Winter Prompts

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This season’s prompts relate to the ideas of love that February is associated with. These prompts will lend a guiding hand in helping poets incorporate allusions and discuss timeless truths.

These little vignettes of each story are my interpretations but many more valid ones exist. 

1.Psyching Cupid Out

Psyche was a mortal woman who held beauty so captivating that even Venus, goddess of Love became jealous. Her son, Cupid, god of Love, upon setting eyes on Psyche distractedly pricks himself with one of his arrows and falls in love with her. 

In order to wed her in secret, Cupid hid her away in a large mansion where she could hear him but never see him and therefore never know his true identity— there must be trust in order to have Love.

One night, Psyche betrays Cupid by turning the lights on while he is asleep, causing Cupid to flee, hurt by the betrayal. Psyche wondered the earth looking for him for years.

2. Venus Feels Vindictive

In Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis, Adonis was a hunter known for extraordinary beauty but he had no interest in love. When Venus comes down from the heavens to entice Adonis, Adonis ignores her, offending the goddess. 

Suddenly, Venus has a vision that Adonis will die if he hunts for boar the next day so she warns him to be careful. He doesn’t listen and Venus finds him dead in the woods. 

In despair Venus cursed love from then on to be mixed with suspicion, fear, and sadness. She then returned to the luxurious heavens to lick her wounds. 

Interesting interpretation:

In Greek Mythos, before the universe was conceived, there was Chaos. Then, the world was organized into four sections: Gaia (earth), Uranus (sky), Pontus (sea), and Tartarus (underworld). “In T.W. Baldwin’s judgment, two platonic ideas– namely, Beaut and Love keep the world from returning to Chaos”– A.C. Hamilton

According to L.E. Pearson, Venus is a destructive agent of sensual love and Adonis is the ideal agent of reason in love. Reason in love prefers love, truth, and beauty over the gluttony of lust and one must conquer the trinity before satiating their lust or else reason works against them. Throughout the poem, Venus is often surrounded by gluttonous imagery. When Adonis is killed due to Venus’ lusty pursuit, so is reason in love, leaving earthly love to Chaos.

3. Ophelia, Baptized in Death

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia is the daughter of a nobleman who is interested in Hamlet, prince of Denmark.

At the beginning the play, Polonius discourages Ophelia from having sex with Hamlet. Towards the middle of the play, Hamlet begins making sexual innuendos towards Ophelia, insinuating they’d had sex. 

At the end of the play Ophelia presents an herb, rue, commonly associated with regret before falling to her death into a rushing river. 

Symbols:

Rue: Regret.
This herb was also believed to cause abortions. Ophelia gave this one to herself
This herb is also known as the “herb of grace”

Daisy: Innocence
Ophelia does not give this flower to anyone as no one in Denmark deserves it

Violets: Faithfulness and fidelity. All the violets in Denmark wither when her father dies.

Columbine: Deceived lovers

Rosemary/pansies: Remembrance

None of these flowers/herbs were considered beautiful or valuable at the time, just humble blossoms that often get discarded– much like Ophelia herself.

4. Lilith Chooses Sex Positivity

According to Jewish text, Lilith was the first wife of Adam, made from the same clay as him– as an equal.

When Lilith decided she would not be subservient to Adam, she left the Garden of Eden.

From there, Lilith was seduced by the archangel Samael and became known as the first femme fatale. “A hot fiery female who first cohabited with man”– Zohar Leviticus

Lilith translates from Hebrew into “night creatures.” This translation is simialar to the turn of phrase “lady of the night,” a cheeky phrase for a prostitute.

Symbols:

Snakes
The moon
Crossroads
Golden hair
Looking in the mirror
Witches, vampires, demons
White roses (sterile passion)

Interesting Interpretation:

While some interpret Lilith as a sinner, it’s 2021! Lilith decided she would take no, one man and that she would instead guide herself with Diana’s helpful moonlight (even though Diana is a known virgin, she helps Lilith because she is not judgmental) and seduce as many men as she felt all the while remaining youthful as the earth grew old.

5. Darcy Battles Demons for Love

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Darcy is a wealthy man living in early 19th century England. He meets a woman named Elizabeth Bennet at a ball and makes condescending remarks towards her which Elizabeth overhears. 

Overtime, Darcy falls in love with Elizabeth and must overcome his flawed feeling of superiority. While he offends Elizabeth in a few more incidents, each time he takes time to reflect and mend the scar in his soul. 

At the end of the novel, Darcy saves Elizabeth’s family from social disgrace by covering up Elizabeth’s sister premarital sex-scandal. He then proposes to Elizabeth and she accepts.

6. Camilla, The Manic Pixie Dream Girl

In a Secret History by Donna Tartt, Camilla is the only girl in the circle of friends learning from Julian. 2/5 of the boys openly flirt with Camilla and make comments that idealize as a person. Richard describes her as being surrounded by some magical light almost every time he sees her.

At the end of the novel, the reader finds out Camilla has been sleeping with her own brother, Charles. All the idealizations around her disappear and she’s finally seen for what she is: dependent and weak.

Both Richard and Francis idealized Camilla without ever spending very much time with her or ever truly getting to know her flaws and accept those. To them, Camilla was a manic pixie dream girl. 

7. Persephone’s Compromise with Hades

Hades took Persephone to the underworld to be his wife with her father’s, Zeus’, permission. However, both Persephone and her mother, Demeter, wanted her returned. 

Hermes went to retrieve Persephone, but Persephone had already eaten some pomegranate seeds: food of the underworld. If one eats food from the underworld they must spend 1/3 of the year there. 

So, Persephone spends each winter with her husband Hades in the underworld and every other season she’s free to roam both heaven and earth. 

Due to this myth she’s become known as the vegetation goddess because when she ascends from the underworld in the spring vegetation springs and when she returns at the end of harvest season, vegetation withdraws. 

8. Anna Karenina: Lasting Love or Passing Passion?

In Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Anna is a woman married to Alexei, a government official and moralist. Although Anna has stability, a child, high social class, and devotion from her husband, she feels unsatisfied.

It’s then that Anna meets a young officer named Vronsky who she begins to lust after. Anna then has to make a decision between the lasting love of her husband or the passing passions of Vronsky. One will keep her life happier in the long run while the other will give her the greatest happiness for only a short period.

Despite her indiscretions, Alexei gives Anna multiple occasions to come clean and be forgiven. In the end, Anna chooses passion over love and winds up committing suicide by jumping in front of a train.

“I have no peace to give, only misery or the greatest happiness.” –Vronsky to Anna

“The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long” –Lao Tzu

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