Poem of the Week | October 24, 2022

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Prompt” by Trey Moody.

Trey Moody was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. His first book, Thought That Nature (Sarabande Books, 2014), won the Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry, and his newer poems have appeared in The Atlantic, The Believer, Gulf Coast, Massachusetts Review, and New England Review. He teaches at Creighton University and lives with his daughter in Omaha, Nebraska.



A poem about silence without using the word “silence.”
A poem about the last time you spoke with a squirrel.
A poem in which each concrete noun begins with the same first letter as the nearest verb.
A poem that provides universal healthcare.
A poem in the shape of a wacky, inflatable, arm-flailing tube guy.
A poem in the shape of a tornado.
A poem that replaces each adjective with a warm cup of soup.
A poem about death whose only noun is “shoes.”
A poem in the voice of a boulder covering the entrance to a cave.
A poem featuring a monochromatic color scheme.
A poem titled “Lines Written in an Empty Bathtub with the Lights Turned Off.”
A poem that breaks the fourth wall.
A poem whose AC runs too cold in the summer, whose furnace runs too hot in the winter.
A poem with a small, potted succulent resting on its surface.
A poem in the key of E minor for an audience of smiles.
A poem offering 0% interest.
A poem that begins with the last words your co-worker ever said to you.
A poem whose lies are completely honest.
A poem whose number of lines could mean something significant.
A poem in the voice of how you think you should sound.
A poem about a river without using the word “river.”
A poem that usually wears a size large T-shirt in black.
A poem that can be harvested for energy.
A poem that begins with your mother’s last living breath.
A poem with the highest burning point.
A poem in the shape of the sound of thunder.
A poem in the shape of an octopus.
A poem in the shape of a wind turbine undergoing maintenance.
A poem that forgets the rule of thirds.
A poem in the shape of a committee proposal for allocating more funding to schools.
A poem titled “Embryo” in the shape of a cashew.
A poem about joy written with the keyboard’s left side.
A poem made from fair labor.
A poem that ends with brushing its teeth.
A poem in the voice of a dialogue balloon hovering above your elected representative.
A poem that needs regular feeding.
A poem whose truths are all made up.
A poem titled “Poem” in the shape of a poem.
A poem in which your apartment is surrounded by a humid continental climate.
A poem the size of a quark.
A poem that ends by metabolizing attention into capital.
A poem presented in a triadic color scheme.
A poem that hands a stranger a cool glass of water.
A poem about silence without using the word “silence.”
A poem whose last line isn’t repeating the first line.
A poem in a voice saying anything real.


Author’s Note

I’ve always loved Bashō’s adage: “Poetry is a fireplace in summer or a fan in winter.” But coming off a particularly long year of teaching in May 2021, when I sat down to write for the first time in a while, the ridiculousness—the excessiveness—of poetry itself was weighing on me. I’ve been teaching poetry and designing writing prompts in some form or fashion for about fifteen years, and as a poet, I myself respond to others’ prompts from time to time. Still, I’ve always been a little wary of prompts’ limitations, too. So when I began writing that May, I started thinking about the edges between the impossibility of prompts and their utilitarian usefulness. “Prompt” began as a critique of such impossibility and so-called “usefulness,” but I also knew I couldn’t turn any of my poems—including this one—into a warm cup of soup. I’m a poet, so the critique morphed into somewhat of a succumbing to futility, too, acknowledging that “utility” lurks in that very word. Of course the hope is that such self-nourishment provides strength to perform the necessary acts of love that must happen off the page.