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  • Christine Delea

Bugging Out: Poetry Prompt

Let's use today's poem, Gnats by Ladan Osman, as part of our inspiration today. I also suggest reading Ode to the Maggot by Yusef Komunyakaa (here for the print version or here to hear/watch Komunyakaa read it). Another great insect poem to read is Lucille Clifton's At Last We Killed the Roaches.


We humans have such weird relationships with insects. Many of us have a fear of spiders, but we romanticize dragonflies. I despise ants, but I cannot help but admire their feats of engineering. The three poems mentioned above feature three insects that make us squirm (at best): gnats, maggots, and cockroaches. But we swoon for butterflies, love to hear crickets in the late summer evenings, and create idioms using insects (like a moth to a flame; a black widow killer; busy as a bee; a fly on the wall; ants in your pants; a flea in your ear; etc.).


Today's prompt is about insects. You can use your insect, as Osman does in her poem, as a symbol of something, barely mentioned but when it is, it packs a punch. You can marvel at an insect most people shy from, as Komunyakaa does with maggots. You can use an insect event, as Clifton does, to spark a memory. Or you can do something else entirely, of course.


Below are a few odd facts about insects, in case you need a little more inspiration.


Hercules beetles, native to rainforests in Central America, can be 8" long, and this includes their horns.


When butterflies are in mating season, males will chase anything small that moves; when they get close to whatever they are chasing, they use smell to determine if their target is a female butterfly of the same species.


Ladybugs squirt a very stinky liquid when frightened.


Bees might fly 60 miles a day in order to find food.


Some insects replace their body's water with glycerol, a chemical that acts like antifreeze, during the cold seasons in order to stay alive.


Caterpillars have 8,000 muscles in their bodies.


Katsaridaphobia is the fear of cockroaches.


About 1/3 of insects are carnivorous, and they prefer hunting for live prey rather than eating from carcasses.


Houseflies taste with their feet.


A few insects with wonderful names: Dung Beetle, Sweetheart Underwing, Ambush Bugs, Virgin Tiger Moth, Stink Bug, Violin Beetle, Elephant Beetle, Glorious Scarab, Flat-faced Longhorn, Buffalo Treehoppers, No-See-Ums, Cuckoo Wasp, Picasso Moth,

Vampire Moth, Assassin Bug, Cannon Caterpillar, Stump Stabber, Demonic Grasshopper


Now fly away and write a poem that will create a lot of buzz! Enjoy!





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