Free Inspiration, Part the First

I don’t like writing prompts. I understand that they help get lots of writers going, that they can be fun, that lots of great poems were prompted by someone else telling the poet to write “a poem in ten lines with these four words and this other random restriction,” but I find all that tiresome. I’m more interested in finding inspiration in the wild (or, you know, on Twitter).

There’s a folder on my desktop filled with links and images meant to be such inspiration, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. I never find the poem hidden within. So in these installments I will offer this inspiration to you. Maybe you can make it work. All I ask is for a shout-out in your Pulitzer acceptance speech.

First, a moose drawing the poet Randall Mann found on a bathroom stall:

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If Lottery Tickets Came with Coffee: On Applying to Contests

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m a teensy bit competitive.

I get into flip-flop footraces in parking lots. Fail as a Catchphrase partner, and you fail me. I’ve been known to talk some smack. Ask the Cubs—they probably imagine that winning is a lot more fun.

As a writer, the dream of my work winning a competition or prize sends me into ecstatic fits (and it ain’t pretty).

Why not apply to journal contests every day?

Read more after the jump!

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Inside IR: Meet Web Editor Doug Paul Case

If you’re reading this blog post, there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with one of the most entertaining, informative, and energetic “voices” of Indiana Review. After only a few months as our Web Editor, Doug Paul Case has increased and diversified our online presence, as well as our readership, one hundred fold. Whether he’s tweeting, facebooking, updating our blog, adding audio recordings to our very own Bluecast, or making content from the IR archives available online, Doug Paul Case is doing it with enthusiasm and extravagance. Here’s a few things he has to share with us today.

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Doug Paul Case

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Nonfiction Submission Guidelines


Every representation is a failure in its own way.

I stopped praying regularly about two years ago, give or take a few days.

There is a hole in my mouth.

You can refill an ink cartridge with the same type of syringe used to draw blood.

Is it possible to truly submit to another person?

Plato said that at the touch of love everyone becomes a poet.

I’m really sorry your grandfather died.

Imagine if God sent rejection notices for inadequate devotion.

A filling in one of my molars is broken.

I find that one person’s failure is often more interesting than another’s success.

Why did you make your epigraph that line everyone knows from Beckett?

Four billion trees are cut down each year for the sake of paper.

There are several rare species of flower which grow in the ashes of forest fires.

If you submit to God, he is supposed to judge you, but then love you anyway.

Sometimes it only takes me a paragraph to know it isn’t there; sometimes, only a

You can buy dental cement from any pharmacy, but its efficacy is limited.

Last year, a teenager in jail stabbed his cellmate to death with a pencil because
he heard voices in his head.

But, really, does your essay have anything to say?

I read so many things about cancer that I sometimes worry I’m getting a new kind of
cancer you get from reading things about cancer.

To reduce eye strain when using a computer for long periods of time, stare out a
window at the most distant object possible.

In the Middle Ages, parchment was made from the skin of calves, sheep, or goats.

On the phone, the dentist said I shouldn’t eat any more hard candy until I get the
hole fixed.

I’m not really dominant, but I’m not really submissive either.

An interesting formal strategy is no excuse for a lack of occasion.

I wouldn’t have forgotten your birthday if I was your dad.

All happy families are unhappy sometimes, but usually that’s not very interesting.

Every prayer is an essay in faith.

A woman killed all her darlings and found afterward that she was alone in
a small room with nothing.

They call the cap to the tooth a crown and in this way, so many of us are royalty.

How long do you wait for an answer before you stop believing there are answers?

The columns in ancient Greece were originally painted bright colors, either in
tribute to the gods or because someone thought it was prettier that way.

Jacques Ellul said prayer holds together the shattered fragments of the creation,
that it makes history possible.

I refuse to stop believing, even when it is difficult.

One of the most effective submission moves is the sleeper hold, which blocks the
flow of oxygen for as long as it is maintained.

Emergency tracheotomies are commonly performed with the tube of a ballpoint pen.

My filling has been broken for a while, but I thought if I wrote about it, that
might get me to finally do something.

Why did you make your epigraph that line everyone knows from Auden?

Most bronze statues are hollow.


Good Citizenship: a Manifesto (Part I)

Rainer Maria Rilke, in his famous Letters to a Young Poet, writes: “What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours — that is what you must be able to attain.” Being a writer is often talked about as a life of solitude and loneliness, and there is no doubt a lot of truth to this. However, I think it’s just as important to remember that we are members of the larger literary community. This blog series will highlight ways we ought to cultivate our own citizenship in this community.


Part I. Read literary journals


I think we, as writers and readers, have a tendency to focus on the book—it’s the holy grail, the great triumph, the culmination of months and years of work. And the book is great, for sure. But magazines and journals are works of art unto themselves, and, being the first place most writers put their work out into the world, they’re important venues that bring together the established and emerging writers doing great work. I’ve first encountered many of my favorite writers in journals, have been shaken and stirred by poems and essays and stories that may or may not find their way into a full book. And, when I’ve been lucky enough to land a poem in a journal, I’ve always been delighted to see how it complements and antagonizes the other pieces that live alongside it. As I’m quickly learning in the IR office, every journal is the fruit of collective labor—writers, readers, editors, artists, and printers working together to create something larger than the sum of its parts. A journal is a fruit of community.