It turns out that what I might need is to be assigned a subject. I've written three poems recently, all response to assignments, more or less, from outside sources. One came from a Salon article. The other two....
My friend Elise makes fantastic and very individual jewelry - she has an incredible eye for combining different stones and beads, and has developed a wire-bending technique different from anything I've ever seen before. She is also a person of, well, whimsy: she names all of her pieces, from fairly simple earrings to extremely complex and beautiful necklaces. She also likes to issue literary challenges and give earrings and other jewelry in exchange for writing.
I saw her at the Potlatch science fiction convention over the weekend, and rose to the challenge. For a hair ornament, she asked for a work about pirates. I wrote a poem and took home an ornament (the poem is a little too personal to post). A bunch of these were available; a couple of other friends also have hair ornaments. A 7-year-old of my acquaintance got a hair ornament in exchange for a drawing.
For a pair of earrings called "The Truth Berry," Elise put on a contest: write a haiku about the earrings. No digital camera (yet), so I can't show you the earrings. They combine a purple, faceted glass bead with a heart-shaped green bead, so they look like a leaf and a berry.
I won the contest with this:
Taste it now. Is it
sweet or bitter? Will you live
or die? Tell the truth.
I told Elise, and was only half-joking, that maybe she should send me poetry assignments all the time.