The Girton Poetry Group

Not Averse

Archive of meeting dates, themes, forms

Easter term 2014:  12 June

Prompts:

  1. Form:  ‘Fib’ or ‘Fibonacci poem’ :  Fib is an experimental Western poetry form, bearing similarities to haiku, but based on the Fibonacci sequence.  That is, the typical fib and one version of the contemporary Western haiku both follow a strict structure.  The typical fib is a six line, 20 syllable poem with a syllable count by line of 1/1/2/3/5/8 - with as many syllables per line as the line's corresponding place in the Fibonacci sequence.
  2. Form:  ‘Palindrome poem’: a poem that reads the same running forward as running backward

Easter term 2014:  30 April

Prompts:

  1. Form: any form you've always wanted to try but haven't been brave enough to!
  2. Theme: lost and found
  3. Quotation:  ‘The art of losing isn't hard to master; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster…’  — ‘One Art’, Elizabeth Bishop

Lent term 2014:  5 March

Prompts:

  1. Theme:  Parties and celebrations
  2. Quotation:  ‘Thus play I in one person many people, And none contented.’  — Shakespeare, Richard II, Act V Sc.  5
  3. Form:  Ghazal
  4. Bonus theme:  Hermit crabs

Lent term 2014:  19 February

Prompts:

  1. Theme:  Romance
  2. Theme:  The Sea
  3. Form:  Dramatic verse

Lent term 2014:  29 January

Prompts:

  1. Theme:  New beginnings
  2. Form:  Vers libre
  3. Theme:  Cryptography or Mystery

Michaelmas term 2013:  27 November

Prompts:

  1. Form:  Pantoum
  2. Theme and quotation:  Painting — ‘I don't paint dreams or nightmares, I paint my own reality.’  — Frida Kahlo
  3. Poems for inspiration: [little tree] by e.e. cummings; The Muppet Christmas Carol

Michaelmas term 2013:  13 November

Prompts:

  1. Theme: mirrors
  2. Form: cento - a poem composed of bits taken from other authors, in a new form or order.  Poetic plagiarism?
  3. Quotation:  ‘I need a little language such as lovers use, words of one syllable such as children speak when they come into the room and find their mother sewing and pick up some scrap of bright wool, a feather, or a shred of chintz.  I need a howl; a cry.  When the storm crosses the marsh and sweeps over me where I lie in the ditch unregarded I need no words.’  — Virginia Woolf, The Waves

Michaelmas term 2013:  30 October

Prompts:

  1. Theme: leaves
  2. Form:  Terza rima
  3. Quotation:  ‘When I remember it, I think of it as dancing.  Dancing with eyes half closed because to open them would break the spell.  Dancing as if language had surrendered to movement - as if this ritual, this worldless ceremony, was now the way to speak, to whisper private and sacred things, to be in touch with otherness.  Dancing as if the very heart of life and all its hopes might be found in those assuaging notes and those hushed rhythms and in those silent and hypnotic movements.  Dancing as if language no longer existed because words were no longer necessary.’  — Brial Friel, Dancing at Lughnasa.

Easter term 2013:  8 May

Prompts:

  1. Theme:  Photography
  2. Form:  Clerihew
  3. Quotation:  ‘Be always drunken.  / Nothing else matters:  / ...’  — 'Paris Spleen', Charles Baudelaire

Lent term 2013:  6 March

Prompts:

  1. Learning/Discovery
  2. Easter/Ostara
  3. Inspiration:  ‘Anything but iambic’.  Write in a metre you might not usually write in!
  4. Form:  Elegy - a mournful or plaintive poem, a lament.

Lent term 2013:  13 February

Prompts:

  1. Form:  Dramatic Monologue
  2. Risk OR Cliché
  3. ‘I hold it true, whate’er befall; / I feel it, when I sorrow most; / ’Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all.’  — Alfred Tennyson
  4. ‘'It has become almost a cliché to remark that nobody boasts of ignorance of literature, but it is socially acceptable to boast ignorance of science and proudly claim incompetence in mathematics.’  — Richard Dawkins

Lent term 2013:  30 January

Prompts:

  1. Nocturne-inspired by or evocative of the night.
  2. Form:  Roundel
  3. ‘…everything in the rubbish-heaped world / Is a bridesmaid at her miracle.  / Dunghills and crumbly dark old barns are bowed in the chapel of her sparkle.  / The gruesome boggy cellars of the wood / Are a wedding of lace / Now taking place.’  — Ted Hughes, ‘Snow and Snow’

Michaelmas term 2012:  14 November

Prompts:

  1. Witnessing — ‘I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus, / Underneath the mistletoe last night.’
  2. ‘If ifs, ands and buts were sweets and nuts, we'd all have a wonderful Christmas.’
  3. ‘Form is content-as-arranged; content is form-as-deployed.’  — Helen Vendler

Michaelmas term 2012:  24 October

Prompts:

  1. Theme:  Sculpture (or indeed sculpting)
  2. Theme:  Magnets
  3. Form:  Prose Poem
  4. Quotation:  ‘A gutter of poetry flowed outside the yard, Making me think I was a bird of prose; For overhead, bagged in a golden cloud, There hung the fatted souls of animals, Wile at my eyes bright dots of butterflies Turned off and on like distant neon signs.’  — Karl Shapiro, ‘A Garden in Chicago’

Michaelmas term 2012:  10 October

Prompts:

  1. Form:  An Ode ‘An elaborately formal lyric poem, often in the form of a lengthy ceremonious address to a person or abstract entity, always serious and elevated in tone.’ (apparently)
  2. Theme:  Wealth ‘A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.’  — Jane Austen, ‘Mansfield Park’
  3. Theme:  Renewal/Decay:  ‘Something is in the line and air along edges, which is in woods when the leaf changes and in the leaf-pattern's gives and gauges.’  — Alice Oswald, ‘Mountains’

Easter term 2012:  13 June

Prompts:

  1. The Roundel
  2. The Sea
  3. Irish Proverb:  'Is maith an scéalaí an aimsir' - Time is a good storyteller
  4. Freedom

Easter term 2012:  9 May

Prompts:

  1. Trains / Train stations and/or Patience
  2. ‘Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg until it is broken.’  — Mary Frances Fisher, US gastronome and writer
  3. Form:  Sestina (examples include Ian Patterson's 'Sestina' as one that uses as line endings words that have several meanings, and Seamus Heaney's 'Two Lorries' where the line endings are words with, in principle at least, only one meaning)

Lent term 2012:  7 March

Prompts:

  1. ‘I see myself as a fish in the stream; deflected; held in place; but cannot describe the stream’ — Virginia Woolf, ‘A Sketch of the Past’
  2. Petrarchan sonnet: having an octave rhyming abbaabba, and a sestet rhyming cdecde (or variant thereof)
  3. Astrology (and maybe astronomy, too)
  4. Free verse.  It might also be interesting to think about this quotation from Auden’s ‘The Dyer’s Hand’:  ‘The difference between formal and free verse may be likened to the difference between carving and modelling; the formal poet, that is to say, thinks of the poem he is writing as something already latent in the language which he has to reveal, while the free-verse poet thinks of language as a plastic passive medium upon which he imposes his artistic conception.’

Lent term 2012:  15 February

Prompts:

  1. ‘The etymologist finds the deadest word to have been once a brilliant picture.  Language is fossil poetry’ — Emerson, ‘The Poet’
  2. ‘The busy bee has no time for sorrow’ — Blake, ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’
  3. Translation (for any budding linguists in our midst)
  4. The hilariously-named 'Nonnet' (see here for details)

Lent term 2012:  1 February

Prompts:

  1. Collage - ‘A term adopted from the vocabulary of painters to denote a work which contains a mixture of allusions, references, quotations, and foreign expressions’.  See particularly sections of David Jones’s Anathemata, or Eliot’s The Wasteland
  2. ‘The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an agnostic’ — Charles Darwin
  3. ‘Scansion’, from the Latin ‘scandere’, ‘to climb’
  4. Form:  Villanelle

Michaelmas term 2011:  23 November

Prompts:

  1. ‘Christmas to a child is the first terrible proof that to travel hopefully is better than to arrive.’  — Stephen Fry
  2. Narrative poetry - tell us a story!
  3. ‘Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!’  — Charles Dickens
  4. Form:  Haiku

Michaelmas term 2011:  2 November

Prompts:

  1. Prose Poetry.  This really is great.  There are a few nice examples in Heaney's ‘District and Circle’ if I remember correctly.  Anyway, Wikipedia is, as ever, the king of knowledge. 
  2. .  ‘A figure of speech in which a thing, a place, an abstract quality, an idea, a dead or absent person, is addressed as if present and capable of understanding’.  Think Wordsworth's ‘London, 1812’.
  3. ‘Sin and love and fear are just sounds that people who never sinned nor loved nor feared have for what they never had and cannot have until they forget the words.’  — William Faulkner, ‘As I Lay Dying’

Michaelmas term 2011:  19 October

Prompts:

  1. ‘I wish our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is, prose = words in their best order; poetry = the best words in their best order.’  — Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ‘Table Talk’, 1821—1834
  2. Form: the dramatic monologue (see Robert Browning's ‘Men and Women’ for some of the most famous examples.
  3. ‘English not being yet a language, I wrapped my lubber-lips around my thumb; Brain-deaf as an embryo, I was snuggled in my comfort blanket dumb.’  — Ciaran Carson, ‘Second Language’

Easter term 2011:  23 June

Prompts:

  1. Theme 1:  Ambivalence
  2. Theme 2:  Vorticism, which can be roughly defined as movement and machinery in language.
  3. Quotation:  ‘Thou shalt not use poetry, art and music to get into girls’ pants; use it to get into their heads.’  — Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’

Easter term 2011:  1 June

Prompts:

  1. Theme:  Rain
  2. Quotation:  ‘One too many mornings and a thousand miles behind.’  — Bob Dylan
  3. Form:  Pantoum

Easter term 2011:  18 May

Prompts:

  1. Theme 1:  Ovid, The Heroides
  2. Theme 2:  The Elements
  3. Form:  The Sonnet

Lent term 2011:  9 March

Prompts:

  1. ‘Revolution’ It's in the air and in the news at the moment.  Here's a few lines by Wordsworth, responding to the French Revolution:  “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, / But to be young was very heaven!-Oh! times, / In which the meagre, stale, forbidding ways / Of custom, law, and statute, took at once / The attraction of a country in romance!”
  2. ‘Intimacy’ Think about different kinds of intimacy and how poetry might be able to bridge the gaps between people; or not.  Here's a sample of Philip Larkin's bed-time chat to urge you to develop your own:  “None of this cares for us.  Nothing shows why / At this unique distance from isolation / It becomes still more difficult to find / Words at once true and kind / Or not untrue and not unkind.”
  3. Form:  The “Complaint”: (a poem of protest or lament, typically at amorous disappointment, betrayal or desertion; in the decades around 1600 deeply caught up with the epyllion and sonnet-sequence, not least in Shakespeare); or Ottava Rima: stanzas of eight lines; iambic pentameter; rhyming abababcc.

Lent term 2011:  23 February

Prompts:

  1. Ekphrasis, which is ‘the intense pictorial descriptions of an object, especially an art object'.  Some examples of 'art objects’ you might like to describe are here, here, and here, but, of course, please feel free to use whatever you wish.
  2. syllabic verse, which is written not according to metre, but according to the number of syllables in a line.  An example is Marianne Moore’s No Swan So Fine.
  3. Springtime.

Lent term 2011:  2 February

Prompts:

  1. ‘Concrete Poetry’ - a form in which attention is paid to the layout, spacing and general visual-ness of the poem (see here).  This could range from just thinking more than usual about the white space around the poem, or creating an elephant with line length.  An example is George Herbert’s ‘Easter Wings’.
  2. ‘Paraphrasing’ or ‘Retelling.’  So - a return to a famous myth or story.  For example, something like ‘Leda and the Swan’ or Angela Carter's retellings of fairy tales in ‘The Bloody Chamber.’  See here or here.
  3. “Women don't know the offside rule.”  — Andy Gray

Michaelmas term 2010:  1 December

Prompts:

  1. “Christmas is a time when kids tell Santa what they want and adults pay for it.  Deficits are when adults tell the government what they want and their kids pay for it.”  — Richard Lamm
  2. “There has been only one Christmas — the rest are anniversaries.”  — W.  J.  Cameron
  3. And here's a little something to get you thinking about form, without me setting a form for our next meeting: “Poetry is not instruments / that work at times / then walk out on you / laugh at you old / get drunk on you young / poetry's part of yourself.”  — Frank O'Hara

Michaelmas term 2010: 10th November

Prompts:

  1. Dramatic Monologue: a speech in which a persona accounts an event/reveals their feelings at a specific dramatic moment - a form without a set verse structure.  See here.  Or anything by Robert Browning (my personal favourite is ‘Porphyria’s Lover’)
  2. “I’m glad I exist” — Wendy Cope (because we don't want any 5th week blues)
  3. The Christmas poem competition (the winner of which will be set to music courtesy of the college organ scholars)

Michaelmas term 2010: 20th October

Prompts:

  1. Alliterative verse (see here)
  2. ‘A poem is never finished, only abandoned.’  — Paul Valéry
  3. Quotation:  ‘.’  —

Easter term 2010: 2nd June

Prompts:

  1. Freedom
  2. ‘Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be safely and quietly insane each night of our lives.’
  3. Jazz poetry (see here)

Lent term 2010: 28th April

Prompts:

  1. ‘We all of us compose verse to some sort of tune.’  — Ezra Pound, I Gather the Limbs of Osiris
  2. ‘[...] I ask in all honesty,/ What would life be?/ Without a song or dance, what are we?’  — Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, Mamma Mia
  3. Sprung rhythm (or an approximation thereof).

Lent term 2010: 10th March

  1. Quotation:  ‘It is really about telling the story.  Good fiction is the truest thing that ever there was.  Facts are not necessarily the only truths.  Facts can be fiddled with by economists and bankers.  There are other kinds of truth.  It's about telling the story.’  — Arundhati Roy, The Chequebook & the Cruise-Missile
  2. Form:  Prose poetry.
  3. Theme:  (click to see larger version)

Lent term 2010: 17th February

  1. The fantastic Elaine Feinstein, from the fantastic poem, 'Companionship': 

    ...Today I was watching
    a grey squirrel fly in the beech trees when
    your words reached into me:  'You know,
    a poet isn't much of a companion.'
  2. The pentain, which is a five-line stanza.  I won't set any metrical or rhyme-scheme restrictions (but feel free to restrict yourselves!).  According to The Poetry Handbook, pentains are uncommon, but examples can be found in Larkin's 'Annus Mirabilis', bits of 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' and, of course, the limerick.
  3. Epic poetry: any aspect, character, scene or thing thereof.  Use or abuse this prompt how you will.  In case you opt out of writing an actual epic poem, plenty of writers have of course written dramatic monologues based on epic poems or their characters, or other reinterpretations.  Maybe take a look at this poem by W.  S.  Merwin inspired by Homer's Odyssey.  Oooh, or this one, by Louise Gluck!  Or maybe (re)read Chaucer's House of Fame.

Lent term 2010: 3rd February

  1. Theme:  (click to see larger version)
  2. Quotation:  'It is widely supposed that the naked human body is in itself an object upon which the eye dwells with pleasure.  But anyone who has frequented art schools and seen the shapeless, pitiful model which the students are industriously drawing will know this is an illusion.' — Kenneth Clark, The Nude
  3. Form: ottava rima. that is, 8 lines, usually in iambic pentameter, rhyming abababcc.

Lent term 2010: 20th January

  1. Theme: repetition.  Here are two links to get you thinking:
    1. (click to see larger version)
    2. or this
  2. Form:
    1. villanelle.  Here is a description
    2. for those of you who don't want to try a villanelle in 10 days, the other option is the tercet.

Michaelmas term 2009: 2nd December

  1. Theme 1: the following people were born and died on christmas day: born: annie lennox (1954); humphrey bogart (1899); pope pius vi (1717); sir isaac newton (1642) died: james brown (2006); johnny ace (1954); elizabeth petrovna [empress of russia 1741-1761] (1761); pope adrian I (795). 
  2. Theme 2:  ‘In the Middle Ages, boar’s head used to be a traditional Christmas dish.  This custom started when a boar attacked a university student and he saved himself by ramming a book of Aristotle's writings down its throat.  The boar choked to death and then he cut off its head and brought it back to his college.’ — from a website about christmas trivia. given its provenance it is almost certainly true. 
  3. Form 1: the english version of the sapphic ode: each stanza contains three lines of iambic tetrameter followed by a final line of four equally stressed syllables; rhyme scheme abab. can be used loosely.
  4. Form 2: limerick

Michaelmas term 2009: 8th November

  1. Theme: place
    below is a list of places, one, all, or none of which you may like to visit.
    • woodland's court, late at night
    • 'a' corridor (follow it right to the end where it starts smelling strongly of wood)
    • the motorway bridge on the way from girton to the co-op
    • castle mound
    • garret hostel bridge
    • the grand arcade
  2. Form: rhyming couplets

Michaelmas term 2009: 28th October

  1. Quotation:  ‘I don't want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve it through not dying.’  — Woody Allen
  2. Form: dactylic meter

Michaelmas term 2009: 14th October

Easter term 2009: 17th June

  1. The Lawrence Room's collection of Eye Idols: 
    (click to see larger version)
  2. Theme: freight

Easter term 2009: 13th May

  1. Quotation:  ‘Throw your homework onto the fire.’  — The Smiths
  2. Theme: compass

Easter term 2009: 6th May

  1. Quotation:  ‘A Pang is more conspicuous in Spring.’  — Emily Dickinson
  2. Theme: salvage

Lent term 2009: 4th March

  1. Theme: hollows
  2. Quotation:  ‘I think everyone wants to be a writer.’  — Martin Amis

Lent term 2009: 18th February

  1. Theme:  (click to see larger version)
  2. Quotation:  ‘Stay me with raisins, comfort me with apples For I am sick of love.’  — “The Song of Songs (Which is Solomon’s)”, as read by Orson Welles

Lent term 2009: 28th January

  1. Theme:  Silence
  2. Quotation:  ‘If a man owns land, the land owns him.’  — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Michaelmas term 2008: 19th November

  1. Theme:  (click to see larger version)
  2. Quotation:  ‘Fruit tree, fruit tree, no one knows you but the rain and the air.’  — Nick Drake

Michaelmas term 2008: 5th November

  1. Theme:  Obituary of Studs Terkel
  2. Quotation:  ‘“Begin at the beginning,” the king said, gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”’ — Lewis Carroll, ‘Alice's adventures in Wonderland’

Michaelmas term 2008: 22nd October

  1. Theme:  Letters
  2. Quotation:  ‘Exile's but another name for an old habit of non-residence.’  — Robert Graves

Easter term 2008: 11th June

  1. No theme

Easter term 2008: 21st May

  1. Quotation:  ‘Little by little, one travels far.’  — JRR Tolkien
  2. Theme:  Donkeys

Easter term 2008: 29th April

  1. Form:  Triolet
  2. Quotation:  ‘And when you're in a Slump,/you're not in for much fun./Un-slumping yourself/is not easily done.’  — Dr Seuss
  3. Theme:  Perfection

Lent term 2008: 27th February

  • Quotation:  ‘Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.’  — Friedrich von Schiller
  • Theme:  Sound

Lent term 2008: 13th February

  • Form:  Sonnet
  • Theme:  Roses
  • Quotation:  ‘To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead.’  — Bertrand Russell

Lent term 2008: 30th January

  • Theme:  Enemies
  • Quotation:  ‘In the beginning the Universe was created.  This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.’  — Douglas Adams

Michaelmas term 2007: 7th November

  1. Form:  Rhyme royal
  2. Theme:  Evolution
  3. Quotation:  ‘Clothes make the man, naked people have little or no influence on society.’  — Mark Twain

Michaelmas term 2007: 21st November

  1. Quotation:  ‘Men and women, women and men.  It'll never work.’  — Erica Jong
  2. Theme:  Notes

Michaelmas term 2007: 24th October

  1. Theme:  Steps
  2. Quotation:  ‘There's no place like home.’

Easter term 2007: 20th June

  1. Theme:  Endings
  2. Quotation:  ‘Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.’  — Russell Baker

Easter term 2007: 23rd May

  1. Theme:  Cutlery
  2. Quotation:  ‘[The poet] doth grow in effect another nature.’  — Sir Philip Sidney

Easter term 2007: 9th May

  1. Theme:  Circles
  2. Quotation:  ‘It was the mind's weight / Kept me bent, as I grew tall.’  — RS Thomas

Lent term 2007: 7th March

  1. a) [SENSIBLE EASTER THEME] Passion
    b) [SILLY EASTER THEME] Chickens
  2. Quotation:  ‘The painting has a life of its own.  I try to let it come through’ — Jackson Pollock

Lent term 2007: 21st February

  • Hereafter for Elsewhere:  An Ash Wednesday Sequence (music and readings in the Girton Chapel)

Lent term 2007: 14th February

  1. Theme:  Love poems, in all their guises, be they happy, sad, funny, sexy, depressing, short, long, a good size, scandalous, cute, manipulative, confusing, clear-eyed, teary-eyed, torn-up, good, bad, angry, sceptical, naïve, elusive, allusive, embarrassed, embarrassing, coy, naughty, frigid, filthy, unfair, continental, incontinent, impotent, infertile, in denial, bestial, pastoral, perilous, peerless…
  2. Form:  Sonnet

Lent term 2007: 24th January

  1. Quotation:  ‘Every mile is two in winter.’  — George Herbert
  2. Theme:  Orientalism

Michaelmas term 2006: 22nd November

  1. Quotation:  ‘War is not nice’ — Barbara Bush
  2. Theme:  Nature

Michaelmas term 2006: 8th November

  1. Theme:  Bonfires
  2. Quotation:  ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall.’

Michaelmas term 2006: 25th October

  1. Theme:  The line
  2. Quotation:  ‘Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.’  — G.K.  Chesterton

Easter term 2006: 22nd June

  • Form: any of villanelle, triolet, sonnet, heroic couplets

Easter term 2006: 10th May

  • Form:  Triolet

Lent term 2006: 16th March

  1. Theme:  Old age
  2. Form:  Limerick

Lent term 2006: 2nd March

  1. Theme:  Treasure
  2. Form:  Heroic couplets

Michaelmas term 2005: 23rd November

  1. Form:  Ballad
  2. Theme:  Drugs

Michaelmas term 2005: 9th November

  1. Form:  Prose poem
  2. Theme:  Geography

Michaelmas term 2005: 26th October

  1. Form:  Villanelle
  2. Theme:  Music

Easter term 2005: 21st June

  1. Form:  Sonnet
  2. Theme:  Lawn mower

Easter Term 2005: 19th May

  1. Form:  Tetrameter
  2. Theme:  Revision

Easter Term 2005: 4th May

  1. Theme:  Glove box
  2. Quotation:  ‘Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is in my heart.’  — Victor Hugo

Lent term 2005: 16th March

  1. Theme:  Scissors
  2. Quotation:  ‘True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.’  — Kurt Vonnegut

Lent term 2005: 23rd February

  1. Theme: beards
  2. Quotation:  ‘The English have sent all their bores abroad.’  — Edward Bond

Lent term 2005: 2nd February

  1. Theme:  A post-it note
  2. Quotation:  ‘Too early seen unknown, and known too late.’  — William Shakespeare