Hair of the dog—the best cure for what ails us is to have more of it. Even outside of this context, dogs seem to represent ourselves in excess, our best and worst, most over the top, heart-on-our-sleeves, versions. The selves that run wild, yet wait patiently, that pull children out of wells, only to turn around and piddle on the carpet. We too slobber, guard, whine, and snuggle. In our own human ways, we fetch without exemption, lick without discernment, wag our tails from happiness, and gnaw on bones for hours. As George Clinton sings in “Atomic Dog,” “There’s nothin but the dog in me.” We invite you to join us in this exploration of the dog within.
How to submit:
Email a .doc, .docx, or .rtf attachment of up to 3 poems to firstname.lastname@example.org by December 1, 2018. Use the subject line “Hair of the Dog Submission,” and include the titles of your poems and a brief bio in the body of the email.
Need some inspiration? Check out the prompts below!
1) Dogs have spiritual significance in many religions. The Aztecs depicted Xolotl, the god of death, as having the head of a dog. In Catholicism, St. Roch is the patron saint of dogs. He caught the plague and went into the forest to die and it is said that a dog licked his sores and brought him food, and he recovered. In Hinduism, dogs are worshipped during the Tihar festival, and the Hindu god Bhairava is depicted riding a dog. In Greek mythology, Cerberus, a three-headed dog, guards the Underworld.
Create your own mythology for dogs. What are dogs the gods of? What do dogs protect? What powers do they have? How should people honor them?
2) You know those paintings of dogs playing poker? Write the conversation they’re having while they play.
3) A dog’s sense of smell is 40x greater than a human’s. Write a poem in smells. What stories might a smell tell a dog?
4) Choose a breed of dog. Look up the origins of the breed name. What country did the breed originate in? What other interesting facts can you find about the dog breed? For example, did you know that basset hounds’ ears are called “leathers”? Write a poem incorporating the facts you discover. For an extra challenge, make the form of the poem reflect the characteristics of a dog breed. For example, a poem about a Chihuahua might be short and full of energetic, excited language. A poem about a poodle might be elegant and flowery.
5). Write a poem from a dog’s POV, consider these possible situations, or these possible starting points:
Your owner is two hours late coming home, what do you hear?
You see a farm for the first time
You find a dead bird
It’s the middle of the night and you’re hungry
You see a wolf in the hills while you’re on a street corner
Somehow you’ve wound up in a gym
You meet a feral dog in the woods
You meet a service dog in a government building
6) Write a love poem about/to a specific dog you know, try to remember a specific moment with this dog, a particular place, what was the weather like? who else was there? You can consider one of the following possible moments:
You’ve been laughing, and the dog is looking at you
The dog just had a litter of puppies (and you didn’t even know she was pregnant!)
Describe the sounds the dog makes while it sleeps
You are going to sleep and the dog is beside (or on) the bed
The dog is begging you for food at the dinner table
The dog wants to play
You had a dream about the dog
The dog is barking and you don’t know why
7) Write a poem about dogs in general, consider:
The relationship between dogs and humans
The relationship between dogs and other dogs
The relationship between dogs and other non-dog animals
The relationship between a dog and its own body
The relationship between dogs and anything else in the world
8) Many dogs breed names incorporate an action, or use nouns that are also verbs. For example “retriever” or “shepherd” or “hound.” Appropriate a non-verb dog breed name as a verb and explore the connotation through your poem. What might it mean to poodle? To terrier? To spaniel?
9) There are all sorts of jobs for dogs–police dog, guide dog, support animal, etc. What if dogs worked in other industries, like computer programming, or publishing? What might change about the world?
10) The phrase “Hair of the dog” came from the belief that the cure for rabies came from a medicine that needed hair from the dog that bit the person. Write a poem that incorporates this phrase, as well as the theme of what hurts you as a cure.
Hair of the Dog is funded in part by a SAGA Grant, generously awarded by Spokane Arts.