At the beginning of this year, I bought two books that I hoped would help me keep up a somewhat regular writing schedule. Here they are:
There’s 52: A Year of Poetry-Writing Prompts, by Jo Bell et al, and then there’s The Daily Poet, by Kelli Russell Agodon & Martha Silano. 52 is available from Nine Arches Press, one of the UK’s fine small presses, while The Daily Poet can be ordered from Two Sylvias Press, a small press in the US.
Bell‘s book offers 52 writing prompts, one for each week. Each consists of an introductory section and one to three poems to illustrate an approach or serve as a springboard. Basically, you get an anthology arranged around prompts.
Agodon & Silano‘s book offers one prompt for each day of the year and is arranged like a calendar, with a page for each day. The prompts here are much shorter than in 52, and while in some instances, there’s a mention of or link (url) to a specific poem, the book itself contains hardly any poetry. A few sample lines here and there, that’s it. This book is less for reading than for working with.
After looking through both books, I feel like they are both worthwhile resources and they’ll stay on my shelves for years to come. Both approaches have their strengths: Bell et al. offer a wide variety of sample poems, week by week, to get the reader started, while Agodon & Silano deliver a concise prompt a day and leave interpretation thereof largely to the reader.
The two books cater to different audiences: Bell et al. should be particularly attractive to beginning writers, because the introductions to each prompt give the reader/writer a fairly concrete idea of how to approach each week’s poem, as do the chosen sample poems, all of which are easily accessible. I could see myself using this book as a resource for undergraduate writing workshops, for example. The variety of the sample poems (some well-known favorites, but also some new, fresh, and surprising voices) makes this a pleasant read.
Agodon & Silano, meanwhile, with their brief prompts and relative absence of examples, cater to people like myself — people who already feel fairly at ease with their writing process. Chances are I’ll take this book along next time I travel — the brief prompts are perfect to read while you’re waiting for the bus, or between train stops, or just before you leave the house, so that later the same day you can jot down what you came up with in response. (Thinking ahead, this book should come in handy for poetry month, when I challenge myself to write a poem each day for the whole month.)
In the end, both books have the potential to get you to produce drafts that can be crafted into something worth sharing.
Do you use resources like these for your writing? Do you have a favorite? Feel free to share in the comments section!