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Writing advice from a Tasmanian cave spider, or how to get your creative juices flowing

Ok, I lied. This post isn’t really about writing advice from a Tasmanian cave spider—more like life advice.

Hang with me for a moment. You’ll see what I mean.

After taking nearly a year off from writing poetry, I had an idea to kick start 2015 with the goal of writing two to three new poems a week for the month of January. But I wasn’t feeling very inspired. Some pretty heavy stuff was going on in my life, and I felt drained.

Then, a gift arrived in the mail.

My blogging partner Carly sent me The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop, by Diane Lockward (I hadn’t even mentioned my goal to her…scary how we think alike, isn’t it?)

Now, I’m normally NOT a “prompt” person but being the good friend that I am, I felt I should at least flip through the book so I could extend my sincere gratitude to her. (Wink. Wink). Late one night, I dragged the book to bed with me and the strangest thing happened—the pages reached out and grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.

Hands down, best poetry craft and prompt book. Ever. Nine of the ten poems I’ve written so far this month were inspired by the book.

But what does this have to do with a Tasmanian cave spider?

One of the prompts suggested writing a poem from the point of view of an animal giving advice. I mulled around for some suitable prospects—a field mouse? Diamondback snake? Pink Fairy Armadillo? (Look it up—there is such a creature.)

Nothing sparked my creative juices until I happened upon an article featuring one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, and his project with the Bookend Trust, which runs environmental educational programs in Tasmanian schools. Turns out they’re shooting a documentary on the Tasmanian cave spider.

Ah! Now, that’s interesting—especially when you picture Mr. Gaiman communing with cave spiders, perhaps drawing inspiration for a future novel….

Anyway, enough drooling. Here’s the poem. Hope you enjoy it! And, if you want to try the prompt, I would love to see your poem.

Advice from a Male Tasmanian Cave Spider

Spin gracefully. Feed on anything big enough or dumb
enough to jump, fly or fall into your web. Don’t be a glutton.
Save some for later or invite friends for a feast.

Create strong structures. Hang by your own thread.
Practice disjointedness whenever you can. Save
your venom for special occasions.

Perpetuate your mythos of mystery and doom.
Scuttle across cave ceilings. Lurk in darkness.
Spend time in your inner cave. Throw shadows

across the walls to scare scientists studying you
for their documentary. Haunt the author
of “Coraline” so he writes you into his next novel.

Cultivate a following. Flaunt your prehistoric nature.
Don’t worry if smaller-minded relatives make fun of you.
They don’t live for decades or stretch the length of a dinner plate.

Develop a fondness for large-bellied females. Pluck your web
nightly to attract a mate. Knead her softly with your long legs.
Spread her fangs apart so she can’t kill you.

Remember, you have eight legs, but sixteen when making love.
Learn to embrace change in case one day you find yourself
squinting into the light.

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