I often come up with prompts for my weekly Wednesday Poetry Prompts on the fly. However, I try to get all my prompts for the monthly challenges set before the month starts–to avoid “prompt block.” For that reason, I had to turn down two good prompt ideas from the guest judges: Vince Gotera wanted to do something related to hay(na)ku and today’s judge Daniel Nester wanted to do a sestina prompt. I’ve done the sestina prompt before, and it drove many poets crazy (still littering asylums across the globe). I was tempted to change my prompt, but decided to hold firm–so nobody is obligated to write a sestina for today’s prompt (but if you want extra credit, both Nester and myself would love to see a few sestinas today). Click here to learn about the sestina.
For today’s prompt, write an animal poem. Pick a specific animal or write about your animal spirit. Maybe you’ll get tricky and write about mustangs (meaning the car) or jaguars (meaning the American football team). Maybe you’ll do an acrostic, or even go crazy and write a sestina (crickets).
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Here’s my attempt at an Animal Poem:
First thing’s first, I must pick an animal.
My logical first choice is the cheetah,
because I’m first and foremost about speed,
though in high school I was often called horse–
as much for my long stride as my long hair–
still today, I resemble platypus
as I’m hard to classify. Platypus,
frankly speaking, is a weird animal:
It has a bill, otter feet, and hair;
did I mention it’s venomous? Cheetahs,
on the one hand, are faster than a horse;
every molecule seems built for speed,
but there’s more to picking end words than speed.
After all, some end words, like platypus,
are harder to use. Meanwhile, the word horse
is easier, not for the animal
but syllables–three to one. The cheetah
offers two syllables and spotted hair;
they eat gazelles and zebras, even hares.
Their sprinting prey dictates a need for speed;
there’s no such thing as a chubby cheetah.
Though they store fat in their tails, platypus
are not the heaviest of animals–
maybe five pounds. Definitely the horse
weighs a lot more. For instance, race horses
can hit 1,000 pounds. Beneath their hair
are the thick muscles of an animal
bred over generations for top speeds,
kind of opposite from the platypus.
Speaking of breeding, the shallow cheetah
pool of genetics means there aren’t cheetah
variations the same as with horses,
though I’m not really sure on platypus.
One thing is certain: I must prefer hair
over genetics and relative speed,
at least when we’re discussing animals.
I’m an animal, but I’m no cheetah–
lost my speed, though I may still be a horse
with short hair, storing fat like platypus.
Today’s guest judge is…
Daniel is the author of How to Be Inappropriate, God Save My Queen I and II, and is editor of The Incredible Sestina Anthology.
His writing has appeared in N+1, The New York Times, The Morning News, The Daily Beast, The Best American Poetry, The Best Creative Nonfiction, Third Rail: The Poetry of Rock and Roll, and Now Write! Nonfiction.
He teaches writing at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY
Learn more here: DanielNester.com.
Poems, Prompts & Room to Add Your Own for the 2014 April PAD Challenge!
Words Dance Publishing is offering 20% off pre-orders for the Poem Your Heart Out anthology until May 1st! If you’d like to learn a bit more about our vision for the book, when it will be published, among other details.
Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems. He studied under sestina master James Cummins at the University of Cincinnati–once writing more than 20 horrible sestinas in one quarter. Learn more about him here: http://www.robertleebrewer.com/.
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