Writing Exercises & Prompts
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Creative Writing Exercises & Prompts

PLAYING A VISIBLE GAME
From Billy Collins’ Masterclass Workshop

Using Billy Collins’ “Questions About Angels,” Wallace Stevens’ “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” or Charles Simic’s “Bestiary for the Fingers of My Right Hand” as a model, write a poem whose title lets the reader in on how the poem is going to proceed by indicating what lies ahead. Then, write this poem, making sure to both deliver on the promise of the title while complicating its meaning. “Questions About Angels” leaves its reader with a startling and surprising image: it comes in the form of an “answer” to the questions previously posited and paints an intimate portrait of an angel dancing to jazz in her stockinged feet. Write a poem and, taking a cue from “Questions About Angels,” end your poem with a specific image. Make this visual fitting for the poem but somewhat unfamiliar, balancing between expectation and surprise. Try going inside the image and fleshing it out. Make the image come to life the way Collins tried to make that dancing angel come to life.


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