Walk into a dollarstore and pick out one object that you would put in a time-capsule to represent human civilization (The time-capsule would ideally outlast this present civilization, and ideally be discovered by a new civilization and/or visiting aliens.) You may write a short paragraph on your reasons for choosing that particular object.

How to Explain it to my Parents” is a documentary series by Lernert & Sander in which conceptual artists discuss their work with their parents. Its sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes frustrating.  Perhaps unexpectedly, I found myself often more frustrated by a few of the artists (who seemed defensive and arrogant) than their parents (who for the most part seemed genuinely curious and asking good questions). There were exceptions to this but each of the videos are pretty interesting and worth watching.

Arno Coenen

Bart Julius Peters

Harm van den Dorpel

Martijn Hendriks

Martin C de Waal

At a literary event a little while ago, I met a young fellow (Ian, was it? Hi, Ian!) who told me about this book by a Canadian experimental writer, Darren Wershler-Henry. The Tapeworm Foundry is basically a long run-on series of ideas or prompts or tasks, each separated only by the word “andor”. I haven’t read the whole thing but it as much I’ve read has been pretty cheeky and surreal and disorienting and maddening and inspiring and all sorts of things. Here’s how it starts.

“…jetsam in the laminar flow andor find the threads in redhats andor litter a keyboard with milletseed so that exotic songbirds might tap out their odes to a nightingale andor transcribe the letters pressed onto the platen when stalactites drip on the homerow keys andor reconstruct the ruins of a bombedout capital i andor reinvent the canonic works of western art as a series of roadsign glyphs andor commission an artist to paint the large ass of marcel duchamp andor use a dotmatrix printer to sound out a poem in which each line is a series of pauses whose length is determined by formatting codes and then record the squeal and lurch of the printhead moving across the paper and then replay the noise and then have it transcribed as chamber music for cello or voice andor compose a text acknowledging that words are fourdimensional objects in spacetime andor write an essay on the collected works of jane austen treating the text as a tour de force lipogram that never once makes use of any characters in the sinhalese alphabet andor escape from a paragraph by eloping along bottomless discourses andor point out that super mario world is actually a complex digital allegory for the writings of terence mckenna…”

and it basically carries on that way for some 56 pages where the last line joins up with first. You can download the whole book for free here at ubuweb (pdf).

Visit Darren Wershler-Henry’s website here where you can see a version of the book that includes some of the results of students attempting his ideas.

A miniature of the inside of a dinosaur museum, but with the skeletons of mice, sparrows, etc. where the dinosaurs should be. Little human figures standing around them.

While in the company of friends, acquaintances, or strangers, who frequently take photographs with the phones or cameras, stop one just before they are about to take a picture, hand them a pad (maybe 4×6 so that it resembles a standard photo size) and a pen, and persuade them to draw what they were about to take a picture of. They may draw with great detail, or sketch hurriedly; either is fine.  Acquire enough to present as a collection. As the friend/acquaintance/stranger may want to keep their drawing, find a way to easily obtain a copy.

Think of a thing or a concept and describe it not in terms of itself but in terms of what goes into it. It might be easier to think of this as a recipe poem. For instance, “Sorrow” might look something like

“that ball I lost when I was only nine + watching you sleep & not daring to move + because when you wake you    +   the febrile mess of a brain that is all red thread & it catches on the fence posts & you don’t notice & you start running & you keep running & it trails after you – the shirt you came back for    while I was at work.”

This isn’t btw meant to be an example of a  successful math poem/recipe poem/definition poem. Nope. Pretty lazy, right there. It’s just, how easily things can be strung together. Pay attention to the stringing. Make it
about the stringing or the gloss. Invent a punctuation or a form that will constitute a sticking of one thing to the next.  Taken far enough in one direction this might end up being an incredibly straightforward narrative but one that is attempting to do jumpy exciting things by presenting itself as a narrative that explains a phenomenon (e.g. summer storms, the story consisting entirely of a child’s sexual fantasy about the linen dress of his governess).  Or go the other way-prop open the OED & imitate the exact form of a word as presented. Any word. Or use part of the actual definition. But expand upon its alternate uses & history. Provide quotes & history that do & do not jive with the word as commonly understood. Attempt a disambiguation page a la wikipedia.  This is maybe not so much a prompt as it is a strategy that can be used to more easily respond to prompts, e.g. Raoul’s suggestion of the Q&A poem. A child asks you what water is. But you understand it as a curio cabinet so:

– Russel Swensen

Not getting much back for the writing prompts call…so I might think of a more fun call for submissions. I’ll share a few of my own writing prompts for now though and see if I can kick up some more interest.  Also, feel free to send me the results if you attempt any of these.

Synesthesia Writing

Synesthesia is a neurologically-based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway (wiki). In simple terms what that means is that your senses get crossed;  a piece of music might “appear” deep orange, or the word “Wednesday” might taste inky.

Use three or more instances of synesthesia in a poem. If you are a synesthete you can use your own experiences, but otherwise just invent.

Road Text

On a road trip (as a passenger) or on a long bus ride, write down any words and phrases you catch while traveling. They can be slogans on diners, traffic warnings, bumper stickers, words on billboards etc. Even half-read things would be fine. Just write them down one after the other. Later use this material  for your writing, or as a piece of writing in itself.


Imagine that a child asks you a question. It could be  “How does a radio work?” or “Why aren’t the dinosaurs around anymore?” or “What is an ocelot?” Instead of giving a reasonable logical answer, give a ridiculous, unexpected, and/or beautiful answer. Write down the answer as a paragraph or poem, or use it in a narrative. You can make this a collaboration game where you ask (and reply to) questions back and forth with another writer.


email cloudfarming (at) gmail (dot) com or use the comment section to share your own prompts.

Time for another submission call. This one is a fairly simple and kind of meta- ; basically a way of encouraging more writing for everyone.

Submission Call #2 – Creative Writing Prompts

Share one or two creative writing prompts that gets the imagination sparking and the ink flowing. They can be prompts that have certain rules or limitation that the writing must adhere to, or could be games/processes that ‘generate’  writing, or just straight ahead – “write a poem about _____,” or anything else you can think of. I will definitely prefer unusual and thought provoking ones, though. Obviously there are tons you can find online, but I’d encourage you to think of your own.

Submissions can be for poetry or fiction, for children or adults. Email to cloudfarming @ gmail . com. You can also write me there if you have any questions or comments. If I get a lot I’ll post my favorites, if not, otherwise I might post all of them.

I know a fair number of people who are writers or teachers, or both, so I’m definitely going to be bugging you guys (though I’m excited to receive ideas from those who are neither.)

To make this a bit more interesting, I will attempt to do the most interesting 3 prompts I receive and will post the results here. So I’m basically asking for some awesome homework! (though I don’t really write stories so if you ask me to write one, you’ll probably get it in the form of a crummy little poem.)

As always, any regular cloud farm idea submissions will be accepted during this time.

Looking forward,


vancouver from grouse mountain

photo by jordan dawe

Sensor-strips (like the ones used to measure traffic numbers, patterns) placed across various streets in a city. When driven over, each strip will activate a single musical note, in a consistent musical scale with the other strips in the city. Each of the strips can be assigned a particular pitch or volume to be suitable musically – i.e., a strip on a quiet street can be assigned a deep bass sound,  busy streets can have higher (and possibly quieter) tones, but this isn’t a strict rule. The sounds aren’t audible on the streets themselves, but broadcast to a “listening space” out of the city, preferably on a hill or mountain, in view of the city. The sounds produced can by simple sine waves, or chimes, or piano notes.

More cool links. This is a pretty awesome thing that my boy, Russel, is part of. (That’s him over there making a crucial painterly decision.)


The 1 Second Film is part art, part documentary, part online community, and part non-profit, built around one-second of animation. The one second of animation is made up of 12 giant 5ft x 9ft paintings (each filmed twice, 24 frames for the second), created by hundreds of people during an all night collaborative party. The animation is followed by one-hour of credits listing everyone who participates (currently over 14,000 crew members from 87 countries). Anyone can joins the crew (for free) and be listed in the Special Thanks credits, and anyone who donates at least $1 becomes a Producer. See how you can participate here.

To keep people entertained during the credits, a feature-length ‘making of’ documentary will play alongside the credit-scroll.

After the premiere, the 12 paintings of animation will be on exhibit and auctioned off for charity. Once finished, all profits raised by the film will be donated to The Global Fund for Women, a non-profit grant making organization supporting women’s human rights around the world.