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Variations on the 10-Minute Spill

In the months since writing my response to this interview question, I’ve seen several references to extremely similar writing prompts – a typically synchronistic example of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.

In the Kenyon Review (from 3/2021), Michael Montlack speaks of Dorianne Laux & Joe Millar’s method of “making a list of words, throwing in a quote or fact or phrase, and taking an hour to write a draft.”

And in the Ottawa Poetry Newsletter (from 10/2020), Valerie Coulton describes Edward Smallfield’s process that “consists of a personalized postcard with four words and a quote. He used to pass these out in workshops, and then everyone would write for 15 minutes.”

I’m not surprised to see randomness and chance being integrated into writing prompts, but now I’m curious to find out what the provenance is of Rita Dove’s exercise, which I’ve been using on and off for about twenty years.

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