June 21, 2010
By Carolee

This week’s prompt

Like so many of you, I have been deeply troubled by the oil spill in the Gulf. I have wanted to write about it, but I haven’t known how. I was talking with Jill about it over coffee a few days ago, and she instructed me: That has to be your next prompt!

What has to be my next prompt? Writing about the oil spill? Maybe, but not necessarily. Here’s what I tried to do:

I started at the top of a page, “I want to write about the oil spill, but I don’t know how,” and then I continued to free write about not knowing how to write about it (which, of course, lead to writing about it). So that’s the first part of this prompt. Start at the top of a page, “I want to write about __________, but I don’t know how.”

You can fill in the blank with “oil spill” as I did, or you can fill it in with “my mother’s death” or “mulch” or “cupcakes.” It doesn’t matter what you choose, but make it something you don’t think you know how to write about. Now free write about not knowing how. Ready, set, go!

Maybe the free write gives you enough phrases you can steal and make a poem. If so, great! If not, you can continue with the second part of this prompt, which is to turn your subject into an extended metaphor. As you cull phrases from your free write, consider what “oil” is (or what “cupcakes” represent) in your life, its patterns, your behaviors, your memories. Flesh out your poem with this symbolism. Go with it wherever it wants to go.

How prompts work under the Big Tent

We post prompts on Mondays, and you have all week to write your poems, based on our fabulous prompt or any other inspiration. Come back on Friday when you will find a “Come One, Come All” post where you can use the comments section to 1) leave a link to your poem or 2) leave the poem in its entirety.

You’ll have all day Friday (and all weekend!) to post your work and read each others’ work. Take your time. Enjoy all the poems that are new to the world.

Some hints

Hint: We’ve set Big Tent Poetry to Central Time.

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Hint: Since we’re a new site, and you’re new to it, your comment(s) will be held for moderation for your first few posts. We’re checking the filters often, so don’t despair! That said, if it takes more than a half a day to see it come live on the site, do email us at info (at) (But be patient, okay?)

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Be nice. Have fun. Remember we aren’t a critique forum. We want to support each other as we bring more poetry into our lives. Only provide critique if someone specifically asks for it.

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16 Responses to “ MONDAY PROMPT/June 21 ”

  1. Julie Jordan Scott on June 21, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    oh wow. I wanted to spew expletives… and now my chest hurts. LOL. Which means, this is a dark good prompt. THANK YOU!

  2. mark on June 21, 2010 at 2:31 pm


    That’s a lot of writing to start writing on…..which means it’ll give me something to think about.

  3. vivienne blake on June 21, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    but very difficult! Metaphor is not my strong point, as you all know by know. I hope I can come up with something.

  4. christine on June 22, 2010 at 11:52 am

    A great way to begin. There’s a web site that has asked for poems related to the oil spill:

    • carolee on June 22, 2010 at 9:54 pm

      thanks, christine!

    • Deb on June 23, 2010 at 8:46 am

      Thanks, Christine.

      Other places include: and

      Crafty Green Poet is also collecting where poems have been placed (and links to poems, too, I believe):

  5. Big Tent Poem / WWP Poem #7: Sixteen « Raven's Wing Poetry on June 22, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    [...] we write poems, We Write Poems Prompt, Wordle by ravenswingpoetry This poem was written for both this past Monday’s Big Tent Poetry Prompt and last week’s We Write Poems Prompt. Two visual versions of the poem, plus the original [...]

  6. rob kistner on June 22, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    As terrible and as frustrating as this oil spill is, and it definitely is both, hard as this may be to believe, there are 8 spills in history that have been larger — a number of them considerably larger. Click here for more info.

    • carolee on June 22, 2010 at 9:54 pm


  7. Introspective « Improvisations: on June 24, 2010 at 8:19 am

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  8. Tutor « Scrambled, Not Fried on June 24, 2010 at 8:29 pm

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  9. write what you don’t know: big tent poetry « carolee sherwood on June 24, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    [...] 24, 2010 tags: big tent poetry, poetry by Carolee My prompt for Big Tent Poetry this week is to write about something you don’t think you know how to write about. The example I gave was, “I want to write about the oil spill in the Gulf but don’t [...]

  10. The Call « Soul’s Music on June 25, 2010 at 12:44 am

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    • Brenda on June 25, 2010 at 7:49 pm

      Uma, I didn’t see that comments are moderated, but hope they are. This is the comment I left:

      The poet who speaks truest, who in the beauty of language imparts the tragedy, fury, despair, loss, who moves us to tears, anger, action. You have written a strong and vivid poem, Uma, that I will not forget. How did Union Carbide get off so lightly? Was this a planned tactic, to stall for years until enough time had passed that they could slip through the net of decent human responsibility? You arraigned them, fully.

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