Writing prompt: ‘The Core’ by Ben Okri

When I first came across Ben Okri’s poem ‘The Core’, its words lifted me. They lit a spark inside me! I wanted to know more – to explore them through my own writing. So, using the poem as my writing prompt, I tried out three different approaches: stream of consciousness, the writing frame and the sentence stem. Here’s what happened…

You can read Ben Okri’s poem ‘The Core’ here.

Stream of consciousness

I find this is a wonderful way to start any writing session. Stream of consciousness writing opens up my mind. It allows ideas to flow and helps me understand what I really think and feel about a writing prompt. In this case, I used it to explore my reactions to ‘The Core’. I splurged feelings, thoughts, words and images into my notebook, jotting down anything that came to mind as I reflected on the poem.

The ideas really did flow. I acknowledged the feelings of ‘clarity’ and ‘relief’ that the poem inspired in me. The concept of seeing beyond the surface of things, as the poem suggests, felt so liberating. I wrote about how my senses responded to the piece: I felt lighter, my body tingled, I saw images of birds and the ocean in my mind. I even imagined that I could smell fresh scents floating out of the poem’s words – freshly cut grass, a fresh breeze. Above all, I noticed that the poem made me feel ‘free’.

The writing frame

I always enjoy using poems as writing frames. In their simplest form, they involve taking the first word (or sometimes a short phrase) from each line of an existing poem and writing them vertically down the page. These words are then used as the framework for a new piece of writing. The original poem also provides the topic, or seeds of inspiration, for the new creation.

Writing frames offer structure and a sense of direction, but also plenty of freedom. I was itching to get going. The idea of using ‘The Core’ as my frame – a poem I feel so connected to – was exciting. What would it reveal?

I looked back over my stream of consciousness writing from the exercise above. I used it to help me fill in the blanks of my writing frame and to create my own poem inspired by Ben’s:


I looked, as if for the first time,
and saw the world. All those years,
the blinkers clung. Their memory
leaves me cold.
I want to see forever,
especially bright, especially bold.

Many nights spent flailing in the depths.
Waves of fear wash over me;
I watch the tide recede.
I gaze until my eyes reach the horizon.

What if this could actually last?
‘I’ve got to hold on!’ cries my inner child.
‘I’ve got to let go,’ my wise soul knows.
Being alive, how could I want more?

I’m so grateful,
to see at all.

The sentence stem

I began this activity with a phrase from ‘The Core’ that had jumped out at me early on: ‘the things not seen’.

I was curious… what were these things? Where were they? Perhaps the answers would reveal themselves if I just started writing. I used the phrase ‘the things not seen’ as a sentence stem – a prompt to get me started. Here’s what came out initially:

The things unseen, except by the heart.
Things that have been, now falling apart.

Ah. I was heading down a dark path with this piece. I was in bed. It had been a tough day and all the pent up feelings were about to find their release. That was a good thing. Writing can be very cathartic. I just had to make sure I didn’t leave myself feeling lost or unhappy – that I didn’t end my day on a negative note.

I finished my piece of writing (it’s not very cheerful, so I won’t share it here!). It felt significant. Emotions were coming out that needed to be recognised, and I reflected on these briefly. But it was getting late; time to let go. I distracted myself by listening to an audiobook. Sleep came soon after.

Do you have a favourite poem you’d like to explore through writing? Let me know, or take a look at the writing ideas section on this blog for other writing prompts.

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