Prompts for Poets and Writers



Here is the workshop outline I offered yesterday to our local group of Renegade Writers. We meet every other Saturday to write new. We share the responsibility of leading the workshops on a voluntary basis. There is no requirement of attendance. We have an online presence on Facebook where we share ideas germane to writing and creative thought.  Renegade Writers

July 23, 2016
Workshop Presenter
Clare L. Martin


Listen to Ambient music (try Pandora’s Ambient station) without words. Let your eye zigzag around these words or your own wordlist of random words. Write down the words that resonate with you.

sin receive fabric cold heavy slice tender banal gift span taint dismal fountain bashful blend breath blue groan six fever bloom panic hallow veil frost become trill boast float grease tin capsule din air host seek whisper cannon lyrical walls toll patient aid oil hold pallor desperate temperament fecund virtual tantalize crease grind aspirate glean diamond dissonance heavens wicked stars oceans gallop crust obsidian curve rock mist colored tall river hope wood animal bell hunted believe final aspire delicious scare canopy  stairs burst kind liar shunt plastic cantor carrion shine ghost saint skin terrible flash grave fire rust fear rose brunt dire burden gloss perpetrate scandal viscerate denial vibe eat ball

Framework– Here are suggested prompts for you to get your writing started. You can go in your own direction, of course. 
Write the spell to undo a curse.

Write words of forgiveness to a person who wronged you.

Write the earliest memory of a childhood fear.

Write a dreamed nightmare.

Write details of a normal morning or evening, only imagined as extraordinary and not dull in any way.


Think of a gift you’ve received—It could be intangible; a propensity toward something, a talent, a sensibility. Would you give it away? Why or why not?

Choose an animal. Think of its form, its musculature, its skeleton, its hide, its eyes. Think of its habitat and its habits. Think of its place in mythology and literature. How can you incorporate this animal into a working piece of prose or poetry so that it becomes a metaphor?

Music and language are so intertwined. When we listened to music, did you have images in your mind? Visual images that popped in the visionary sight of your mind? Did you write them down? Try to remember things that you might have missed writing down. List them or check your notes and keep writing.


What are your writing habits? How can you improve them by adapting others’ ideas as your own?    


Chinese snake painting


I am the world’s living river. See my tongue? Flat earth. Skin salt-smooth. Rubberized. I gleam at night. Moon ripples on water. I skim dirt. I skim ankles. Wrap cypress trees, marsh grass. Swallow the fledgling fallen from the nest. Rot, core, bone, spike, venom, blood. –My curse –My body-whip –My bone-coil. Reverberate vertebrae. Flooded, flooding. Scar tissue of man. Scarred eye. Slither, yes. Poison his firstborn. Poison his brood. Turn the earth against him until he is dead in the depths of it all.

©2016 Clare L. Martin

The prompt:

Choose an animal. Think of its form, its musculature, its skeleton, its hide, its eyes. Think of its habitat and its habits. Think of its place in mythology and literature. How can you incorporate this animal into a working piece of prose or poetry so that it becomes a metaphor?






The words out loud
a reverberation
river-beaten voice
echo-soft, too
mouthful in mouth
heavy sighs, lost-light
breath braced in a lung
embraced breast
cries caught in a backbone
no callused fingers
a palm’s sweat-glazed creases
curls hunted, too hunted
all for nothing
all for all and all and all

You, you
who knows this hunger
who knows this need
lights a death-spark in me
an ice-burn
(memory in a dusty book
a forgotten-me-not
imbues everything
colors the mirror
with redundancies
charges me “enemy”
indicts me
there are temptations of forgiveness
and they are a rot in the ventricle
too damaged to save

Today I talked about entrance and exit wounds.

Like how I am, and the many unfortunates—
like how we are more common
than the lecherous kings
with pristine smiles
who perpetrate and go on living.

This is a false flag operation
a failing infrastructure
dangerously falling temperatures—
all indignity
all shame
all harm
until we take our lives back


©2016 Clare L. Martin


“I’ve been circling for thousands of years”





“I’ve been circling for thousands of years”
a line by Rainier Maria Rilke


I’ve been circling for thousands of years.  The mountaintops skim my heavy skirts. I glide toward the earth and trees scrape my legs bone-branch raw.

I’ve been circling for thousands of years. At times, the clouds part. Sometimes, they do not. I favor thunderstorms—the eerie kindness of hurricanes, wrought with calm centers, the wind, and electric forces.

I’ve been circling for thousands of years, planting seeds of conception. Mothers and fathers cry. Some run in fear but others’ eyes never leave their beautiful daughters.

I’ve been circling for thousands of years waiting on God to show his mighty hand. The night sky is pregnant with ephemeral dust. I imagine this is God’s breath. This is proof enough for me.


©2016 Clare L. Martin



Portrait of Gertrude Stein, 1905 by Pablo Picasso. Courtesy of


I opened Gertrude Stein’s “Tender Buttons.” The first poem is “A CARAFE, THAT IS A BLIND GLASS” This title/line was my prompt for my morning writing.

A carafe, that is a blind glass wavers on a winking sea. Bottles up to lips, black teeth, a barrage of cussing, a barrage of whips and nails. Flotsam for a meal. Cuttlefish hanging from beards. A carafe, that is a blind glass reminds us of our sex, the duty our mothers warned us about. She never told us of pleasure. We found pornography paperbacks. Some disgusting things got us off. (Pet shop perverts). A carafe, that is a blind glass is shattered against the wall. And she crumples into her own body. She was once a queen but lost her crown of dust. She was once beauty but her knees gave from beneath her. No one looks her in the eyes. A carafe, that is a blind glass revels in the hands of a child who spools it with yellow yarn, school glue. A carafe, that is a blind glass is his mother who is dead. He will place it on the freshly-covered grave. The headstone has not yet been placed. He has to walk lines of graves to get to hers, far back in the cemetery. The plot was expensive. His father skips meals so his son can eat. A carafe, that is a blind glass mocks the woman soul-naked in the gym. She sweats and huffs. She shakes so hard when she lifts weights. Her brow deepens with redness. Her thighs hurt but hold her. A carafe, that is a blind glass signifies that people don’t whisper anymore.

©2016 Clare L. Martin

Writing At Rêve Coffee Roasters


Henri Matisse (1869-1954) Nu au bord de la mer (1909)




 “The unpainted world accepts the shore”

a line from Wallace Stevens’ “So-And-So Reclining on Her Couch” (1947)


She pulls the string from her neck. The bodice falls to her waist. Her breast: pink, white lines. Brown shine on her shoulders. The man casts a large net baited with sliced fish to catch more fish. The salt air on her tongue. The crisp mineral water. Chilled lime. Cold pulp on her tongue. She closes her eyes and sucks the fruit. She lies on the black pebbles. There are naked children playing in the surf, singing in French. She half-understands them, but not for a lack of knowledge of their language. Waves carry lilting words to islands she imagines across the Mediterranean. Her hands are warm. Her belly is warm. She rises to the water and delights in shivers.

©2016 Clare L. Martin



Yesterday, I met with my friend Sandy for a writing date at Rêve Coffee Roasters. We prompted each other and wrote in short bursts. It was a lovely time. This is a piece that came from that writing session. I hope to gather more frequently with Sandy and others for informal writing dates. It’s fun to write with friends!


The Mystic Spoke of Water

Starry_Night_Over_the_Rhone“Starry Night Over the Rhone” (September 1888) Vincent van Gogh

Empty your lungs. Rise to take another breath. The rhythm so innate, so intimate. Let water enter your mouth. Breathe in, breathe in a sea. Your own body: a river evolved. Empty. Full. I am a new species. Move in sync with breath. Gather water and release it.

Enter the trance—no feeling or fear.  The mind departs the premises. Death would be welcome here. Thought relinquished. Thoughts of carnage shut behind far off doors miles from here.

I am on a peak of a wave. Buoyed atop a fiery new mountain. My vision—obsidian-oblique. The water’s properties: sometimes rope, sometimes a mother’s arms, sometimes God, sometimes a hurricane without animus.

Swim with grace. No heaving chest. No despair for breath. Great wind in me. The world is coarse. Its blood-rot so far away—an unreality in sacred water. The last vestige of man grasps for what is not his and what is his own is forgotten.

Here in wordless water, the breath always comes back. Breath, heartbeat steady, singsong blood. The scars on psyche are smoothed, eroded by drip, drip, drip.  A mountain is diminished to dust in millennia of rainfall.

And I dream this night of rivers. Deep, mud-flooded rivers, carrying me on my satin bed. Rivers separating me from the rocky shore. A long, hollowed bough I cling to. Flowing through the center of it all. The river is dark. Fast currents. I cannot navigate nightfall. I cannot fight the river’s will. The river in me flows with the river without me.  Water calls to water. We meet our own element.

Somewhere it will drain and I will be left dry, soft-boned, with salt-cracked organs. I am a pillar of salt, only and barely spittle to preserve what I once was: my progeny, my land, my breath, my history, my failure.

Tongue the mud from the riverbed, make life new.