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Hello, dear regulars and new pub visitors, this round is on me… Just name your favourite tipple (that’s a British term for drinks) and Marina Sofia will employ all her cocktail-making skills…

shacklesTonight I want to talk about poetry prompts. Do you love them or hate them? How easy do you find it to write to a prompt? Do you always need to have absolute creative freedom or do the constraints of a prompt free you up to try something different, experiment a little?

I have to admit my first reaction when faced with a prompt is to panic, attempt to run away and invoke my everlasting busy-ness as a reason why I should wriggle out of it. And yet, every time I have taken part in a prompt, whether here on dVerse or at a workshop or as part of a writing course, I have enjoyed it tremendously after the fact. Also, I have always come up with some valuable material that could then form the basis for further poetry.

Invention seems to come out of problem-solving. If we are faced with the puzzle of a prompt, especially a completely unexpected one, it forces us to step out of the comfortable groove of our daily thinking. Here is what the composer Igor Stravinsky said about working with constraints and prompts:

The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision of execution.

We have had many fantastic prompts over the past 4 years at dVerse. Some of the most memorable ones (for me) have been: mixing metaphors, or my first encounter with the poetic form of pantoum, or jumping in to the surreal Dadaist experience. What have been some of your favourites? Which ones did you find particularly challenging or rewarding?

So let’s have a cosy chat about the pros and cons of poetry prompts – and hopefully that will motivate us to participate in more of them in the future… even when we feel like running away!