PROMPT BOOK: Experiments for Writing Poetry and Fiction

Publisher : Spuyten Duyvil  Publishing
Publication Date : March 2021
ISBN : 978-1-949966-04-6
Paperback : 382 pages
Cover Collage : “Racepoint” by Lewis Warsh
LCSH: English language—Rhetoric—Study and teaching (Higher)—United States. | Poetry—Authorship—Study and teaching (Higher)—United States. | Fiction—Authorship—Study and teaching (Higher)—United States.

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Both a poetics of teaching and a teaching on poetics, Prompt Book is a work of generous insight and practical instruction that will be of great value to teachers, students, writers, readers, anyone interested in making or engaging the kinds of writing we call poetic. Henning’s prompts are focused yet open, aimed at directing one’s attention without predetermining or overwhelming one’s intention. They propose avenues of exploration designed to push writers outside of our normal patterns of seeing and writing, circumventing habitual writing patterns. “To offer a prompt is to encourage someone to take action,” Henning writes, to “inspire something new.”

Henning presents the lineages and literary trajectories that have inspired her work as a poet and fiction writer as malleable, living traditions with which to engage, to form one’s own relation, and to use as points of departure for experimentation. Complemented by a marvelous selection of thematically and stylistically varied writings that illuminate the explorations of form (prose poem, flash fiction, experimental journaling) that the prompts proffer, Prompt Book is a statement of poetics and pedagogy as engaging as they are engaged.    Dan Owen, poet, translator and author of Restaurant Samsara and Toot Sweet.


Any student of Barbara’s knows about her course reader: a big, ringed thing she’s honed over the years and filled with a trove of prompts, inspirations, flash fiction, and poetry. It’s been on my bookshelf for 10 years, pulled down to reference when I need something to motivate myself or my students. I am thrilled that she’s turned this work into Prompt Book, a collection of the prompts and readings Barbara has compiled and created over the years, along with new analysis and historical context. This is a gift of a book from one of the greats. -Lisa Rogal, poet, teacher, author of Morning Ritual & la belle indifference.


Barbara Henning’s Prompt Book will appeal to the poetry/creative writing instructor and the poetry student alike with exercises and readings that draw upon Henning’s experience as a poet/fiction writer and as an instructor/professor of creative writing at Long Island University.  The chimerical margins that distance a poem from the patched surfaces of real life are notoriously hard to bridge, yet Henning’s Prompt Book does just that.  Her prompts, literary examples and history of poetics give to the writer a considered and nuanced account of literary praxis, modernist artifact and the art of deliberate stylization.   Ryan Nowlin, teacher, poet, author of Kugel, Time With the Season, Banquet Settings and Not Far From Here.


Barbara Henning transformed my writing though her supportive, direct, and insightful teaching style. Her exercises and lectures provide students of prose and poetry with examples from her extensive practice as well as illuminating ideas from Eastern and Western literature. — Misha Penton, musician & writer.


Years ago I took a flash fiction class with Henning at Naropa and saved all of the prompts, which I still use today. Her class changed the way I write and her prompts have kept me company in moments of challenge. Whether you’re a teacher, a writer, an artist, or you just like to be creative, this book will provide tools and inspiration. I’m so excited about this collection.

-Raki Kopernik, author of The Things You Left and The Memory House

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