacing: a poem can start off slow and accelerate, or start off fast and then slow and become dreamy and contemplative.

Formal poems create their own expectations: a poem can satisfy by fulfilling the form, or surprise by violating it (in order for that to happen, the poem has to go with the form at least part way).

Come back Wednesday evening or Thursday morning, when Mr. Linky appears to usher in another week's worth of poetry!

Linda will be taking over as host as of Nov. 29th's prompt: please be ready to give her a warm welcome.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Request for Poems: Marketplace

Good news, TOPers: Linda Jacobs of Linda's Poems has volunteered to help out. Linda, I'll be sending you an invite to the TOP blog shortly (hopefully this weekend). You can take over for December if you wish, or January if you'd prefer.

Didn't get out to the market this week. Did other folks?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Totally Optional Prompt: Marketplace (and announcements)

TOPers: first, a reminder. Responses to the prompt should go on the Wednesday evening post, not on this post.

Second: Mike McCulley and I started Totally Optional Prompts a little over a year ago, when Poetry Thursday went down. Poetry Thursday has since been reborn as readwritepoem, and is going great guns. In addition, a bunch of new prompt sites have sprung up, including Poefusion, the new Writer's Island (Writer's Island Journals), the new Monday Poetry Train (not strictly a prompt site, but devoted to poetry), Miss Rumphius's Poetry Stretch, One Single Impression (formerly One Deep Breath), the monthly/bimonthly Cafe Writing, and more that I haven't time to list. Plus writing prompts that are not specifically for poetry, like Sunday Scribblings, Weekend Wordsmith and 3 Word Wednesday. It's gotten to the point where I have trouble keeping up with the prompts I follow, and I question whether it's worth having that many prompt sites active.

Plus, I'm finding keeping TOP going by myself to be a bigger job than I really wanted to take on. I put a lot of work into the early prompts, trying to prompt people not just to write poetry but to really think about the process and the goals writing poetry and to stretch their abilities in different directions. Lately, I simply haven't had the time.

So here's the deal: One way or another, I'll keep TOP going in the present format through the end of the year. There will be some free-prompt weeks coming up around the holiday seasons, but there will be a Prompt and a Request for Poems every week (barring disease or disaster on my part).

I would like someone from the TOP community to step up as co-host for alternate months. Don't feel you have to write the same kind of prompts as either Mike or myself; all I'd ask is that you are reasonably reliable about getting four (usually) prompts and requests out per month.

After the new year, if I don't have a volunteer for co-host, the format will change to either biweekly or monthly. I hope that the quality of the prompts will improve; if I can't find the time even on a reduced schedule to write the kinds of prompts I want to write, I'll shut TOP down. I want TOP to be not just about producing poetry but about improving us all as poets, and if I as host can't put in that much effort I really can't expect anyone else to.

Feel free to leave comments or emails about this. As I say, nothing will change until after the new year, and I'll try to post ahead of time what's going to happen, so there should be no surprises.

Now, for this week's
Totally Optional

A marketplace can be a lot of things. A farmer's market with local produce and livestock. A mini-mart full of plastic packages. An economic abstraction. But real or imaginary, a marketplace is a place to buy, sell and trade; a place to meet other people doing the same.

This week let's consider poetry in relation to marketplaces. Have you ever seen or heard poetry performed in a marketplace? Ever marketed your own poetry, or someone else's? Bought or sold a poem or a book of poetry?