Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

Former Vermont Laureates Sydney Lea (Poet) and James Kochalka (Cartoonist) on their latest collaboration, The Exquisite Triumph of Wormboy (Word Galaxy). 

 

This week I have a visual Write the Book Prompt to share, thanks to the illustrative talents of James Kochalka, and inspired by the way he and Sydney Lea worked together on Wormboy. Have a look at the book's cover and see what words come to mind! Maybe try to write a poem or a short scene. Maybe a brief lyrical essay. Whatever you choose to write, good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

 

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Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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"Choreopoet" Monica Prince, as interviewed by guest host, Kim MacQueen. Among other works, they discuss Monica's choreopoem How to Exterminate the Black Woman. (PANK Books)

This week’s Write the Book Prompts were suggested by Kim’s guest, Monica Prince. She says the first was inspired by Fear No Lit in Lancaster, Pennsylvania:

  • Set a timer for 2 minutes. Write the word “WATER” at the top of your page. For the next two minutes, write down everything you can think of related to this word. (Don’t stop writing! If you get stuck, doodle or write the alphabet until you think of more to write.)
  • Once the timer goes off, reread your list. Circle the idea that most surprised you.
  • Set another timer for 10 minutes. Write a poem in response to/related to/about the idea you circled. Keep writing until the timer goes off.

Monica's second prompt is a poetry writing exercise, inspired by emojis:

Write a poem translating the emojis below. Feel free to go from left to right, right to left, up to down, down to up, diagonal, or at random. Make sure you include all the emojis. (I suggest crossing them off as you use them.) You must use every emoji at least once.

Tips: Instead of using traditional definitions of these emojis, think about what else they could represent. Don’t be afraid to only tangentially use some of them, while with others you might use for deeper meanings.

Description of emojis from left to right, top to bottom:

Row 1: Smiley face with sunglasses; sheep’s face; box of popcorn; swimmer

Row 2: World map; Chinese lantern; paint brush; fleur-de-lis (stylized lily)

Row 3: Green chick; baby bottle; golden key; silver crow

Row 4: Mind blown smiley face; dove; chocolate glazed donut with sprinkles; fireworks

Row 5: Theatre masks; hourglass; pills; rainbow flag

Row 6: Speaking bubble; flower bouquet; swiss cheese; racquet and ball

Row 7: Mosque; smiley face with mouth zipped shut; waxing/waning moon; crystal ball

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For an example of what this might look like, see this link to Carina Finn and Stephanie Berger's emoji poem published on Poetry Foundation. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Fiona McCrae, Director and Publisher of the Minneapolis-based literary publisher, Graywolf Press

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Fiona McCrae. Consider the Black Lives Matter movement and the murder of George Floyd, and write. Maybe write from the perspective of someone with different or more extreme opinions than your own. Or write from two distinct perspectives. Or perhaps write from the point of view of someone who has one opinion, but is somehow personally affected by the movement in a way that amplifies, changes, or even negates that opinion. In responding to this current moment in history, consider your goal to be one of inspiring meaningful dialogue. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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American Poet, Essayist and Translator J. Chester Johnson, whose new memoir is Damaged Heritage: The Elaine Race Massacre and A Story of Reconciliation (Pegasus).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider your own family’s leanings when it comes to filiopietism, that veneration, often excessive, of ancestors or tradition. Does this exist in your own circle of relatives? Do people excuse behaviors because it’s just how the family has always been? Do you have beliefs based largely on what you were raised to think but have never questioned? Are there, even,  certain artifacts hidden away in your home that you keep simply because they belonged to a great grandfather or grandmother? If so, think about why you keep them, why you believe what you believe, why you cling to what you cling to, what you might shed of your family’s past if you could (or what you would not), and then write about it.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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American academic and political advisor, Stanley "Huck" Gutman, who writes a newsletter about poetry which is distributed by email and through the UVM listserv, "Poetry."

See below for links to pages featuring some of the works that Huck and I discuss during the interview. 

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Huck Gutman, who writes:

The surprising subject of many, many poems of the past two hundred years has been the need to pay attention to what is right in front of us, of what is so ‘ordinary’ that we look at it, through it, but don’t see it.  In some sense, our lived reality is invisible to us; in our habitual movement through our lives, we don’t pay attention to what is actually there in front of us and around us.

So as a writing prompt, I would suggest writing about something right in front of you that you don’t normally ‘see.’  For many, this is an object; for some, like Wordsworth, it is a person who seems ordinary but who has that amazing spark that is the emblem of life. 

 Among the life of ordinary things is where our existence takes place.  A poem can recognize that in the ‘ordinary’ are the things that make our world our world.  Write about such a thing.  (If you want to see what this looks like, lots of William Carlos Williams poems do this; so do a lot of poems by Elizabeth Bishop; so do the remarkable ‘Odes’ to common things that Pablo Neruda wrote in the later years of his life…) (For ‘ordinary’ people, there is Wordsworth; there is always that superlative writer – though not a poet – Anton Chekov. )

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

Works Discussed:

Paul Celan, "Once" 

T.S. Eliot, "The Waste Land"

Zbigniew Herbert, "Five Men"

Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried"

Stevie Smith, "Not Waving But Drowning"

Wallace Stevens, "Sunday Morning"

Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself 47 "

C.K. Williams, "Jew On Bridge"

William Carlos Williams:

"Calypso II"

"This is Just to Say"

"Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"

William Wordsworth, Extracts from the Prelude: [Ascent of Snowdon]

Paul Zimmer, "A Romance for the Wild Turkey"

 

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Vermont Poet James Crews, whose new collection is Bluebird (Green Writers Press).

As a Write the Book Prompt for this interview, let's consider Ted Kooser's advice for James Crews, mentioned during our conversation: Open a poem like a handshake.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

This is one of several shorter interviews Shelagh is conducting with Vermont authors whose new books have had their tours upended by Corona.  

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Vermont Poet Scudder Parker, whose new collection of poems is Safe as Lightning (Rootstock Press).

Write the Book Prompt: Consider Scudder Parker’s advice about not being intimidated to write poetry. He says to turn to the singer songwriters you love and read their lyrics. Realize you’ve been experiencing poetry all your life, in the words of hymns, arias, folk songs, and pop music. All of that is poetry set to music. Poetry tries to create music. Don’t be intimidated by trying to write poetry. You’ve been feeling the mystery of it and the rhythm of it all your life. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

This is one of several shorter interviews Shelagh is conducting with Vermont authors whose new books have had their tours upended by Corona. Stay tuned: there will be more! 

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Vermont Poet Judith Chalmer, whose new collection of poems is Minnow (Kelsay Press). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Judith Chalmer. Start observing using your hand. This can be a very rich approach to writing, Judith says, because what comes to hand can be physical and what comes to hand can be metaphysical. The hand itself is a landscape that can be a wonderful subject. But apart from that, the exercise offers a way of starting close in and moving out, with observation as the starting point. Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

Like many authors with recent book publications in the age of the Corona Virus, Judith Chalmer found herself in the predicament of having a book, but no launch or physical book tour. In order to help these authors find their audience, Write the Book is offering a series of mini-interviews with Vermont authors whose launches have been cancelled. Check back for more of these short-but-deep conversations on craft. And if you want to investigate her book through Judith's local bookseller, that would be Bear Pond Books in Montpelier. 

 

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Vermont Author Kerrin McCadden, whose new chapbook is Keep This to Yourself (Button Poetry). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Kerrin McCadden. 

  • Choose 12 words you like the sound of (mostly 1-2 syllable words). Include a place name, a weather element, a geological feature, some verbs, and a garment in your list.
  • Set a timer for 7 minutes. 
  • Begin writing. Do not stop. Do not cross out anything you write. Use at least 10 out of 12 of the words on the list. You may modify word forms to fit the sentences as they emerge. If you had the word “belt” you could use “belted,” for instance.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Author Abby Frucht, whose new collection of prose poems is Maids (Matter Press)

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was inspired by my conversation with Abby Frucht. In her own book, Maids, Abby followed one poem in which, as a child, she snuggles with her mom at the end, with a poem titled “Spoons,” which does not relate directly to the concept of snuggling or "spooning." And yet, because of the relevant placement of the works in the collection, they somehow do. Abby talked about an exercise that she gives her students, encouraging them to look at the beginnings and endings of different pieces they’ve written, and see how they might choose to order a collection. This week, if you are the author of poems, stories, or essays, have a look at your pieces and consider how they might best fit together into a collection. Watch beginnings and endings for ideas, words, expressions, or intentions that somehow speak to each other. Think about how they might work in transition, from one to the other.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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New interview with Author, Poet, and former Vermont Poet Laureate Sydney Lea, whose new poetry collection is titled Here (Four Way Books). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write a villanelle. Syd Lea and I discussed his poem, “Old Lessons,” during our conversation, and he then explained what the poem’s form consists of. But here’s a recap, thanks to the Poetry Foundation (where you can also find examples): "The villanelle is a French verse form consisting of five three-line stanzas and a final quatrain, with the first and third lines of the first stanza repeating alternately in the following stanzas. These two refrain lines form the final couplet in the quatrain."

This week, write a villanelle! See what happens as you allow yourself this very specific form to contain the ideas that come.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

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Vermont Author and Musician Tony Whedon, whose essay collection Drunk In the Woods (Green Writers Press) was recently nominated for the Vermont Book Award.

I announced this week's "official" Write the Book Prompt after the broadcast's first interview, with Megan Price, but here's another: find a recording of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" (which Tony mentions in one of the poems read in this interview). Here's one. Play it. Turn it up, play it again. Don't like jazz? Don't be ridiculous. Turn it up and play it again! Sit down and write. See what happens. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion! (Now play it again!!!) 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Vermont Poet Michelle Demers, whose new collection is Green Mountain Zen (Blue Light Press). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Michelle Demers, who has a large staple of writing books from which she pulls exercises for herself and her classes. The exercise, titled "The Word Hoard," appears in The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing, by David Morley. Morley writes, “You should try to do this exercise every day, not only to keep your writing mind limber, but also to create a hoard of original and unusual phrases from which you can draw when you are writing. ‘Word hoard’ is a ‘kenning’ (a Norse poetic device ...), meaning ‘a supply of words’, such as a book, or vocabulary itself.”

Go to a shelf of books of fiction or poetry. Take one book at random. Close your eyes while opening that book and place your finger somewhere in it. Your finger will have landed on a word or words. Write the word down, as well as the three words preceding it and the three words following it in the text. You now have a seven-word phrase. Write this phrase in your notebook and, once you have written it, keep writing for five minutes. There are only two rules to this game: you must not stop writing; and you must not think. Try to write as fast as you can. You are not producing a work of art. After five minutes, you should have covered quite a lot of pages. Now read what you have written. Read it forwards, then read through it, word for word, backwards. Underline one phrase that strikes you as possessing any one of the following qualities: it has energy; it surprises you; it has never been written before in your language. The phrase must make a kind of sense; it must possess its own inner sense at the very least. That is, it must not be completely opaque in meaning. It might be a whole sentence, or it might be the end of one sentence and the beginning of the next. Now, write a short story or poem in which this phrase occurs without it seeming in any way out of place. You might wish to place the phrase into the mouth of a speaker in the poem or story, for example.

A I M : When we strive to be original, we tend to get tongue-tied, for we have been long taught that originality is no longer possible.  ... this ‘free-writing’ exercise is effective for warming up for writing, but it is also effective at creating unusual phrases, ones that possess a surprising amount of personal linguistic energy. You are trying to capture ideas and sentences that you would not ordinarily come up with consciously.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Award-winning author of books for young readers, Laurie Halse Anderson. Her latest is a memoir in verse, Shout (Viking). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Laurie Halse Anderson. If you were to write about a secret you’d never shared, what would you write?

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music: Aaron Shapiro

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Interview from the archives with award-winning Poet and Essayist Jim McGarrah, about his collection The Truth About Mangoes (Lamar University Press).

Thanks to Jim's title, The Truth About Mangoes, and to the fact that there's a lot in the news about what is true and what is false, this week's Write the Book Prompt is to write a poem, story, scene, or essay about a truth being seen differently from two or more perspectives. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion. 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Pulitzer Finalist and Tony-Nominated Playwright Sarah Ruhl, co-author with the late Max Ritvo of Letters From Max: a book of friendship (Milkweed Editions).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Sarah Ruhl: write a poem or a play that is a gift for someone.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion. 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Interview with former Vermont Governor Madeleine May Kunin about her memoir, Coming of Age: My Journey to the Eighties (Green Writers Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a transition from one era to another in your own life, as Madeleine May Kunin has written about her journey to the eighties. Are you a new teenager? A new parent? Have you recently gone through menopause? Have you retired? We are all forever going through transitions, but how often do we write about these changes in our lives, minds, bodies? 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Vermont Poet April Ossmann, whose new collection is Event Boundaries (Four Way Books). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, April Ossmann. It’s about extended metaphor, which we discussed during the interview. April says it makes for magic in poems. Often poets use metaphor but they drop it too soon and don’t explore it deeply enough. But when you push it and continue describing using the metaphor, that’s often when you get to a moment of epiphany or discovery and you realize something. The smarter part of the brain can then teach you something. Focus on describing in specific detail and keep the event or theme in the periphery of your brain. It’s a great exercise. Pick something for a metaphor and maybe in that description, write about something that wasn’t as you expected it to be or something that happened in a way other than how you expected it to happen.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont Poet Ralph Culver, recorded live in the studios at WBTV-LP. We discuss Ralph's new chapbook, So Be It.

Happy National Poetry Month! 

This week we have three Write the Book Prompts. Ralph suggested two during our conversation.

1) The first extends his point about how "ridiculously broad" or "OCD specific" prompts can be. You can tell someone "write twenty lines of blank verse," or you can be specific: Write twenty lines of blank verse representing one side of a phone conversation between two spouses who are arguing about money. (It's possible Ralph offered this prompt with tongue in cheek, but I liked it, so I'm including it here.)

2) Write a poem about something or someone you lost.

3) My own suggestion is inspired by Ralph's poem "Fill Up," in which the narrator notices his own distorted reflection in the metal of a dented car ashtray. The distortion is literal, but it bends the poem as well, affecting the way in which we think about what we've read. In your work this week, include a literal reflection in your poetry or prose. See how a reflection in water, a window, a mirror... might affect someone's view of him- or herself, or of someone else or their surroundings. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

 

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Vermont author Jill M. Allen, who will be reissuing her self-published story and ballad collection: The Green Mountains Deep: Fiction About Disabled Vermonters by a Disabled Vermonter, with Onion River Press (from Phoenix Books)  in the near future. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to think about your own abilities and obstacles, and write about how they affect you as you make your way in the world. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music by Aaron Shapiro

 

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Vermont Author Nancy Hayes Kilgore, whose new novel is Wild Mountain (Green Writers Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest Nancy Hayes Kilgore, who is a pastoral counselor and has been a parish pastor as well. She suggests considering, “What was your first spiritual experience? Where were you? What could you see and feel? What were your senses telling you at that time? What spiritual awakening might have come out of the moment?” Consider these questions, and use them as inspiration as you begin to write.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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A series of excerpts of past Write the Book Interviews with guests who have had some association with the Vermont Book Award, which will again be presented this Saturday, 9/23/17, at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. 

Missing from these excerpts are two related authors: Thomas Christopher Greene, president of VCFA, which founded the award, and Tanya Lee Stone, one of this year's judges. I simply didn't have time to excerpt all of the interviews I wanted to! But listen to their full interviews by clicking the links on their names. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week! 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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lvw.jpgInterview from the archives with then-president of the League of Vermont Writers, Deb Fennell.

It is now officially football season. The Bills have a win, the Patriots, a loss. But it’s early days. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a football game that begins in a friendly way and turns nasty. It can be about a Thanksgiving touch football game, or a group of old friends coming together to watch the Superbowl. It can be about high school parents, professional players, the fans, or the guy selling beer and hot dogs. Be sure to describe the weather, the smells and sounds and colors.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

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Nadine Budbill, daughter and literary executor of the late David BudbillVermont poet, playwright and author. We discuss David's life and work, in particular one of his last publications, Broken Wing, a beautiful Vermont allegorical tale about a rusty blackbird with a broken wing. A story of loneliness, survival, tenacity and will, Broken Wing is also about music and race and what it is like to be a minority in a strange place. With a brief conversation as well from Dede Cummings, whose press published the novel. (GWP

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to read some of David Budbill's work and let it inspire you in your own writing. His work was frequently included on the Minnesota Public Radio show The Writers' Almanac. Those poems can be accessed here.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion. 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont Poet, Publisher and Book Designer Dede Cummings, whose new poetry collection is To Look Out From (Homebound Publications).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is inspired by the conversation you just heard with Dede Cummings. Dede found the title for her collection To Look Out From, by researching the etymology of the name of the town where she was raised, Matunuck, RI. Matunuck, as we learn in the collection, is possibly a term that comes from a Southern New England Algonquian term meaning “high place,” “high point,” or “to look out from.” In your own world, is there a place name or otherwise relevant term that you hear all the time but perhaps have never investigated? Maybe you live in Winooski. Did you know that Winooski comes from an Abenaki term that means “Land of the Wild Onion?” Is your last name from a place you could research and learn more about? Do a little investigative work and then write a poem, a story or an essay that is inspired by what you learn.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion. 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Award-winning Irish/Vermont poet Greg Delanty, who teaches at Saint Michael's College.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write about an event that elicits skepticism from one person and awe from another. 

Good luck with this prompt and tune in next week for another. 

Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band that existed briefly in 2008 and 2009, featuring several South Burlington High School students - now grads)

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Two interviews about one book: former and current Vermont poets laureate Sydney Lea and Chard deNiord have collaborated to edit a new collection, Roads Taken - Contemporary Vermont Poetry (Green Writers' Press: Dede Cummings, Publisher). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to go outside and listen to the sounds around you - be they from birds, frogs, peepers, or your neighbors around the barbecue - and write. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion. 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Interview from the archives with Vermont Poet Jane Shore. We discuss her 2012 book, That Said: New and Selected Poems (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write a pantoum poem, just as Jane Shore wrote “Fortune’s Pantoum,” which she shared in our interview. Here's a link to a longer explanation of the pantoum, which comes from the site poets.org. Part of that explanation is this: "The modern pantoum is a poem of any length, composed of four-line stanzas in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza serve as the first and third lines of the next stanza. The last line of a pantoum is often the same as the first."

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion. 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Award-winning Poet and Essayist Jim McGarrah, whose new poetry collection is The Truth About Mangoes (Lamar University Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Jim McGarrah. Having taught writing for many years, Jim has used this prompt in his classes and says it’s a useful exercise for beginning or seasoned writers. If you get stuck, take a sheet of paper and fold it longwise. On one side, write good. On the other, write bad. On the good side, brainstorm a list of traits that you’ve inherited, which you feel glad or grateful about. On the other side, the opposite—write about the traits that you feel are negative. Make the list as long as you want, but be sure you have 4-5 points on each side. Use the list to write a poem. Address a member of your family. You can begin with the words, “I blame you for… but I’m glad for…” This gives you a way to begin writing from the list. Look at Carolyn Forché’s poem “The Morning Baking." The poem, which is written in couplets, has to do with the poet and her grandma. Jim says this poem shows the conflict she feels about the traits she’s inherited. His students have had good luck working with this exercise.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Award-Winning Poet Major Jackson, whose collection Roll Deep comes out in paperback February 28th (Norton).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write a poem that attempts to imitate the work of Major Jackson. Read some of his work yourself and think about intention, rhythm, meter, rhyme. Maybe write a golden shovel, where you choose a line from a poem by Major, and use each word in the line as an end word in your own poem. Keep the borrowed words in order.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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An interview from 2012 with Julia Alvarez about her then-new book, A Wedding in Haiti. She recently published a new book about death "for children of all ages," Where Do they Go?with illustrations by Vermont artist Sabra Field.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to consider Julia Alvarez's statement, "Part of us dies with the death of people we love." And to write.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music credits: 1) "Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) "Filter" - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

 

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Vermont writer Martin Magoun, author of the poetry collection Shattered and a memoir in essays, Russian Roulette: Depression, Suicide, Medication (DRUGS), published by Wharf Rat Books.

 

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to peek into a car that is not your own, and create a story based on what you see. What's in the back seat? Is it neat, messy, full of cans, full of books? Are there crumbs on the seat? Is there a car seat? Who owns this car, and what's their story?

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music credits: 1) "Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) "Filter" - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

 

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Vermont Poet Tony Whedon, whose new collection is The Hatcheck Girl (Green Writers Press/Sundog Poetry). 

This week, thanks to my guest Tony Whedon, we have two Write the Book Prompts: 

* Either imagine an attic or remember one from your past, and describe the things you see there.

* Find a piece of music that you don’t know that well and explore it with words as you listen.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music credits: 1) "Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) "Filter" - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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Vermont Poet Pamela Heinrich MacPherson, whose work keeping vigil with the dying inspires her poems, with her 2016 collection Vigil: The Poetry of Presence

This week’s Write the Book Prompt comes to us from Pam MacPherson, who suggests looking into the work of the “Wake Up to Dying” Project, an awareness and action campaign that encourages people to think and to talk about dying. In reading about the Montpelier-Vermont-based organization, you may find inspiration in the stories that you find.

Good luck with your work in the coming week. If you are having a difficult week, given the election and all of the uncertainty about what's to come, write about that. Write your fear and your anger, your hope and your dedication. And perhaps look into a cause that you can support on the local level to help your community.

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Marc Estrin and Donna Bister, founders of Vermont's Fomite Press, "a literary press whose authors and artists explore the human condition -- political, cultural, personal and historical -- in poetry and prose."

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Donna Bister. Write about your first pair of shoes. Or, if you can't remember them, write about your favorite shoes. 

Good luck with this prompt, and please listen next week for another!

Music credits: 1) "Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) "Filter" - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).


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Vermont Author Neil Shepard, whose new poetry collection is Vermont Exit Ramps II, with photographs by Anthony Reczek (Green Writers Press / Sundog).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider whether your own work feels at all strong armed or overly intentional. Can you maybe bring in some element that will lessen that or make it more subtle? In his poems, Neil brought in anagrams, fortunes from fortune cookies, signage that he saw on his travels. What can you introduce to take out the overly contrived or explained elements of your work? Neil suggested you could write a counter statement to every statement. Play around with this idea and see if you end up wanting to keep some of the counter statements that balance out what might otherwise feel overly preconceived. 

Good luck with this prompt, and please listen next week for another.

Music credits1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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It's National Poetry Month! This week's interview is with Vermont Poet Elizabeth Stabler, whose new collection of poetry, Wren, was published by Red Barn Books in 2015.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Elizabeth Stabler. Perhaps because this year has been so unusual, weather-wise, or perhaps because each season is unique, Holly suggested that this week’s prompt be to write about THIS spring. 
Good luck with this prompt, and please listen next week for another.

Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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A new interview with Sydney Lea, who has just finished his term as Vermont's Poet Laureate. His new books are No Doubt the Nameless (Four Way Books) and What's the Story? Reflections on a Life Grown Long (Green Writers Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is inspired by my new interview with Sydney Lea. Write about a dream, or the memory of a dream, or the almost memory of a dream.

Good luck with this prompt, and please listen next week for another.

Music credits: 1) Dreaming 1 - John Fink; 2) Filter - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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2012 interview with David Wojahn, Award Winning (and Pulitzer Nominated) Poet, Author of the Collection WORLD TREE, part of the Pitt Poetry Series (University of Pittsburgh Press).  Part of this collection, a series called "Ochre," can also be found (along with photographs) at the Blackbird Online Literary Journal Website


This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about an unpredicted weather event.

Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.

Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).



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Two interviews this week. First, Lorin Stein, Editor of The Paris Review. Their new collection is called The Unprofessionals: New American Writing from The Paris Review, published by Penguin. My second interview is with Vanessa Blakeslee, author of the novel, Juventud, published by Curbside Splendor.


This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was inspired by my conversation with Lorin Stein, during which we discussed the repeated word, “there,” in the story “The Dark and Winding Road,” by Ottessa Moshfegh, in The Unprofessionals: New American Writing from The Paris Review. Often, writers are told to steer clear of repeating words in close succession in their prose, and yet this story absolutely benefits from the author’s intentional repetition. To my mind, it’s intention that makes the difference. Words that are repeated by accident are unlikely to do much other than bump the reader out of the prose. But words that are chosen and placed carefully in succession to highlight something a writer wants to draw attention to--these can be useful and beautiful. Former WTB guest Priscilla Long writes in her book, The Writer’s Portable Mentor: “Good writers delight in repeating good words.” She later adds, “If you have trained yourself not to repeat, learning to do the opposite takes practice and it takes developing your ear.” The word “there” in Ottessa Moshfegh’s story becomes a good word--the right word--by the author’s intention. She uses it to highlight the importance of the setting, which lies at the end of a dark and winding road, but I think also to highlight the otherness--the “there”--of the narrator’s present state of mind. This week’s prompt, then, is to use word repetition in a way that will accentuate something intentionally. Practice reading the result out loud, to be sure the music is just right. 
Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.
Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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Interview with Daniel Lusk, whose new collection is The Vermeer Suite (Wind Ridge Books of Vermont). The interview was recorded in front of an audience at the South Burlington Community Library in South Burlington, Vermont. Listeners who want to look at the paintings along with the broadcast can look here: 


A Maid Asleep ("Wednesday's Child")       The Astronomer ("The Astronomer")

amaidasleep.jpg astronomer.jpg

Woman Reading a Letter at the Open 
Window ("Yellow")                                 The Little Street ("Memoir")

WomanReadingaLetter.jpg littlestreet.jpg

The Milkmaid ("Holland")                Girl With the Red Hat ("White Fire")

milkmaid.jpg RedHat.jpg

Girl With a Pearl Earring ("Girl")

Pearl.jpg

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to use one of these paintings as inspiration in your own work. Study one of these paintings, then write a poem, a story, a scene. 
Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.
Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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Gary Lee Miller interviews Vermont's new Poet Laureate Chard deNiord, whose recent release, Interstate, is part of the Pitt Poetry Series (University of Pittsburgh Press). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to use the following as a starting point: "I haven't always been the world's nicest person." 

Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.

Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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Critically acclaimed and bestselling author Julianna Baggott, whose new novel is Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders (Little Brown).

This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Julianna Baggott, who encourages her students to use “visualization” to move forward in narrative. She suggests that her students close their eyes for each. They can take notes in between each. Here are a few examples she offered, from which you can work. Either now, if you’re all set up to do so, or later, listen to these with your eyes closed, and try to visualize what’s happening, but missing, from each prompt:

  • A Man walks out of a house* He’s dressed very strangely* He walks to a car* Opens the trunk, looks inside* reaches in*
  • A woman is running, scared – where* She runs out of breath, falls to her knees. She hears a * looks up and sees*
  • A man is sitting on a park bench. By his clothes, we assume he works as a _________ . A woman sits next to him and says something that makes no sense to us but means a lot to him, “ -------------“
  • A woman is standing in a flooded basement – things float and are soaked around her* -- she finds a footlocker, wades over to it – reaches inside to find * 
  • A boy in pajamas is outside* -- alone. He hears * but ignores it and keeps heading toward a *
Good luck with this prompt, and please listen next week for another.
Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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Vermont poet Angela Patten, author of the new collection, In Praise of Usefulnesspublished by Wind Ridge Books of Vermont.

This week’s Write The Book Prompt is the one that led Angela Patten to write the poem "Tabula Rasa." Her husband, Daniel Lusk, recommended it to her; write about about something that happened to you that you can not remember. This will probably mean something that happened when you were so small, you don’t have access to those memories. But I suppose it could mean something that happened when you were medicated, or ill, or asleep. Maybe even something that happened to you before you were born.
Good luck with this exercise, and listen next week for another.
Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students. 

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Two interviews this week, with Vermont author and editor Angela Palm, whose new collection is Please Do Not Remove, and Vermont poet Malisa Garlieb, whose new book of poetry is Handing Out Apples in Eden. Both of these collections were published this fall by Wind Ridge Books of Vermont.

Today I have two Write The Book Prompts to offer, thanks to the generous suggestions of my guests, Angela Palm and Malisa Garlieb. 

Malisa’s is to write a personal poem using a mathematical concept or equation as the primary metaphor, as she did in her poem, "Long Division."

Angi’s is this: select an image of a used library check-out card. Use any combination of the card's features as the source of inspiration for generating a new work of prose or poetry. Perhaps you'll be inspired by a particular patron's signature, a date stamp, or the book's subject matter or author. Perhaps you'll be struck by the card's appearance or the accumulation or use or non-use. Let the image transport you to another time or place, and draft some ideas or a follow a single idea for 10-15 minutes. In revision and shaping of the draft, study the card again and allow yourself to do a little research that might further develop your initial impulses into a story or essay. You may quickly find yourself pages deep in a story you never knew you'd want to write. Angi shared these images of library cards for your prompt this week. (Open individually in new tabs for a better look at each):

Good luck with these exercises and please listen next week for another!

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Vermont poet and UVM Professor Stephen Cramer, whose new book is From the Hip: A Concise History of Hip Hop (in sonnets), published by Wind Ridge Books of Vermont. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest Stephen Cramer. He likes to assign this to his students, because it presents the challenge of describing something ethereal, like music, that doesn’t have a form that you can touch or see. You have to turn to metaphor a lot, and to a description from the senses. Words like “velvety,” “sharp,” and “bright.” So this week’s prompt is to write about music and see if you can use synesthesia - one sense expressed in terms of another - to launch your piece into some new, unexpected place. Lynda Hull’s poem Hollywood Jazz has at least two instances of synesthesia, if you’d like to read one that Stephen recommends. 

Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.

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Children's and YA author Jacqueline Woodson, whose new novel, Brown Girl Dreaming (Nancy Paulsen Books) is short-listed for this year's National Book Award. 

This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Jacqueline Woodson. Choose an age between five and fifteen and write down everything you remember from that year of your life. Who were your friends? Where did you live? What clothes did you wear? What music was playing? What did you love; what did you hate? Write without lifting your pen until you can’t remember anything else, and then start making stuff up. 
Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.
Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students, now alums). 

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New interviews with best-selling novelist Tana French, whose new Dublin Murder Squad mystery is The Secret Place, published by Viking; Vermont poet and veteran Jon Turner, who has worked extensively with the Warrior Writers Project and Combat Paper, and is now a member of the Farmer Veteran Coalition; and our own book mentor, Claire Benedict, co-owner of Bear Pond Books in Montpelier.

During this show, Claire recommended:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

The Secret Place by Tana French

Museums of America by Gary Miller

A House In the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

This week's Write the Book  Prompt might involve going into your attic or basement. Find a box in your home whose contents you’re not entirely sure of. Write about what might be inside. Include memories of events that the possible contents trigger. Then open the box, and write about what you do, in fact, find there. 

Good luck with this prompt and please listen next week for another!

Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students, now alums). 

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Interview from the archives with the poet Robin Behn. Three years after this interview, in 2011, Robin's collection The Yellow House was published by Spuyten Duyvil.


This week's Write the Book Prompt is to ask a friend to put a difficult-to-identify object into a bag for you to then reach in, feel, and write about. Make sure it's a friend you trust. 

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Interview from the archives with Vermont Poet Pamela Harrison, author of the collections, Out of Silence and What To Make of It.

Given that Easter is this coming Sunday, and Passover begins tomorrow, this week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about a spring holiday memory or event. 

Good luck with this prompt and please listen next week for another.

Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several South Burlington High School students.

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