Can A Journaling Prompt Be A Poem?

On October 24, 2016 I started writing journaling prompts and I just haven’t been able to stop.

Why are you doing this? Are you adapting or hiding? Are you where you want to be or struggling to fit in?

This is the fifth journaling prompt I wrote. It took its inspiration from the Russian proverb “If you live among the wolves, you have to howl like a wolf.”

All the prompts for the first hundred prompts were inspired by various quotes. Then I worked on writing them in groups of five with a weekly theme. Now I write them to build on themes of everyday questing with a new one going out every four days.

Always, I’ve kept the prompts to three questions in length, with the aim of each one taking you a little deeper into your journaling practice. Recently, as I explore my own definition of poetry as I get myself squared away to apply to graduate school, I’ve been wondering what it would be like to send off a manuscript these prompts as my writing sample (or part of it at least).

But first I have to test my prompt against the four questions which — when all answered — prove a thing to be a poem in my opinion.

1 — Open or Shut?

What form does this poem take? Because the three sentences are all in a row without poetic line breaks it could be considered a prose or open-form poem. Now, for my part I know that it is one of hundreds of prompts all restricted to no more than three questions which could be argued to be a shut/closed/fixed form.

However, no one reading it without that background knowledge would perceive it to be open. In order for the piece to be seen as shut I would have to declare and teach journaling prompts as a form of poetry. I know the prompt to be shut, though it may appear open, and so the first question is answered.

2 — Who is the Speaker and Who is the Audience?

The use of only 2nd-person pronouns puts the Speaker in a position of authority, either someone giving guidance or else the Audience themselves tapping into the efficacy of self-talk/-questioning. So the Speaker is whoever the Audience needs them to be and the Audience is whoever makes use of the questions. Two out of four questions answered.

3 — What kind of a thing is it?

Does it tell a story (narrative work) or not (lyric work)? Questions/prompts are not meant to tell everything, they’re meant to get you thinking/feeling. In this way the work of writing journaling prompts is the writing of lyric pieces, question three answered.

4 — What is this thing’s type?

Rhyming verse, blank verse, or free verse? There is no discernable rhyme scheme, not even internal rhyme which would be the only thing possible in anything resembling prose poetry. At 27 syllables with no line breaks it can’t possibly be iambic pentameter. This leaves free verse. Four questions answered for a confirmed poem.

According to these four questions, my journaling prompts are a kind of decidedly lyric poetry which resemble the open form of prose poetry until the poet is made keep the work to no more than three questions. Which leads me a personal prompt:

Where do the verse forms I create belong? What do they say when left to speak for themselves? Who has ears to listen and move forward?

Also published on Medium.