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  • Christine Delea

Welcome to January: Writing Prompt

January, like a few of our other months, takes its name from a Roman god, in this case, Janus. He is depicted as having two faces in the front and the back of his head, which allows him to see both the past and the future.


Janus is also associated with all types of thresholds (doors, archways, gates, etc.), as well as beginnings and endings; in other words, transitions of different kinds. It is very fitting, as we tend to view the New Year as a time to change ourselves and our lives (what resolutions have you made for 2023?). For the ancient Romans, Janus also ruled the dawn.


Your prompt for this week, easily both a writing or visual art prompt, is to write a poem that not only is about transitions, but uses a transition in your piece. Today's poem, A Spine Moving by Karen Braucher, does this twice! The second time, she alerts us to the transition by a stanza break and a change in the form.


In traditional (and some not-so-traditional) sonnets, a volta marks a change in the tone, perspective, knowledge, something by the speaker. Volta is Italian for turn.


Your piece can also focus on a beginning and/or an ending, take place at dawn, contain a two-faced person, describe a door, or look both back and forward. Use as many Janus-related points as you wish.


If you want to get really crazy, and are writing something, you can also use Janus words! These are words that mean opposite things, depending on their context (and is one more reason why English is such a difficult language for non-native speakers to learn). These words are also called contronyms. The most well-known of these is probably cleave, which means to adhere and to split; other examples are dust, fast, overlook, oversight, rock, screen, and sanction.





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