Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets, by Erica Goss

Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets, by Erica Goss. San Jose: Pushpen Press, 2014. 192 pages. $12, paper.

In her introduction to Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets, Erica Goss says, “Poems can and should be actively sought, captured, and written down.” This piece of advice resonates throughout this book of poetry prompts and reminds us that writing is not always about waiting for the muse to strike. We often must seek out inspiration from new sources, experiment with form and language, and allow our imagination to follow many different paths. There’s no “one way” to write a good poem and Goss proves this point repeatedly throughout her book.

My assumption when I first began to read was that Goss’s target audience is the novice poet – someone perhaps younger who fears he or she has nothing to write about yet, or not enough life experience from which to draw – but Goss wishes to inspire a wide range of poets. Though she does offer suggestions for simple, 50-word poems, she also proposes more ambitious projects, such as a long series of poems. The prompt “Journal Lines” reminds us of the importance of keeping and going back to our personal journals for inspiration, and “How to Pirate a Treasure Chest” (contributed by Ellaraine Lockie) permits us to “steal” interesting words and phrases from our favorite (or not-so-favorite) works of literature. Though this book is ideal for a newer writer (and, in fact, would be a great text to use in a creative writing class), poets at any stage of their career will appreciate these tips and prompts.

If you’re looking for step-by-step exercises, or strict guidance, you won’t find much of it in this book. One of its greatest strengths is that the prompts are (as the title promises) truly ideas and inspirations; they are open-ended, allowing the reader to make his or her own choices without mandating a prescribed method. The message throughout the book is clear: poetry writing should be a playful and fun experience.

The Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, California, Erica Goss wrote most of the prompts and poetry samples herself, but she also includes a few ideas and poems from other poets, who add to the overall tone and energy of the book. Though this book is accessible to a wide audience, Goss’s approach does not “dumb down” the writing process. Her intellect and creativity shine through. “Some poems do arrive, almost complete, seemingly out of thin air,” she tells us in her introduction. “However, as most writers inevitably learn, waiting for inspiration is really just waiting.” Erica Goss urges her readers to stop waiting and start writing.

More about this author:

Erica Goss is the Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, CA, and the host of Word to Word, a show about poetry. She is the author of Wild Place (Finishing Line Press 2012) and Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets (PushPen Press 2014). Her poems, reviews and articles appear widely, both on-line and in print. She writes The Third Form, a column about video poetry, for Connotation Press.

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