52. The book.

52 PROMPTS Cover v3

The 52 project originated as a life-changing year of poetry prompts, published on this site by Jo Bell in the 52 weeks between January 1st 2014 and January 1st 2015.

Now Jo’s prompts – together with ten written by guest poets including Helen Mort, Philip Gross and Neil Rollinson – are available in a single chunky book from Nine Arches Press. It’s an anthology too, with each prompt supported by poems ranging from John Donne and Edward Thomas to contemporary poets like Kei Miller and Sharon Olds.

Who is the book for? Anyone who writes poetry, at any level. Beginners will find a rich wealth of advice and illustrative poems; experienced poets will find material to refresh their practice; and all will find heart-stopping new poems to show how poetry can move, shock and touch us. The first blog (and now, the first chapter in our book) has been re-published here to give you a flavour of the book.

You can read an interview with Jo Bell about the book here. Order it here to start your own 52-week challenge in 2016, or dip in and out of it for inspiration in coming years.

If you’re on Twitter, follow @52poetry for lots of poetry giveaways in the run-up to Christmas, and for news of workshops and events in 2016. 


[And here’s Jubilate Messi by Steve Ely for those of you working on prompt 7.]

1 – Everything is Going to be Amazing

[This is the first post of Jo Bell’s 52 project, which ran for the 52 weeks of 2014 and is now a book published by Nine Arches Press. We’ve made this one available again as a taster of what’s to come… buy the book here or follow @52poetry on Twitter to see extracts and poems taken from it.]

Are you sitting comfortably? Never mind. Let’s begin anyway. Welcome to 52, a weekly kick in the arse for your Muse. Bookmark us or follow us – there will be guest blogs from big names and unexpected sources; prompts, discussions and projects.

What is poetry for? Everything. Every damn thing. Poetry can tell us how to live, question how we live, remind us how we choose to live. You may be here because you have committed to writing one poem a week for the whole year. But if you haven’t – or if you fall off the waggon now and then – that’s fine. Just drop in now and then; you’re always welcome. Leave a comment, offer up favourite poems on the theme.

But mostly – give yourself just an hour a week to write, at least. And an hour a week to read others’ poetry, at least.

This week our idea, our theme, our suggestion is – how to approach a year. Those of you who expected JOY as a theme – that’s in here too. First, listen to this quiet little celebration from Derek Mahon, or read it here.  Now brace yourselves and read this riotous piece.

Lauren Zuniga

Put on your knickers, girl. We gonna eat these heavy
decisions for breakfast. Smother ‘em in gravy, wash ‘em down
with Grown Ass Woman Soda.

We got this. This is the Big Girl Processing Plant.
Don’t nobody work through their issues like we do. We swallow
abandonment and cough up independence.

You wanna scream? You see that freight train coming at you?
You havin’ that lead-in-yo-legs dream again? Kick that
muthatruckin’ train in its teeth and do a jig.

That’s what you need. Some Mongolian Throat Singing action
and a can o’ Riverdance. Unwad your drawers, Little Mama.
Let’s go to the drag show.

Bust out yo corset, Sweet Ginger and show ‘em all that bouillon.
We were made for the stomp. We were made out of spoon
whittlin’ voodoo stew. Play those spoons, girl.

Don’t let ‘em take your dysfunction and turn it into a brothel.
That’s YOUR dysfunction. You chop that shit up and make it
into a masterpiece. This is the year of Quit the Dumb Shit.

So, you know what that means?
Quit the dumb shit. Stop washing your pearls down
with swine. Get up off your Cadillac britches and show them motor

mouth badgers how it’s done. Everything ain’t gonna be alright.
Everything is going to be amazing.

[From Lauren Zuniga,  The Smell of Good Mud]

You don’t have to like either of these pieces to see what they mean. So roll up your sleeves. Sit down and write in this spirit – about how you are going to tackle 2014.

52 is NOT about writing half-assed workshop-standard poetry. Write the very best you can. Push yourself. Use your poetry to help you work out what you think about the world, or to express the truths you hold self-evident. Take risks. It’s only paper, you know.

Turn over a new leaf and begin. Everything is going to be amazing.