Don't wait for inspiration to strike! Whether you're an aspiring or published poet, this book will help you get in a frame of mind to make creative writing a consistent part of your life. With prompts from Robert Lee Brewer's popular Writer's Digest blog, Poetic Asides, you'll find 125 ideas for writing poems along with the journaling space you need to respond to the prompt.
• 125 unexpected poetry prompts such as from the perspective of an insect, about a struggle, or including the word change
• Plenty of blank space to compose your own poems
• Tips on unique poetic forms and other poetry resources
Perfectly sized to carry in a backpack or purse, you can jot down ideas for poems as you're waiting in line for a morning coffee or take it to the park for a breezy afternoon writing session. Wherever you are, your next poem is never more than a page-turn away.
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1 GRAND OPENING
Write an "open" poem. The poem could be about physically opening something: a garage door, a bottle of soda, or your mouth. The poem could also go the metaphorical route of opening a can of worms or Pandora's box. Or if you're into golf or tennis, write about the U.S., French, or British Opens. It's all open to interpretation.
2 THE ART POETIC Write an ekphrastic poem. That is, a poem based on a piece of visual art — a painting, a photograph, a sculpture. Your choice.
WHAT IS AN EKPHRASTIC POEM?
An ekphrastic poem is one filled with imagery of a scene or a work of art including sculptures, paintings, drawings, architecture, and yes, portraits. In addition to imagery, the poem may critique, imitate, dramatize, or reflect upon the artwork.
3 SENSORY LIES
Write a "senses" poem. That is, write a poem that uses one or more of your senses. Smell, taste, touch, sound, sight, or even a sixth sense. Focus on one of them or try to incorporate them all.
Make an insect the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Possible titles include: "Praying Mantis," "Ants," and "Grasshoppers." Or incorporate other creepy crawlies, like spiders, slugs, and leeches (shiver). Sorry in advance if this prompt gives you the heebie-jeebies; feel free to use insect repellent in your verse.
5 I AM A POEM
Write a "metaphor" poem. That is, write a poem built around a metaphor. Remember: Metaphors actually take on another object (like "I am a Tree" or "I am a Rock"). This is not to be confused with similes, which are like metaphors (for instance, "I am like a tree" or "I am like a rock"), but not quite. Dig? If so, then you are a shovel or spade or bulldozer. Now poem the heck out of your metaphors.
6 STRANGER DANGER
Write a "danger" poem. There are various levels of danger out there — from physical danger to the danger of being discovered doing something you shouldn't (or doing something that might embarrass you — or someone else). Even the act of writing and sharing a poem brings with it the potential for danger.
7 DUKE IT OUT
Take the phrase "Battle (blank)," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Possible titles include: "Battle Tested," "Battle of the Sexes," "Battle of the Bands," and "Battle of the Bulge."
Believe it or not, poetry can be a competitive sport. In fact, that's a big part of the popularity for slam poetry. Slam is a form of performance poetry in which poets perform a poem (usually three minutes or less) and receive scores — kind of like America's Got Talent or American Idol, but with poetry. But it's not set up to be stressful. Rather, it's about celebrating great performances!
8 SUPER STAR
Write a "super" poem. Fans of sports, advertising, and half-time shows may think of the Super Bowl. Comics and movie fans know all about superheroes and super villains. Folks familiar with quarter machines surely are acquainted with the super ball (a bouncy little sphere of endless amusement). But whatever your definition of super, this is a great opportunity to write a super poem.
9 PASSWORD PROTECTED
Write a "password" poem. Write about someone using passwords, creating a password, or you could hide a password (or words) in your poem (perhaps, à la an acrostic poem). Have fun with it.
WHAT IS AN ACROSTIC POEM?
An acrostic poem is when the first letter of each line spells out a word or phrase, adding extra meaning to your verse. Double acrostics spell words with the first and last letter of each line. Meanwhile, telestich is the term used when you spell words only using the final letter of each line. So there are plenty of hidden message possibilities!
10 ELEVATION STATION
Write an "elevated" poem. Whether we're talking elevators, elevator shoes, elevating for a slam dunk, or some other form of elevation, there's really only one way to take this prompt: Up! That is, unless you want to share the aftermath of elevation, which is oft en down.
11 PIN UP
Write a "bulletin board" poem. Or maybe a more modern version of this is the eraser board poem. In other words, write a poem that might be tacked onto a bulletin board or scribbled on an eraser board or even magnetized to a refrigerator. Probably something short, something personal, maybe even timely.
12 HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Write a "second home" poem. Most people have a first home — even if it's just the place where you lay your head or stash your heart. But many people also have a second home — a place that is like a home away from home. Write a poem about such a place.
13 PIECES OF YOU
Write a "pieces" poem. For instance, you could write about picking up the pieces (perhaps after a broken relationship), putting together puzzle pieces, eating Reese's Pieces, or pay tribute to the Janis Joplin song, "Piece of My Heart." Piece your poem together however works best for you.
14 INTROSPECTION REFLECTION
Take the phrase "I am a (blank)," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Possible titles could include: "I Am a Toothbrush," "I Am a Martian," or "I Am a Replica X-Wing Fighter."
15 ONE MORE POEM
Write a "plus one" poem. It could be a math poem. Or a poem about including a guest (or "plus one"). Or a poem about doing something just "one more time." Or the new person in a group, new task at work, and so on and so forth.
Or actually, do fib. The fib is a rare mathematical poetic form that follows the Fibonacci sequence for syllable count in each line. That is, the first and second lines have one syllable each; the third line has two syllables; fourth line three syllables; and fifth line contains five syllables. If you kept it up for 10 lines, you'd have a 55-syllable line of poetry. Woah!
16 GREATER THAN
Write a "bigger" poem. Have you been to Texas? Everything's supposed to be bigger in Texas, right? Sometimes even smaller things (like our sun compared to other suns) are also bigger things (like our sun compared to the planets in our solar system). Write bigger!
17 SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED
Write an "assembly" poem. An assembly poem could be about a meeting (an assembly of people). Or an assembly poem could be about an assembly line or assembling something or whatever else you can assemble with your poetic mind.
18 QUICK PICK UP
Write a "napkin" poem. It could be a poem about a napkin or that involves napkins, but the thought for this kind of poem would be a poem that might be scrawled onto a napkin in a rush — or maybe even slipped across (or under) the table to someone sitting with you. So maybe a warning or an invitation.
Write a "doodle" poem. This could start off as something small that stays small or builds to epic proportions. Doodle around a bit and see what develops. If needed, start by describing something close at hand or within your current field of vision.
Consider making your short doodle poem a cobla, or a poem that is just a single stanza long.
20 THAT'S A NEGATIVE
Write a "nope" poem. A nope poem, I suppose, could be about saying no to a certain situation, person, or thing. Like saying nope to live concerts, people who like debating everything, or mushrooms.
Take the phrase "Important (blank)," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write the poem. Possible titles could include: "Important Documents," "Important: Read Before Assembling," or "Important People."
22 SAVE YOURSELF
Write a "selfish" poem. We can also consider this the Ebenezer Scrooge poem (pre-ghosts).
Did you know that three-line stanzas are called tercets? Or that there are three-line poems that are not called haiku? It's true! Other three-liners include the senryu (which is what most people write when they think they're writing haiku), sijo, kimo, katauta, lune, and hay(na)ku. Plus, there's a form called tricube that consists of three stanzas with three lines and three syllables in each line. What a trifecta!
23 TALK ABOUT THE WEATHER
Write an "under the weather" poem. You can use the turn of speech, which means sick or not feeling good. Or you could be literal and actually be under the weather, whether that's good or not.
24 THIS MONTH
Pick a month (any month), make it the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Possible months include January, February, March, (cruel) April, May, June, or even July, August, September, October, November, or December. Yes, there are twelve possible months; choose well, or write twelve poems.
25 HIDE AND SEEK
Write a "hiding" poem. The poem could be about someone hiding or something hidden. Or the process of searching. And remember: There are physical things that can hide, but also thoughts, emotions, plans, and so much more.
Confessional poetry shares personal, private, or other secretive details, usually about religion or emotions. Maybe your hiding poem turned into a confessional poem!
26 CAN'T HARDLY WAIT
Write an "anticipation" poem. A person could anticipate an early spring or a lover's fling; a person could anticipate any old thing.
Write a "portrait" poem. You can use an actual portrait to write an ekphrastic poem. Or think up an image from real life. Or fake life. Or don't be so literal; instead of writing a poem that describes a portrait, use the poem to frame a moment or lifestyle or whatever. By the way, how many times did I type "or" in this paragraph?
28 STAR POWER
Take the phrase "Star (blank)," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write the poem. Possible titles include: "Star-struck," "Star Man," "Star Wars Prequels Aren't Star Wars Movies," "Starter Set," or "Stark Raving Mad."
One way to create by deleting is through the process of "writing" erasure poems. Also known as blackout poetry, erasure poetry is the process of taking a piece of text — like a newspaper article or website post — and deleting the original text until you're left with a new poem. When I turned thirty-seven, I hacked away at Walt Whitman's epic poem "Song of Myself" to create my own song. Fun exercise.
Write an "it can't be" poem. That is, a poem about something that just can't be true. For some, this might mean a heart-broken love poem at the end of a relationship. For others, it might be dealing with a death. Still, it could be as trivial as a sports team losing or running out of chocolate (gasp!).
30 SIMPLY THE BEST
Write a "nothing better" poem. Now, there are at least a couple ways to take this, but probably more. First, the poem could be about a moment that's so amazing nothing could ever be better — kind of like a high moment poem. But taking the same prompt, someone could spin it the complete other way as a "nothing will ever be better again" poem.
31 DREAMING IS FREE
Write a "dream" poem. So many things happen in our dreams — or, at least, in my dreams. Of course, if you don't have dreams, then write a poem about a dream job, dream relationship, dream vacation, or some other dream situation.
I love writing dream poems. In fact, my Solving the World's Problems collection of poems has not one, but two poems titled "dream." But there are many other great dream poems you can check out as well. Here are a few:
"Dream Variations" by Langston Hughes
"Echo" by Christina Rossetti
"Imitation" by Edgar Allan Poe
"Dreaming the Breasts" by Anne Sexton
"The Sleepers" by Walt Whitman
"I Dreamed I Wrote This Sestina Wearing My Maidenform Bra" by Denise Duhamel
32 TAPERED EFFECT
Write a "tape" poem. The poem could be about transparent tape, duct tape, video tape, or even tapeworm. Anything that you can bend into a tape poem is fair game.
33 IMITATION GAME
Write an "imitation" poem. Some folks say imitation is the best form of flattery. Find a poem by another poet and imitate his or her style, subject matter, or tone.
POEMS TO IMITATE
Not sure where to start when it comes to finding poems to imitate? No problem. Here are some popular poems you can find with a quick online search:
"Aubade With Burning City" by Ocean Vuong
"Good Bones" by Maggie Smith
"This Is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams
"The Translator" by Sandra Beasley
"One man band" by Bob Hicok
34 SHARING IS CARING
Write a "sharing" poem. A poem about somebody sharing something. Or a poem about receiving something that was shared. Or witnessing an act of sharing. Or ...
35 THREE FOR THEE
Take the phrase "Three (blank)," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Possible titles include: "Three Blind Hippos," "Three Muskrats," "Three's Company," or "Three Movies Is Too Many for The Hobbit, Peter Jackson (just saying)."
36 POPULARITY CONTEST
Pick a popular saying, make it the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Possible titles might include: "May the Force Be With You," "It's a Bird; It's a Plane; It's Superman," "Just Do It," or "Break a Leg."
37 COMMON GROUND
Write a poem about a commonplace location. The poem could be about the local grocery store, library, or something even more intimate — like your kitchen or bathroom. Or it could be standing in line at the DMV or post office.
POEMS OF PLACE
Place has always been an important element of poetry from Dante's Inferno to Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. Here are a few poems in which place plays a major role:
"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost
"We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks
"The Apple Trees at Olema" by Robert Hass
"Going Home" by Wislawa Szymborska
"Graveyard Blues" by Natasha Trethewey
38 PAPER LINES
Write a "paper" poem. The poem could be about something made of paper, made with paper, or a document — like a contract, deed, will, etc. It's a great chance to unpack your origami poems, paper plane poems, or even your spit ball poems. Maybe you can even write it on paper.
39 ROLLING, ROLLING, ROLLING
Write a "let the good times roll" poem. Focus on the "good times" or play around with the concept of "rolling."
40 YOU'RE A NATURAL
Write a "natural" poem. A poem about something natural. It could be a natural way of living, something made of natural materials, nature itself, or some other spin.
41 FOR YOU
Write a "dedication" poem. Pick someone or something as a subject and dedicate your poem to him, her, it, etc. You may consider titling your poem "For Big Foot" or "To a Purple Push Pin." Heck, you could even write a poem to your former or future self.
In contemporary poetry, odes are most commonly poems that pay direct tribute to a person, place, or thing. Often, they are straightforward praise poems, but some poets employ wit and irony in their odes, because what would poetry be without a little rule-bending and/or -breaking, right?(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Smash Poetry Journal"
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