When I started teaching creative writing workshops, I found myself looking for more prompts to help my students think outside the box. I was introduced to the works of Raymond Queneau, Italo Calvino, and other Oulipo writers who create works using constrained writing techniques. Finding Oulipian methods tremendously useful, I searched for and created other experimental writing prompts, not only for my workshops, but also for my own poetic practice. Here are some particularly handy examples:
- Dialogue with Ghosts
Find an audio recording of a dead poet or musician. Play the recording. Start writing words that jump in your head, lines of your own. Write a 10-14 line poem using the words you jotted down, either in response to the original poem/song or a completely new piece.
- Reverse Poem
Find a draft of a poem you’ve already written. Rewrite your new poem backwards, writing the last stanza first and so on. The new order might reveal something new and exciting.
- Table of Contents Poem
Use the table of contents of any book to find each line for your found poem.
- Online Erasure Poem
Go to Wave Books’ Erasures website to find online source texts, with excerpts ranging from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick to The Voyage Out by Virginia Wolf. The cool website lets you click on any word or punctuation mark to make it disappear. You can save, print, or email the newly sculpted text when you’re done.
Bio: Greg Santos is author of two full-length poetry collections, Rabbit Punch! (DC Books, 2014) and The Emperor’s Sofa (DC Books, 2010). He received an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School in New York City. He teaches creative writing to at-risk youth and is the poetry editor for carte blanche. He lives in Montreal with his family.