Many moons ago, Leah Horlick graced PRISM international with her talent and charm. And now today, she has a writing prompt to share! Leah Horlick is a writer and poet from Saskatoon, currently living on Unceded Coast Salish Territories in Vancouver. Her first collection of poems, Riot Lung, was shortlisted for a ReLit Award and a Saskatchewan Book Award. Her most recent book, For Your Own Good, was named a Stonewall Honour Title by the American Library Association this spring. One of her favourite projects is co-organizing REVERB – Vancouver’s only anti-oppressive queer reading series – with her bestie Esther McPhee.
I don’t know if there is a better poetry prompt than simply reading excellent, socks-knocking-off poetry. So, beloved PRISM audience, I suggest you start there. Or maybe here, where I am right now. Or, where I used to be – what a pleasure it was to provide you with some truly sock-knocking poems in 2011-12 as PRISM’s Poetry Editor. Do you have any favourites from that volume? “I Am In Love With Your Brother,” by Ben LaDouceur, has stuck with me to this day. A real privilege to publish that one first, to be sure. There’s a beautiful close reading of it available here at Lambda Literary.
It would also be a travesty to talk about poetry prompts without mentioning their Queen and First Lady, Rachel McKibbens. She is an absolute sorceress when it comes to writing prompts, and I would be remiss to not send you into her book of spells over here. I love her word pools and ghost lines and eerie repetition and also her new Outlast project.
I recently had a poem accepted for Nimrod Magazine’s upcoming queer issue. It is called For You Shall Be Called to Account, and it is based on the nightmarish idea of the parents of every paramour I’ve ever had meeting one another. I don’t wish this exercise upon anyone but you are welcome to give it a shot if you wish; in the way of most poetry exercises, it turned into something else entirely. In the interests of sweeter dreams, I give you a line from a favourite of my own poems (it’s wrong to pick favourites, isn’t it, but who can help it?) from my book that came out last spring. A spring poem, even. It’s a little bit sexy and a little bit risqué, even for me, which I like to think says something but maybe it doesn’t. (In high school my friends and I would play a game where one of us, upon saying goodbye, would shout out, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” And of course the reply would be, in that way of sassy femme sixteen-year-olds, “Well, that broadens my options!”)
At any rate, the poem is called Bruises, and there’s a nice natural beginning, a quick prompt, a little boost for you here in line three:
“The first time, it’s an accident–”
Do you have one of these, too, poet friends? The accidental first that became a habit, an occasional treat, or a later intention? The recipe that started out as bottom-of-the-fridge soup, the wrong turn that became your evening philosopher’s walk, the one-time hookup that turned out to be your twin flame? Or when your cat knocked the bookshelf over and your batty aunt’s Tarot cards spilled out? That time you threw your new favourite shirt in the dryer without reading the instructions and it turned out to be your new favourite crop top, when you didn’t think you could ever wear those? (Hint: everyone can.) Was it an accident the first time you stepped on that jerk’s foot on the dance floor, but it felt so good you couldn’t help but do it again a little later and hide it under your drunken stumble? What was an accident, at first? Where might these magical, horrible mistakes lead you and your poem?