Writing Prompts: “The Smell of Music” & “Five Easy Pieces”

The first of these prompts, “The Smell of Music,” is simple. Listen to a song you don’t know from a genre you do not (or rarely) listen to, and then write a response to it–prose, poem, or otherwise. I listened to a French “pop” song that I found on YouTube. I chose to write my response as a poem because it’s a form that I normally don’t use, and I thought it would be fun to experiment. (Is it successful–who knows?)

“The Smell of Music”

Song: Révolution by Benjamin Braxton

It tastes like semi-toxic bubbles,

the vibrating thrum of flashing lights,

and the smell of fermented wheat

seeping through the exposed, heated pores

of twenty-somethings.

It feels sticky

and sour like sweat,

freeing like brief carelessness,

and the people are smiling, hair whipping toward the ceiling,

strands sealing to damp foreheads.

The taste is foreign, new, unexpected—

escargot and strobe lights.


This second prompt, “Five Easy Pieces” by Richard Jackson, is a bit more difficult. In five lines (only!) you must: 1) Describe someone’s hands. 2) Describe what s/he is doing with her/his hands. 3) Use a metaphor to say something about a (exotic) place. 4) Mention something you want to ask this person (in the context of 2. and 3.) 5) The person looks up, notices you there, and says something, suggesting they only heard part of what you said.

I found this one to be pretty difficult because I’m not good at metaphors and this is a very small space in which to create a full image. Again, is it successful? I shrug. But here it is anyway!

“Five Easy Pieces” 

Chef Baudin’s right hand grips tightly to the handle of a hissing iron skillet, fingers bending sharply at the knuckles to keep the heated pan firmly in place. He flicks his wrist upward and the smoking bits of chicken and onion scatter in the air. The Vidalias are caramelizing, earthworms shrinking in the pan, seasoned with Herb de Provence and the memories of southern France when the irises are in full bloom. I wonder if that is where he fell in love with cooking, in his hometown of Nice, his nose nestled between cookbooks and fresh garden herbs. I do not realize I have said this aloud until his eyes blink up at me, hand still swirling the inhabitants of his skillet, and says “There weren’t many children my age in the village.”


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