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36 Titles
September 2009

Lucifer at the Starlite" is the title poem from Kim Addonizio's fifth collection of poetry. The poem references George Meredith's poem "Lucifer In Starlight." There is much more about all that on our companion blog post, but our prompt actually came from another one of her books.

One of the inspirations for the prompts on this site back in 1998 was the Addonizio and Laux book, The Poet's Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetrybook. Kim has also published another book of poetic inspiration called Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Withinbook which is a great collection of exercises and starting points. It's not just prompts and it's not just a how-to book. I could see it being used for a a writing course or for someone alone looking for some inspiration as they write.

This month's prompt is straightforward. I took the table of contents from Ordinary Genius and made a few minor edits to the four sections and 36 chapter titles. They are your starting place, and there are some interesting starting places there. Select any one of the 40 as your own poem's title and go to it.

1. Leaping in the Dark
2. Make a Book
3. First Thought, Worst Thought
4. Getting Started
5. Opening Doors
6. Your Genius, Your Demons
7. Line, Breath, & Vision
8. By Heart
9. Describe This
10. Read This
11. Boys, Girls, & Bodies
12. Three Meditations
13. By Heart: A Love Poem
14. Love & Sex Poems
15. Me, Myself, & I
16. What You Don't Know
17. Three Observations
18. The Pain-Body
19. Ha! Working with Humor
20. Race, Class & Privilege
21. The Whiskey on Your Breath
22. The Shimmer
23. White Heat, Necessary Coldness
24. A Bag of Tricks
25. The Poem's Progress
26.Parts and the Whole
27. Enchantments
28. Music & Meter
29. Write A Sonnet
30. Close Reading
31. Page to Stage
32. Make a Broadside
33. Two Heads
34. Do-Overs & Revisions
35. The Pinocchio Syndrome
36. Mirror At the End of the Road


To take the hot churning, heavy soup
that bubbles and spills and burns –
bear the burden, oozing and spurting and splattering
until I can vent and then discharge it - in fits and starts - in throes -
and finally in burgeoning flows

To pour forth liquid cement
that hardens to concrete form

Drop deliberate pools of fluid
in delicate patterns
That read like melodious whispers
Firm enough for me to stand on

Release valve
Escape hatch


I explode out
and journey within

The pressure brings the peace

D.J. Morris


The moon was almost full tonight.

Inside, a candle sputtered,
its wick drowning in the molten wax.

From the bedroom, your snoring
came and went, the cadence
so familiar, like my own breath.

Mary Kendall


A harp upon a painter’s canvas – no, a loom
of strings on a soundbox – shadow-
box infused with light. He weaves the lines
of words, fingers working pigment as he plucks
the strings. Dragonflies, scarlet flecks
of sun on blue-green moving water, Japanese
melody for clarinet, breath, and lute.
A swirl of cadmium, alizarin, viridian implies
depths beyond the screen. I couldn’t see
the heron till its sword-strike
trailed off into eddies silvering – frog
in a heron’s bill. River music smoothing  
an assonance of saffron afternoon,
words of a love song half remembered –
deepening to sunset carnelian and amber, too
much all at once coming together, image
and color bursting with the threads of chords cut
short, shorn ends brilliant against purple
dark. What’s left? Flicker-flame
to catch a moth, the next night’s dream
where line and breath meet vision.

Taylor Graham


If I were to make a book
of how I got here,
to the untarnished cynicism,
the distaste
and distrust for the word “love”
in certain contexts,
my mockery of marriage,

its title would be Undecided

The first chapter would be the story
of waking up in the middle of the night
to hear my parents
on the other side of the wall
making war,
my mother’s muffled sobs
and the way we were always
counting down for the final blow
that never came,
the Hiroshima,
the complete obliteration.
Instead, it was a slow,
insidious corrosion,
like chemical waste
that seeped into our drinking water.
It would tell how at twelve I used to insist
I would never get married,
“I like to learn from the mistakes of others,” I’d say.

The second chapter would explain
how, at one point when I was young and naïve,
I managed to recover some faith,
believe that love was more than just a fable
people pretend to believe for a while.
I wrapped myself in first love,
until I became invisible,
indivisible from us,
and even when he betrayed me
in the garden,
I got lost in the kiss to my cheek.
I became the sacrifice for his sins,
laid out upon the altar of indifference.
I learned that when a man says,
“I don’t deserve you”
it’s probably true.

Chapter three would tell how I have learned
to weight every expectation with “we’ll see”
or end every update with “so far”.
It would explain why I mean it when I say,
“If you put me in a position to choose between
loving myself
and loving you,
I will choose myself every time.”

Chapter four would illuminate
how I learned to be alone,
how I grew to love its lack of limits,
how I learned to have sex with sensation
instead of feeling
or attachment,
how I began to use the altar of indifference
to save myself.

Chapter five would be called “and so on”
and tell the stories of the various comings and goings,
the exhaustion of the journey.
It would show that sometimes I can still throw myself
into the ring of passion,
but for the most part I have developed the ability to brush off rejection
like a biting horse fly,
letting it be more irritating than painful.

Chapter six would be a diatribe
on how I am not afraid to be alone,
but I am afraid of being so bitter and so cynical,
how I understand that I am the one who suffers the most,
how I swung on the pendulum
from inability to be without love
to inability to be with love,
and I know I just need to fall back to the center.

Chapter seven would be a blank page.

Hannah Cushing


Life often seems like a mystery
A bunch of unknown destinations
I find myself in deep contemplation
Desperate for direction

If only I had a road map
And a magnifying glass to see the small print
My time would be much wiser spent
While exerting half the effort

I would have psychic capabilities
A crystal ball
To see into the near and distant future
Leaving little room for spontaneity

But then I would be rather naïve
Attempting to deceive only “Self “
Within lies a wealth of knowledge
Waiting to be discovered

Even though my hopes and dreams
May seem far fetched
It pays to sometimes stretch the imagination
Drifting deep into the abyss

For if nothing is risked,
One can never gain
Just like a blind man
Attempting to walk without the support of his

Life has its share of uncertainty
Minimal security for territory yet to be embarked
We only define our true destiny
After leaping in the dark.

Lakia Montgomery


My name, my number.
Two questions, that order.
Didn’t take you long to suspect my exposure to
Whiskey wind and champagne chinook
My breath,
painting blush on your neck,
is the give away.
The give away, your beckoning.

I say my name is sovereignty,
Rhymes with seduction.
You wink.
I say my name is the label on your bottle
And you drive me, full throttle,
until the last bitter drop hits your drunken-numbed lips.
You smile, purr.
I say, your name is the mixer to my liquor,
the cherry to my Shirley,
the chaser to my shot.
And I taste it, your breath,
Doused in ethanol pure and steely,
Twin to my own, matching in content.

Shift here, sway there
Come get me, your blurry-eyed imbiber.
You stumble, and so quickly
My cheek is near yours, our follicles prickling
Our skins sharing heartbeats
Like buoyant electricity
Every nerve in my soma awakened,
My sangre ebullient from the vicarious whiskey,
Coursing its way through my sidewalks,
Pushing its nature upon me.

Happy drinks, happy liquors:
Ephemeral in memory
But ardent on breath
Yours fusing with mine
When, at last, space grows slim
And like martini, we mix.

Linden Azalea


Mom's boyfriend is big.
The snow melts against her skin,
and it hurts so bad.

Kevin Siefken


but don't just write a sonnet, don't
drone your rhymes and dull ink scratches,
can you perhaps smell it, let the words
drift in the air to catch wandering
people with a taste for your thoughts
or hear each line sing like a sheet
of music, with sweet harmonies in all
their majors and minors, or touch it
just place your hand on the page and feel
the bumps and dips and mountains and valleys
of each feeling and then soar through them
and go along strangely colored skies,
let fly your hands in the clouds and snatch
godliness and goodliness and sweetliness
from them or for them, and then see your
sonnet, standing or sitting, smiling or frowning,
but surely being, like a child and just as
naive and frail, and then send it off as
you should, into sunrises and sets...

but don't ever just write a sonnet,
can you live it?

Matthew Stalbaum


Your genius
Is belied by your insecurity.
You walk the path of darkness,
And while others may see your light,
You question the strength of your thoughts.

Your genius
Is veiled by the truth
Of your heart.
Your sincere attempts to help others
Overshadow the knowledge by which that desire is formed.

Your genius
Cannot be seen by your naked, inward-looking eye.
Your doubt is evident to others,
But also is the deepness with which your thoughts,
Strained by your doubt, converge to form prodigious ideas.

Your genius
Will be the death of you.
You will never believe in the strength of your mind,
And you will wallow in despair with the knowledge
That your genius is your demon.

Frances Reinus