Sarah James

the possibilities of poetry…

Browsing Posts in Prompts/resources

After my own trip down Memory Lane this weekend, my writing prompt is to ask you to do something similar.

Cast  your mind back ten years. It is just six months into the Millennium and summer going into autumn. What were you doing then?

At that time, if you were anything like me, you were still taking photos with real film, no digital camera and no video camera. So try to remember something that you didn’t capture then on photo or video. Capture it now in words instead. (If you’re having problems remembering anything then start by focussing on a particular building, object, smell or sound etc that would have been familiar at the time and see what arises then.)

Start by just writing whatever comes to mind, be it a still photographic description or a moving video panning of the scene. Remember one of the best creative things about capturing something so long after the event is the potential for the mind to warp what happened. If the creative part of your brain wants to view this in third person, as if it happened to someone else, then let it. If your imagination wants to create details it has forgotten or replace things it doesn’t like, then let it. If what you remember doesn’t seem interesting or exciting enough, then give your imagination permission to play with it and embellish!

Initially try to just write. Once you have words down on paper, you may want to think about using photographic/film-making techniques in the editing. For example, try zooming in or out from a specific action or details. Try adding in sound effects, enhancing colour, cropping unnecessary or confusing background. Consider too how you might want to frame it? Does it stand alone? Or would it be best framed within a longer narrative or in contrast to another image/event/poem?

Are you ready? Then cue camera, roll film and action…have fun!

I’m forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles… okay, so this is not at all true in a literal sense, but I am hoping today’s prompt will get you ‘bubbling’ with inspiration.

I took this giant bubble picture at Saturday’s Salt Day festivities in Droitwich Spa so the word, concept and image ‘bubble’ are the theme I’m going to suggest you work with.

Often, I find relaxation helps  me to get into ‘the zone’ for creative writing, so if you have the time, why not enjoy an unwinding bubble bath. Take a poetry book or something else with you for inspiration and see where your subconscious takes you as your body unwinds.

If, like me, your pushed for time, then instead of the real thing, just take one or two mins to sit down comfortably somewhere, close your eyes and imagine you’re in that bubble bath, relaxing.

Once you’re ‘in the zone’ – or if you’re not but feel a focus might help inspire you – try using the bubble picture as a trigger.

Notice the colours and shape. Imagine the bubble’s movement. Use the picture and/or the word/idea ‘bubble’ to brainstorm. Write down whatever comes into your head. Don’t worry initially about crafting this or making it creative, just write. When something catches your imagination/attention, go with it and explore it creatively.

If the visual aspect of the picture or mental play with the word don’t work for you today, then try tapping into a different sense. Have you ever seen – or can you remember – that instant joy and delight children seem to feel around bubbles? I’ve no idea why bubbles hold such magic for most children. But can you recreate that feeling inside you?  Explore what makes/has made you feel that way as an adult.

Alternatively, tune into ‘bubbles’ of sound. What does the song I quoted at the start of this post evoke for you? What about the sounds – and words – of Shakespeare’s famous: “Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble…”?

If you’re still struggling, you could try googling for other bubble quotes or phrases such as ‘to burst one’s bubble’,  imagine you’re a bubble/in a bubble on a long journey or treat your bubble as a snowglobe or fortune teller’s ball containing an important moment from your or an imaginary character’s life…Whatever takes your fancy! Enjoy!


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Join in the Droitwich Salt Day Poetry/Art Display

1) Choose a salt cube.

2) Write your short (three or four lines) poem about salt, Droitwich or ‘home’ (the theme for National Poetry Day on October 7, 2010).

3) Choose where to place your poem on the display. Either:

a) Sprinkle your salt onto the chips. (But remember healthy eating! Too much salt or fat can be bad for you!)


b) Add your cube to the pyramid of salt being poured downwards. How big can we make this heap of salt?


c) Build the pillar of salt upwards (Lot’s wife turned to a pillar of salt when she looked back in the Bible story).

Poems may be anonymous. But please feel free to include your name and where you are from. Children may also wish to add their age and decorate their poem.

Poems may be photographed by the organiser for display purposes.

If you can’t make it in person on the day, then please feel free to email your poem to me at, telling me where you’d like it to go on the display. I can then copy it onto a salt cube for you.

Below, I’ve included two of my own short poems written for the display to help get ideas flowing.

Pillar of the Community

It was his wife’s Lot in life, looking back.

A common trait, that left her

thoughts and body frozen in the past, alone,

when she could have been looking forward, with him.

Sarah James


salt chips chunks of flavour

tingling the tip of my tongue

with the taste of town history

Sarah James

Promptly Salted!

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As I’ve been preparing for next Saturday’s Droitwich Spa Salt Day collaborative poetry/art display, I thought I’d use that as the theme/themes for this week’s writing prompt. So to get you all ‘salted’ for the day. I’ve not just one but three inspirational ideas.

1)      Salt – If you’re tempted to have a go at this theme, I’m going to suggest you take a look at the biblical story of Lot. If you don’t have a Bible to hand, you can check out more info at Wikipedia at: Whether or not you’re religious, let alone Christian, hopefully you can find lots of inspiration in this tale. Perhaps it will provoke some religious, moral, philosophical thoughts.

Would you turn this story into a more pleasant one? How?

What are your or someone else’s worse sins? What are your/their favourite ones? Why?

When should we look back, if ever? How much does/should the past affect us?

Why a pillar of salt rather than, say sand or stone?  As a writer, why might you choose to use salt in story/poem? What qualities does it have which might be used to suggest something more than just salt? Think about the taste of salt: bitter, sharp…And its appearance/texture: white, grainy…

2)      Home – This is also the theme of this year’s National Poetry Day on Thursday, October 7. The following guided writing exercise uses memory and all the senses. If necessary, closing your eyes may help you to ‘visualise’ some of the answers to these questions, or going up to your bedroom or actually trying this live ie experiencing it for the next time you wake up. However, doing it from memory may be more effective because the things you remember are probably the things more likely to inspire you.

What is the first thing you hear when you wake up? What is the first thing you smell when you wake up? What is the first thing you feel? What is the first thing you taste? How do you know you are at home? Now you wake up and something has changed? What? How do you feel? Why?

3)      Droitwich Spa – A town by any other name…The town itself is one of the themes for the Salt Day display but this exercise can be applied to the name of any town/city etc where you live. Take the name of the place where you live or a river or street there. Why is it called that? You might want to search the factual history behind it? Or just let your imagination make up its own tale.

Have some fun with word play. What does the name sound like? Can you break it up into a string of smaller words or sounds?  Are there any homonyms (words that sound the same) which you can play with such as spa/spar? Even if this doesn’t lead to a final poem/story, there’s plenty of scope here for fun!

I will post up the instructions for Salt Day in a separate fansite blog post, as this calls specifically for three or four line poems (small enough to fit on the salt cubes). If you are able to visit the stand on the day, these exercises/prompts may give you a headstart.  If not, you can email your poem to me at and I can copy it onto one of the salt cubes for you.

If your poem or story is longer than three or four lines, then please feel free to post it in the comments here. Or, if it’s on the theme of home and you’d like me to use it on the blog for National Poetry Day, then please email it to me.

Hope that’s got you all ‘salted’. Happy writing!

As I plan to take a break this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about the part space and stillness play in the creative process. So this week’s prompt is as much about getting oneself ready to write as inspiration itself. But if inspiration comes too…

The following exercise is one I’d call meditative. Find a comfortable place to sit where you are unlikely to be disturbed. Relax and close your eyes. As you sit there focus in turn on each sense.

First, note what you can feel. Pay attention to the feelings in your muscles, to the sensation of fabric against your skin, of the ground beneath your feet, the movement of air in and out of your mouth, lungs, nose…

Next notice what you can hear. First, focus on the sounds nearby within the room, then gradually widen the depth of your hearing to take in sounds further and further away. Then focus on smell               and taste. You may notice less for these, but that’s fine.

Finally, open your eyes and slowly refocus on what’s in front of you, directly in front of you. Don’t move your head, you don’t need to. Just see, that means really see in every single detail, what is already in front of you.

While doing this exercise, you will probably find thoughts popping into your head distracting you. This is good. These thoughts could be the inspiration you’re looking for. If not, just notice them. Then let them go and return to focusing on your senses.

By the end of this exercise, you will hopefully more relaxed and have given your subconscious the space to get on with some creativity. You may have found writing inspiration already in something you’ve noticed while doing the exercise or a thought that has popped into your head.

If not, focus on one sense that you don’t normally use much and keep returning to it throughout the rest of the day.  Notice things you wouldn’t normally notice and see where this takes you.

Waiting has always seemed to play a noticeable role in my life – sometimes too large a one for my liking! I prefer, wherever possible, to convert waiting for one thing into a chance to get on with something else. Life is for living, not waiting, after all!

It is however a theme that haunts/animates a fair few of my poems. Today was the launch of a Kidderminster arts installation entitled the ‘Waiting room’.  The project includes five of my poems and I can’t wait to see it!

At the moment, I’m also waiting for my ‘five minutes with’ interview in the local paper (Worcester News). One of the questions I was asked was about favourite music tracks. My answer included They Might Be Giants ‘Birdhouse in Your Soul’. So while I’m waiting, I thought I’d turn this into my prompt for today.

Imagine you’re waiting somewhere, somewhere unusual like maybe a birdhouse. Or inside someone’s soul/body/brain. Or choose somewhere else serious, humorous or quirky. You might want to think about what you’re waiting for and how you feel about it. Perhaps you’re trapped there. Or maybe you chose to go there deliberately to distract yourself or get away from something. This prompt might also be a good one for exploring all the senses. What  do you see/hear/taste/smell/feel while you are waiting? Can the reader guess where you are waiting simply from how you describe it?

Happy writing – and if anyone fancies posting their thoughts, I’ll be waiting!

Reading through my CV this week as part of my return to freelance journalism, I was struck by the predictable irony (inevitable for many mothers) that there should be a gap on it through having young children when in fact they have done so much to fill my life.

I’ve had plenty of food for thought this week too about the need for collection launches to carry health warnings! It’s not just the actual stress associated with organising the Into the Yell launch but the fact that I put on half a stone in one week! Probably just as well that I don’t launch a book every week!

Anyway, if lack of inspiration is eating you up this week, I’m going to suggest the famous Shakespeare quotation : “If music be the food of love, play on” (Twelfth Night). Poetry is one of my loves so, if poetry were food/music, what would it be and why? (Using the senses could work well here.)

Or you could try writing a love poem describing someone or something entirely in terms of food or music – whatever moves you best. Don’t forget this needn’t be a serious love poem. Describing eg your car/shoes in terms of food or music could create a humorous effect.

Have fun!

I’ve been thinking that I might try blogging a few writing prompts – both to inspire me and others.

So, this week being the start of the school summer holiday I thought I’d start with In the Suitcase…

Both poets and fiction writers might want to think about how the contents of the suitcase could be used to reflect the character and personality of the packer. Does he/she pack neatly or rush? Are the contents well-thought out or does it appear to be a grab and drop job?

Also how might the contents suggests the packer’s expectations/dreams and the planned holiday (or business) destination? Warm woollies for a skiing trip or flip-flops and bikinis for the beach? Have they packed books to read or just high heels and party gear?

Of course, this suitcase might have something unusual in it. Money from a bank job? Something hidden by a smuggler? A stolen painting? Nothing at all?

Whatever thoughts, feelings or words this prompt triggers, let your imagination take flight!

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