A poem-a-day for National Poetry Month

Prompt #10: Mad Libs

Today’s prompt comes from poet Sage Cohen.

Make a Mad Lib

Following are two poems that employ imagery and music in ways that are not confined to telling a clear, linear narrative. Notice how these poets use language. What does the skin of an orange have to do with being unmarried? How does scenery sharpen like a pencil? After fully breathing in the experience of each poem, fill in the blanks to create your own Mad Libs version. (You can do one or both; or riff on this in some other way that speaks to you.)

Feel free to be experimental with language, and to use words that feel right but don’t necessarily make “sense.” The trick is to find a way to get loose, without thinking too much as you write.

This is one of my very favorite exercises, as it has yielded some of the wildest and most interesting results…Have fun!

Jacksonville, Vermont

By Jason Shinder

 

Because I am not married, I have the skin of an orange

 

that has spent its life in the dark. Inside the orange

I am blind. I cannot tell when a hand reaches in

 

and breaks the atoms of the blood. Sometimes

 

a blackbird will bring the wind into my hair.

Or the yellow clouds falling on the cold floor are animals

 

beginning to fight each other out of their drifting misery.

 

All the women I have known have been ruined by fog

and the deer crossing the field at night.

 

*****

 

_________, __________ [City, State]

 

Because I am not ____________, I have the skin of an _________

 

that has spent its life _______ _______ _______. Inside the ________

I am ________. I cannot tell when a __________ reaches in

 

and ___________ the atoms of the ___________. Sometimes

 

a __________ will bring the _________ into my _________.

Or the yellow _____________ falling on the __________ floor are __________

 

beginning to _________ each other out of their drifting ____________.

 

All the ____________ I have known have been ____________ by fog

and the _____________ crossing the ____________ at night.

 

*****

 

From Inside Great Distances

By Walid Bitar

From inside great distances (don’t call them dreams)

midnight is smaller than usual,

as are the ponies. Inside great distances,

unlike airplanes, are not seats

and the people far away enough

to shout to (at least the talk isn’t small)

have no laps or throats when they sit beside

their donkeys and don Quixotes, pretending

to be mirages in a cold climate. The scenery

sharpens like a pencil in my ear.

It sketches itself, and I hear of this

a bird you can color with the whites

and marbles of villas back home, bird otherwise

invisible as the price of land.

An hour, too, is invisible; why are

you feeding it at your breast, growing

it into days, months, years?

Leave it alone; visit me a little to

the North; people shave their heads

into mirrors here; I

remain (on the outside) myself.

 

*****

From Inside Great _______________

From inside great ______________ (don’t call them _____________)

________________ is smaller than usual,

as are the ______________. Inside great ______________,

unlike ______________, are not ______________

and the people ______________enough

to ______________ to (at least the ______________ isn’t small)

have no ______________ or ______________ when they sit beside

their ______________ and don ______________, pretending

to be ______________ in a cold climate. The scenery

sharpens like a ______________ in my ear.

It ______________ itself, and I hear of this

a ______________you can color with the whites

and marbles of ______________ back home, ______________ otherwise

invisible as the price of ______________.

An ______________, too, is invisible; why are

you feeding it at your ______________, growing

it into ______________?

Leave it alone; ______________ me a little to

the ______________; people shave their heads

into ______________ here; I

remain (on the outside) ______________.

* * * * *

 

***

Reminders for Participants: You can post your poem below in the comments, offer a link back to your site where the poem is posted, or comment about the experience of writing the poem (without actually posting the poem). If you’re going to comment on other participant’s poems, please remember that this is not a critique space — comments should be kept thoughtful and supportive. Lastly, remember you don’t have to use the prompt to write your poem — they’re here for your inspiration but they’re certainly not a requirement.

Let the Wild Poeming Being!

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44 responses

  1. Sage, I love these prompts so much. They feel more like play than poetry, and yet something amazing always comes from them. Looking forward to tackling them tomorrow!

    April 9, 2011 at 9:06 pm

  2. Brilliant prompts, Sage. Not sure I can do justice to them but really keen to have a go. Later…

    April 10, 2011 at 2:08 am

  3. b_y

    I always enjoy this sort of thing, even though it’s hard to let go.
    Is Cheating Punishable by Distemper?

    April 10, 2011 at 4:51 am

    • I love these two, Barbara.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:49 pm

  4. Single In Florida

    Because I am not with a man, I have the skin of an artichoke
    that has spent its life hidden beneath the layers. Inside the thick skin I am tender and soft. I cannot tell when a moment of opportunity reaches in and seeks out the atoms of the bottom of my heart. Sometimes a symphony will bring the hope back into my soul. Or the yellow flower petals falling on the tile floor are the protective guardians of my life beginning to shake each other out of their drifting slumber. All the solitude I have known has been shaped by fog and the fears I have felt crossing the road of my dreams at night.

    April 10, 2011 at 6:56 am

    • Beautiful Jenny.Love the images you have used. Yes our last lines are similar!

      April 10, 2011 at 9:13 am

    • Wow. Beautiful work, Jenny.

      April 10, 2011 at 11:05 am

      • Thank you so much. Your comment encouraged me. 🙂

        April 10, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    • Great interpretation, Jenny.

      April 10, 2011 at 12:40 pm

  5. Pingback: My Garden - Uma Gowrishankar :: Bangalore, Karnataka :: April :: 2011

  6. Here is my poem to the prompt. Lovely prompt, enjoyed writing my poem : http://umaathreya.blogsome.com/2011/04/10/bangalore-karnataka/

    April 10, 2011 at 8:34 am

  7. Felt too fragile for adlibs today, though it’s a lovely idea!

    Here’s my Sunday poem:

    http://nikkimagennis.blogspot.com/2011/04/now-let.html

    April 10, 2011 at 10:30 am

    • Sorry you’re ill, Nikki; get well soon. Hasn’t stopped your deftness of touch, though. Good one.

      April 10, 2011 at 12:47 pm

  8. Pingback: Fill in the blanks « Tony Linde

  9. That was fun. I couldn’t get anywhere with the ‘From Inside’ one: not enough imagination or not enough blanks 🙂

    So, I worked on the first poem with the result at http://wp.me/pbg4K-3E.

    April 10, 2011 at 11:20 am

  10. Pingback: Poem#10 – Lummi Island, Washington « Black Satin

  11. Haven’t done a Mad Lib in a long time, this was a lot of fun.
    http://jacquezyon.wordpress.com/2011/04/10/poem10-lummi-island-washington/

    April 10, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    • chloe

      like a lot!!

      April 10, 2011 at 6:53 pm

  12. dorlamoorehouse

    No prompt today. Posting stuff I wrote at AIPF this weekend. http://dorlamoorehouse.com/2011/04/10/napowrimo-day-10-4/

    April 10, 2011 at 12:36 pm

  13. Bill Noble

    I love these playful prompts, but I’m terrible, just terrible, at using them.

    Two peaceful days together are the rarest of commodities in our lives, but this is Birthday Weekend . . .

    I WAKE BEFORE MY BELOVED

    After following the dreams
    trembling behind her eyelids,
    after the luxury of long watching
    without a single touch, I curl
    behind her and she turns,
    unconscious and connected,
    and curls back into me.
    The fuzzy bulk of genitals
    nestle perfectly in that space
    between welcoming thighs;
    the covers in this too-warm,
    unfamiliar birthday room
    drift down to the shadows
    of our hips; my embracing arm
    mirrors the crook of hers,
    my hand resting easy
    over the fine hair of her forearm.
    We breathe in almost perfect
    synchrony in this familiar,
    perfected peace, free
    of necessity, without need
    for belief, in the timelessness
    of our quick and mortal lives.

    Written on my phone,
    5:17 am, April 10, 2011

    April 10, 2011 at 1:22 pm

  14. Pingback: Fill in the blanks 2 « Tony Linde

  15. I couldn’t leave the second prompt alone, so my even weirder poem for today takes that on:
    http://wp.me/pbg4K-3F

    April 10, 2011 at 1:39 pm

  16. The prompt at the Poetic Asides blog brought out a very heavy poem, so this one was really fun to do to lift the weight off. Thanks, Sage.

    My Own Private, Idaho

    Because I am not wanted, I have the skin of an infant

    that has spent its life under various stones. Inside the belly

    I am cold. I cannot tell when a fire reaches in

    and incinerates the atoms of the heart. Sometimes

    a lizard will bring the dream into my world.

    Or the yellow lions falling on the tiled floor are withered

    beginning to find each other out of their drifting petals.

    All the ravens I have known have been borne by fog

    and the rooster crossing the road at night.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:58 pm

  17. Robin Elizabeth Sampson

    I was wrong, I thought my brain was working well enough to do these, but they’re just going to have to wait until tomorrow.

    April 10, 2011 at 4:33 pm

  18. I’m amused to try these prompts at some point and see what results, but life handed me a different poem today.

    http://teresanoelleroberts.blogspot.com/2011/04/i-told-you-id-do-real-poem-today.html

    April 10, 2011 at 5:07 pm

  19. chloe

    MIDWAY BETWEEN PACIFIC AND ATLANTIC
     
    Because I am not twenty two, thirty six, or even fifty, I have the skin of an old person,

    that has spent its life a little too dry, a little too taught, too rocky. Inside the mind of a young girl

    I am eight in dog years, I cannot tell when a poker, or a soothing breeze reaches in

    and touches the atoms of the cinders. Sometimes

    a look, a word will bring the bull into my dog.

    Or the yellow stinking bile and growls falling on the sub-floor are still what I mean to say from the

    beginning to the very end, words of fear and love and hate each other out of their drifting order.

    All the twilights I have known have been obscured by fog and the shadows crossing the threshold at night.
     

    April 10, 2011 at 5:37 pm

  20. Pingback: National Poetry Month Day #10

  21. My time and brains were rather scattered today but I did do these:

    http://www.artsroundup.com/wp/?p=2906

    April 10, 2011 at 7:01 pm

  22. Very cool prompt ideas. You’ve given a great tool to work with. I love Jennie’s interpretation!

    April 10, 2011 at 7:52 pm

  23. This is something so utterly beyond my normal that I felt compelled to try at least the first one. I have no idea yet how this came out:

    http://lovesgoodfood.com/jason/posts/Day_10_2011-2/

    April 10, 2011 at 8:37 pm

  24. Great prompts, great poetry. Mad Libs are delicious.

    Taking some sun from yesterday into Sunday

    It is always at the lake when spring first turns the wind insistent and moist
    Folding rays into still-cold layers
    The white-laced sky heats earth and skin at different depths
    A soft-boiled egg with a perfectly liquid yolk

    April 10, 2011 at 8:50 pm

  25. Jennifer P-W

    Day #10, writing to the prompt:

    Seabeck, Washington:

    Because I am not beautiful, I have the skin of an oyster

    that has spent its life waiting for sun. Inside the dome of the sea

    I am nearly invisible. I cannot tell when a starfish reaches in

    and claims the atoms of my imagination.
    Sometimes

    a vortex will bring a voice into my shell.

    Or the yellow flutes falling on the arrhythmic floor are birds

    beginning to pierce each other out of their drifting perversions.

    All the stories I have known have been erased by fog

    and the lighthouse crossing the storm at night.

    JPW 4/10/2011

    April 10, 2011 at 10:22 pm

  26. Had a hard time making the monkey brain shut up long enough to hear a poem in this. I don’t think madlib poems are a strength of mine. (I do improvisational storytelling this way, 3 nouns, 2 adjectives, a verb, and a number between 1 and 10, but that’s different.)

    http://feedingthegeek.tumblr.com/post/4518446261/port-defiance-washington

    April 11, 2011 at 12:00 am

  27. Noun

    Asked to step into the teacher’s lounge, 1973, for some forgotten reason
    I walked into a fog of cigarette smoke, my eyes watered.
    Almost every teacher, even my beloved Mrs. Landry, was puffing
    And though this was when smoke and smoking everywhere was likely
    Some sort of innocence fell from my eyes.

    Rainy day recess was Mad-Libs and no break for teachers.
    Adverb, called Mrs. Landry. Adjective. Verb. I waited.
    Noun, she said. Cigarette, I answered.
    I felt devilish and angry and unreasonably betrayed. Why?
    As she moved to dismiss my noun she met my eye and understood me.

    Refusing to accept shame or craving she wrote the word down.
    She wrote the word cigarette twice as big as the other words.
    And always after that she spoke to me like an adult,
    After the day of the story about an elephant spy and his golden cigarette,
    With a casual-quick cadence of assumed camaraderie achieved only

    By growing up…but I hadn’t.

    April 11, 2011 at 7:58 am

  28. My version of the City, State poem for day 10:

    Seven Beaches, MG

    Because I am not caged, I have the skin of a skateboard

    that has spent its life on cold handrails. Inside the shelter
    I am thirteen. I cannot tell when a light reaches in

    and free the atoms of the dead. Sometimes

    a rice ball brings the gods into my stomach.
    Or the yellow beams falling on the grassy floor are angels

    beginning to lift each other out of their drifting streams.

    All the dreams I have known have been replaced by fog
    and the stardust crossing the sky at night.

    I made this one with these kids in mind, a band of young skaters in Shichigahama, Miyagi prefecture (http://www.afpbb.com/article/disaster-accidents-crime/disaster/2794811/7063575). I certainly couldn’t tell any story on behalf of them, and therefore used an imaginary place name for the title here.

    *FYI, a grain of rice is often said to house seven gods inside it (though I’m not sure, begin 30, if young kids in Japan today know that saying).

    April 11, 2011 at 11:03 am

  29. My version of the City, State poem for day 10:

    Seven Beaches, MG

    Because I am not caged, I have the skin of a skateboard

    that has spent its life on cold handrails. Inside the shelter
    I am thirteen. I cannot tell when a light reaches in

    and free the atoms of the dead. Sometimes

    a rice ball brings the gods into my stomach.
    Or the yellow beams falling on the grassy floor are angels

    beginning to lift each other out of their drifting streams.

    All the dreams I have known have been replaced by fog
    and the stardust crossing the sky at night.

    I made this one with these kids in mind, the young skaters in Shichigahama, Miyagi prefecture (http://www.afpbb.com/article/disaster-accidents-crime/disaster/2794811/7063575). I certainly couldn’t tell any story on behalf of them, and therefore used an imaginary place name for the title here.

    *FYI, a grain of rice is often said to house seven gods inside it (though I’m not sure, begin 30, if young kids in Japan today know that saying).

    April 11, 2011 at 11:06 am

  30. Kosuke Miyata

    My version of the City, State poem for day 10:

    Seven Beaches, MG

    Because I am not caged, I have the skin of a skateboard

    that has spent its life on cold handrails. Inside the shelter
    I am thirteen. I cannot tell when a light reaches in

    and free the atoms of the dead. Sometimes

    a rice ball brings the gods into my stomach.
    Or the yellow beams falling on the grassy floor are angels

    beginning to lift each other out of their drifting streams.

    All the dreams I have known have been replaced by fog
    and the stardust crossing the sky at night.

    I made this one with these kids in mind, the young skaters in Shichigahama, Miyagi prefecture ( http://www.afpbb.com/article/disaster-accidents-crime/disaster/2794811/7063575 ). I certainly couldn’t tell any story on behalf of them, and therefore used an imaginary place name for the title here.

    *FYI, a grain of rice is often said to house seven gods inside it (though I’m not sure, begin 30, if young kids in Japan today know that saying).

    April 11, 2011 at 11:07 am

  31. Decided to use the Walid Bitar poem, and I like the way it came out (also, sorry I’m late):

    http://thegermoftheidea.blogspot.com/2011/04/from-inside-great-thunderstorms.html

    April 11, 2011 at 5:13 pm

  32. This one was VERY difficult to do. But here’s my humble attempt.

    http://mizadventurez.blogspot.com/2011/04/mad-libs.html

    April 12, 2011 at 6:32 am

  33. Robin Elizabeth Sampson

    I did both. A couple days late. This was much harder than I thought it would be.

    Gualala, California

    Because I am not dead, I have the skin of an redwood
    that has spent its life living with fire. Inside the forest
    I am hiding. I cannot tell when a friend reaches in

    and caresses the atoms of the mind. Sometimes

    a spiderweb will bring the sky into my face.
    Or the yellow cones falling on the mossy floor are now

    beginning to trick each other out of their drifting homeward.

    All the nights I have known have been invaded by fog
    and the words crossing the mind at night.

    AND

    From Inside Great Worries

    From inside great worries (don’t call them anxiety)
    patience is smaller than usual,
    as are the seeds. Inside great barrels,
    unlike jars, are not poems
    and the people silly enough
    to scratch to (at least the paper isn’t small)
    have no thoughts or questions when they sit beside
    their love and don leather, pretending
    to be tolerant in a cold climate. The scenery
    sharpens like a trombone in my ear.
    It carves itself, and I hear of this
    a wall you can color with the whites
    and marbles of childhood back home, shadows otherwise
    invisible as the price of life.
    An envelope, too, is invisible; why are
    you feeding it at your leisure, growing
    it into envy?
    Leave it alone; abandon me a little to
    the shadow; people shave their heads
    into hedgerows here; I
    remain (on the outside) hiding.

    April 12, 2011 at 12:13 pm