July 12, 2010

This week’s prompt, by guest maestro Nathan Landau

Recently I’ve become enamored with the concept of steganography, a form of ‘security through obscurity’ in which a secret message is sent via an innocuous medium –– an image, a letter –– and decoded using a method known only to sender and recipient. The beauty is in the message being truly hidden in plain sight.

(You can read all about the history and uses of steganography on the Wikipedia article here.)

Steganography can be incorporated into writing in any number of ways, from specifically coded poems, to inside jokes and key words, to concealment of one concept within the conceit of another, but this week try keeping something in your poem hidden in plain sight. You can share your decoder ring with the other circus-goers if you please, or decide to keep the secret all to yourself and your recipient, it’s your call.

Alternatively, if secrecy isn’t your style, you could try and find the hidden in an already written poem: take your hand and place it vertically over half or three-quarters of a poem –– preferably one of your own pieces, though someone else’s works just as well (remember to credit the author!) ––  and see if a hidden message leaps from the remaining uncovered line fragments.

Encoding or decoding, be sure to come back with your poems on Friday (and through the weekend) and let others in on the secret.

About our guest maestro

Every once in a while we’ll be sharing prompts offered by some of you, our  circus-goers. (Thanks for your generosity!)

This week’s prompt is Nathan Landau’s, who blogs at Poems About Nothing in Particular and is currently studying creative writing at Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin. Be sure to stop by and visit his blog, okay?

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?)

Circus etiquette

We figure you know how to play in the poetry community, but here are the basics:

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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18 Responses to “ MONDAY PROMPT/ July 12 ”

  1. vivienne blake on July 12, 2010 at 2:52 am

    Pass. This silly old bat doesn’t have a clue about this prompt!

    • Deb on July 12, 2010 at 10:43 am

      Not every prompt will appeal to everyone, Viv, so just write something that appeals to you. Or tell us a secret. :-) Maybe.

  2. Rallentanda on July 12, 2010 at 4:18 am

    Interesting prompt.I have got the secret message…now to incorporate it into a poem. Thank
    you Deb for contributing to the collaborative poem.It was such fun. I have discovered a new poetical form addiction!

    • Deb on July 12, 2010 at 9:38 am

      It was great fun, Rall. Thank you for initiating it. I wanted to play more, but was out all Sunday.

  3. Julie Jordan Scott on July 12, 2010 at 10:26 am

    This may be a prompt where I play with following the rules (and breaking the ‘code’) through the writing process itself. One time I attempted to ‘write in code’ backfired mercilessly when I was a teen… I may write ABOUT that experience or leap back into it… and see what pops. (Writing this, I realize I have a belief that “I don’t do code” or “I am terrible at that, if I try it, I’ll get in trouble!” so perhaps, the simple fact that I do something with this is exactly where this prompt and my words are urging me to go.)


    • Deb on July 12, 2010 at 2:54 pm

      You’re inspiring. Seems you find the way to dig into something, no matter what! Thank you for that!

  4. Mory on July 12, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    this week’s prompt is very very hard, especially for me. But i will try to do my best.

    • Deb on July 12, 2010 at 2:52 pm

      Our only rule is to have fun & write poetry. Really. Sometimes the stretch is fun, sometimes not as much. So try to balance it out. :-)

  5. Evelyn N. Alfred on July 12, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    I hope I can do this one.

  6. Robert Lloyd on July 14, 2010 at 10:36 am

    I admit at first I was going to pass. Then I looked at it as a challenge. Now that I have completed it Im actually quite proud lol. I just have no clue what to title it. I know its possibly cheesy and simple but hey I tried dagnabit!! lol Cannot wait to see what other folks did.

  7. Zouxzoux on July 14, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    This is intriquing. I’ve been in a creative wasteland lately so maybe this will pump me up.

  8. Love Note (In Code) « everything feeds process on July 15, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    [...] prompt for my Month of Mindfulness. The second was for Big Tent Poetry’s prompt this week. In this prompt, the author Nathan Landau suggested that we write a poem in code. Once I mashed these two seemingly [...]

  9. The Instinctive Loving Response | Stoney Moss on July 16, 2010 at 6:40 am

    [...] odd found prose-poem (or maybe just prose) that uses the idea of replacing one word for another as a secret code.  I wanted to take it one step further and superimpose my hands over the text to see what happened [...]

  10. Subliminally Yours « Prose Posies on July 16, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    [...] combine two prompts, and this time, I wasn’t even trying. This week’s Big Tent Poetry prompt was to write in code. I also wrote in conversation form again, which was the prompt from two weeks [...]

  11. August & April « Zouxzoux on July 16, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    [...] started this poem about a week ago and finished it last night with Big Tent Poetry’s prompt in mind. Guest poet Nathan Landau inspired us to write a poem based on steganography, or [...]

  12. christine on July 16, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    You know, I think all my poems have a secret in them. We like to hint at things in poems, because it’s more fun if the reader ends up “getting” what we allude to. My secrets are usually allusions to something mystic, like circles, fertility rites, or even social customs.

  13. My Garden - Uma Gowrishankar :: My Atlas :: July :: 2010 on July 17, 2010 at 12:18 am

    [...] Big Tent Poetry [...]

  14. kai ho logos sarx egeneto on July 18, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    [...] July 18, 2010 at 2:27 pm (Uncategorized) A sestina made of one word from each of my last six journal entries, in response to the steganography prompt at Big Tent Poetry. [...]