Weekly Prompt: Unromantic Love Poems

Portrait of Old Friends.

Valentine’s Day, with its often-saccharine greeting card verses and glossy commercial sentiments (not to mention its frequent misquotations of everyone from Shakespeare to Emily Dickinson), is at hand once again, and what better time of year than to give that tricky (and oft-abused) specimen—the love poem—a subversive spin?  I’m not talking about writing penny dreadfuls or anguished emo laments (we are not Death Cab for Cutie here).  I’m talking about defying expectation completely with regards to what a “love poem” is and/or should be.  In a sense, the love poem (as it is known in contemporary popular culture) is very much akin to the ode, in that the tone and subject matter of its address tends to elevate the “you” with the use of high language and often ornate imagery.    The purpose of the exercises that follow are to invite you to write against this sense of elevation while still retaining, in some way, at least a loose engagement with the intimacy, tenderness, or intensity of the close gaze in which the speaker of a love poem might hold the object of his or her affection.  To, in short, write against and across cliché and into something that is bold, surprising, and new.

Prompt: Write an “unromantic” love poem.  Some ideas:

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Weekly Prompt: The Poem of Invocation

This week we’ll be experimenting with poems of invocation; that is, poems that employ direct address to construct and position a “You.”  When thinking of the “addressee” of a poem, we are often tempted to think simply of audience.  In the poem of invocation, however, “You” is a much more active presence in the poem; it is actually called into being, by the poem.  For example, by saying, “You come and stand before me,” one literally creates a “you” who materializes through the mechanism of the direct address, comes before the speaker, and stands—at least, in the world of the poem.

To view poetry in this light transforms the art of versifying into a kind of conjurer’s art, which is what happens every time we write: we conjure people, places, events, and affective states, some of which are “real,” and some of which are purely imagined.  It also grants the poet the power of creation.

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