Random Holiday Gift List Prompt



Since the holiday season is in full swing (with Hanukkah and St. Nicholas this week alone), here’s a prompt for some seasonally oriented writing.


This exercise is for a kind of list poem. Start each line with “Because I received [fill in the blank],” then write a result of receiving that gift. For some very cliche examples:


Because I received the Easy Bake Oven Mom said was too expensive, I knew Santa Clause must be real.


Because I received a lump of coal from my girlfriend as a gag gift, I suspected she might be suppressing her anger with me.


Because I received a pickled frog from an old chemistry set from Uncle Tolouse, everything I’d heard my parents say about him made sense.


Because I received nothing from my sister for eighteen years, I was shocked when she handed me a wrapped gift.


And so on. You get the idea.


Don’t think too much about each statement as you write it, especially the reaction. Just get as many statements down on paper as you can. You can refine this as a list poem made up of these statements (looking for common themes, building to a final line that pulls it all together, etc.); or you can generate a new list poem or a cause-and-effect poem developed from the one line you choose. For instance:


Because I received nothing from my sister
for eighteen years, I was shocked
when she handed me a wrapped gift.


Because she handed me a wrapped gift,
I felt awkward and angry
without something for her in return.


Because I felt awkward and angry,
I scowled at the gift
and said, “What in the hell is this?”


Because I scowled and said, “What
in the hell is this?”, my sister
looked hurt in a way I’d never seen before.


Because my sister looked hurt
in a way I’d never seen before, I
wanted to curl up inside myself and die.


Because I wanted to curl up and die,
I couldn’t tell my sister she’d surpised me–
and touched me.


Because I couldn’t tell my sister
she’d surprised and touched me,
she turned away without saying anything.


Because she turned away without saying anything,
the moment melted like sooty snow
on the foyer floor.


Or something like that.


You could also render the poem down to the “effects” of each line (although I kind of like the rhythm of the repetition). Here’s how the above lines would read if I cut them down:


Because I received nothing from my sister
for eighteen years, I was shocked
when she handed me a wrapped gift.
I felt awkward and angry
without something for her in return.
I scowled at the gift
and said, “What in the hell is this?”
My sister looked hurt in a way
I’d never seen before. I wanted
to curl up inside myself and die.
I couldn’t tell my sister
she’d surpised me–and touched me.
She turned away
without saying anything. The moment
melted like sooty snow
on the foyer floor.


Try it every which way and see what you come up with.


Happy writing!


–Nancy


There are more poetry prompts here.

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One thought on “Random Holiday Gift List Prompt

  1. Lilia

    I lost my name when I was lame
    a little girl without a cane
    because my name I lost in vain
    my shame I carried in my vein
    awash in guilt, condemned as lame
    a little girl without a name
    if only I was not a lame
    disgraced, dishonored in my shame
    because my loss became a game
    that caused me grief, a crying shame
    this shame at last became my name.

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