Poetry Writing Prompts 2024

April 18, 2024: Poetry Writing Prompt from James Penha

This poetry writing prompt submitted by James Penha:

Our Hands

Decades ago I watched on TV Sharon Olds at a Dodge Poetry Festival—a Bill Moyers show maybe run a workshop exercise:

Look at your hand. Did she specify right or dominant? Can’t recall; doesn’t matter; I’m paraphrasing from memory. Really look at it. Notice the graph of its fingers, knuckles. Look at both sides. Study the lines a fortune teller would study. She pauses for us. Now think about where this hand has been… whom it has touched… where… where. She pauses. Think back to the kinds of chores and work this hand has done. Hammering? Cooking?Writing? She pauses. Has this hand been in pain? In ecstasy? In embarrassment? Pause. You certainly by now have images of your hand you will continue to see as you close your eyes. Close your eyes. Peruse those images. Pick one or more you’d like to write about… or, when you open your eyes, just describe your hand.

We write. I stole that exercise and wrote dozens of hand poems and stories with my students over many years of teaching. And here in “My Hand,” in her newest book, Sharon Olds writes, “When I look at my hand…” Like mine, Olds’ hand is old and wrinkled and bulging with veins, but touching and lucky and pretty and very fitting.

Oh, how long we have exercised these hands.

If you write a poem from this prompt, post it as a comment underneath the prompt in the Poetry Super Highway Facebook Group.

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April 19, 2024: Poetry Writing Prompt from Robert Wynne

This poetry writing prompt submitted by Robert Wynne:

Write a poem that provides an unbearably in-depth description of an everyday task, such as getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, or tying your shoes. How much meaning can you mine by really considering an activity you normally take for granted? What will you learn? Where will the poem lead?

If you write a poem from this prompt, post it as a comment underneath the prompt in the Poetry Super Highway Facebook Group.

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April 21, 2024: Poetry Writing Prompt from Jen Karetnick

This poetry writing prompt submitted by Jen Karetnick:

First, write a 17-syllable American sentence, as per Allen Ginsberg’s definition. See https://www.negativecapabilitypress.org/blog/theamericansentence.

Then, write down each word of the sentence in order vertically, like an acrostic but with words instead of letters. They will become the first word in each line of a poem. You can also think of it as a reverse golden shovel.

Here are some examples:

Catherine Esposito Prescott:
American sentence: Did the big bang have intention or are we a divine accident?
American sentence acrostic: https://www.mezzocammin.com/iambic.php?vol=2021&iss=2&cat=poetry&page=prescott

Barbra Nightingale:
American sentence: The moon Is a rusty sliver in a molten sky, velvet and thick.
American sentence acrostic: https://www.swwim.org/swwimeveryday/2021/11/17/the-moon-is-a-rusty-sliver-in-a-molten-sky-velvet-and-thick

Extra credit! Add/layer another form on top of it, like a sonnet (if your American sentence is 14 words) or a golden shovel, like here:

Jen Karetnick:
American sentence: Grooving about telescopes, the amateur astronomers light up.
Golden shovel: What would you give for your kid fears?
American sentence acrostic golden shovel, after the Indigo Girls: https://sweetlit.org/jen-karetnick-volume-16/

If you write a poem from this prompt, post it as a comment underneath the prompt in the Poetry Super Highway Facebook Group.

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April 22, 2024: Poetry Writing Prompt from Tara Elliott

This poetry writing prompt submitted by Tara Elliott:

Constraints

Constraints help allow the subconscious mind to release what might be brewing underneath the surface.  Time is one form of constraint.  Form is another.  But what would happen if you created your own set of constraints before you even touched pen to paper or fingers to keyboard?

Directions:

  1. Choose one from each column (A, B and C below).  If you’re not certain what a term is, spend time now looking them up. This site from Harvard includes terminology that might help (https://poetry.harvard.edu/guide-poetic-terms).

If you’re daring, use a standard die to help you “roll” your selection.

A: Craft Skill Focus             
1. Allusion
2. Anaphora
3. Simile
4. Metaphor
5. Personification
6. Assonance

B: Restrictions
1. One adjective/adverb only
2. No end-stopped lines
3. No articles (a, an, the)
4. No stanza breaks
5. One verb only
6. No alliteration

C: Must Contain
1. A color
2. A scent
3. “thirteen”
4. Sports team or sport
5. A reference to the body
6. The name of a famous poet

  1. Set a timer for precisely eleven minutes. You can edit later, but the time constraint during the initial writing will increase your focus.
  2. Write. While writing, do NOT edit yourself other than attempting to stay within the constraints you’ve already set. Write the entirety of the eleven minutes. Yes, even if you think you’re finished. Keep writing.
  3. Edit your work.

What happens if you break a rule you’ve set?  You are the ultimate judge and jury.  There is no wrong way to do this activity.

If you write a poem from this prompt, post it as a comment underneath the prompt in the Poetry Super Highway Facebook Group.

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April 1, 2024: Poetry Writing Prompt from Suzanne Lummis

This poetry writing prompt submitted by Suzanne Lummis:

Evolve a poem that involves an exotic fruit, one fruit, and a town you’ve never visited, or else have distant memories of.  The poem does not have to be About the fruit. It probably should Not be about the fruit. No one gives a fig about a fruit. But the fruit makes an Appearance. Extra points if it’s a Pomegranate.  No need to mention Persephone, but if you do… It better be something we don’t already know.
A Mango would also be good.
No Oranges.
Nothing personal against them, but that’s another poem. And Gary Soto wrote it.
Don’t forget about the Town.

If you write a poem from this prompt, post it as a comment underneath the prompt in the Poetry Super Highway Facebook Group.

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April 3, 2024: Poetry Writing Prompt from John Reinhart

This poetry writing prompt submitted by John Reinhart:

Here is an outline for a sonnet. Don’t worry about rhyme or meter, or following the rules. If you follow a map app to get to your destination as fast as possible, you’ll never get lost in the woods or find the farmstand with the really good blueberries.

On line one, write about the inner life of a pineapple.

Line two: a fact about your hometown.

Line three: something that comes in threes.

Line four: where were you last night?

Lines five through eight: two animals meet somewhere unusual.

Lines nine through ten: a wish someone has for the pineapple.

Lines eleven and twelve: what did you wish for when you were eight?

Lines thirteen and fourteen: must incorporate one of the following words – hullaballoo, ragamuffin, hooferaw, scoundrelous, or cacophony – and discuss a secret, something hidden, or something no one else knows.

If you write a poem from this prompt, post it as a comment underneath the prompt in the Poetry Super Highway Facebook Group.

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April 4, 2024: Poetry Writing Prompt from Jon Wesick

This poetry writing prompt submitted by Jon Wesick:

The Assembly Line of Surprise

Step 1 – Choose a subject to write about. This should probably be something about being human such as a mental state, emotion, or social issue. Often this is abstract.

Step 2 – Choose an object to compare it to. It’s best if this is something very different than in step 1. Concrete things like machinery give good imagery. The more outrageous the better. Congratulations! You’ve just created a metaphor.

Step 3 – Make two columns on a piece of paper. List the parts of the subject step 1 in the first column and the parts of the item in step 2 in the second.

Step 4 – Map items in each column to those in the other. Choose the most interesting mappings. These will be phrases in your poem.

Step 5 – Put these phrases together into a poem.

Let’s “cook up” an example. Steps 1 and 2 – Compare despair to a microwave oven

Step 3 – Table.

DespairMicrowave Oven
FatigueKlystron
SleeplessnessTurntable
IrritabilityBrowning dish
EmptinessObservation window
Loss of libidoControl panel
GloomTimer
DespondencyDefrost function
HopelessnessAuto cook menu
FutilityNumber pad
Start/stop button
Tomato sauce caked on walls
Sparking when tin foil inside

Step 4 – I’d map sleeplessness to dried tomato sauce, irritability to sparking, and libido to the defrost function.

Step 5 – Put mapping into a poem.

The microwave oven of despair
cooked my dreams into a dried, unchewable mass.
Sleepless nights obsessing about the impossibility
of chiseling the dried tomato sauce of gloom from its walls.
My love life, a frozen turkey
with no defrost function.
Each minor irritation, the forbidden strip of tin foil
sparking and crackling while the timer counts down

If you write a poem from this prompt, post it as a comment underneath the prompt in the Poetry Super Highway Facebook Group.

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April 6, 2024: Poetry Writing Prompt from Lara Dolphin

This poetry writing prompt submitted by Lara Dolphin:

A “taphophile” is someone who has more than a passing interest in burial places.

Cemeteries can hold beautiful sculptures, moving epitaphs, and genealogical secrets as well as religious meaning. If you were a tombstone tourist and could visit any burial place or shrine in the world, where would it be? Who would it belong to? Someone famous or obscure? Write a poem about one grave in particular.

If you write a poem from this prompt, post it as a comment underneath the prompt in the Poetry Super Highway Facebook Group.

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April 7, 2024: Poetry Writing Prompt from Kelley White

This poetry writing prompt submitted by Kelley White:

Area Code Haiku!

in Philadelphia we have two basic codes, 125 & 267, so maybe one-two-five or two-six-seven syllables:

you
make me
laugh behind my hands

or:

today
just warm enough for bees
to visit my crocuses

If you write a poem from this prompt, post it as a comment underneath the prompt in the Poetry Super Highway Facebook Group.

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April 9, 2024: Poetry Writing Prompt from Rachel Baum

This poetry writing prompt submitted by Rachel Baum:

I recently used this prompt for my own writing group:
Write a poem that tells a myth story, contains a list and at least one color in it, and has the words “dearly beloved” as either the title or in the text of the poem.

If you write a poem from this prompt, post it as a comment underneath the prompt in the Poetry Super Highway Facebook Group.

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April 10, 2024: Poetry Writing Prompt from Joanne Durham

This poetry writing prompt submitted by Joanne Durham:

I once drafted a poem that compared an experience walking on the beach after it snowed to the parting of the Red Sea. A fellow poet told me, “You can’t put the Red Sea in a poem – it’s too big, too many connotations for this little poem.” That felt like a provocation to me and I thought, “I’m going to put the Red Sea in a poem, so there!” And I did, in a poem entitled, “You Can’t Put the Red Sea in a Poem.” I heard the wonderful poet Naomi Shihab Nye say something similar. When someone told her she shouldn’t write about the moon – too trite – she went right out and wrote about the moon. So – write a poem about something someone has told you that you shouldn’t write about. You might want to title it, “You can’t put ___ in a poem” or “You can’t write about ___ in a poem.” Then go on to explain why you’re not supposed to include it, and use it anyway. (For my example, see my poem at  https://www.quartetjournal.com/winter-issue-2022 – scroll down to Joanne Durham. Sorry, I don’t have NSN’s wonderful example to share.)

If you write a poem from this prompt, post it as a comment underneath the prompt in the Poetry Super Highway Facebook Group.

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April 11, 2024: Poetry Writing Prompt from Michael Simms

This poetry writing prompt submitted by Michael Simms:

Many poets have made use of a rhetorical strategy I call “The Quotidian Poem” which consists of a series of mundane chores or errands in a normal day, and then WHAM! Something happens that shocks or enlightens the poet. Frank O’Hara uses the strategy a number of times, most famously in his poem The Day Lady Died about the death of Billie Holiday. The strategy is also employed by Marie Howe in What the Living Do, an elegy for her brother.

Here’s my own attempt:

Driving Home

I’ve had a bad cough so I went
To the East End Co-op and talked
With Jackson who helped me find
White mulberry bark dong qui root
Skullcap and stinging nettle
And stopped by the produce aisle
To pick up broccoli sprouts
And Midnight Express and
Carried my environmentally
Correct burlap bag with vegan
Hippie stuff to the checkout
Where I praised Jackson
To Melissa his boss and went
Outside got in my hybrid
And drove down Penn Avenue
To Dallas Avenue and cut past
The universities and across
The Liberty Bridge and up the
Long hill glancing at the river
And the blue city turned
Right then left pulled
Into the driveway and looked up
At the window where Eva is
Writing this morning after a long
Talk over coffee about whether
She is good enough to write her
Book about poverty and trauma
And violence and gave a small prayer
Of thanks and wow and sorry
To be so lucky so full of joy
In these last days before
The whole thing collapses.
Prompt: Write a quotidian poem of your own, keeping in mind these guidelines:

Your tone in the poem should be breezy as if you are talking to a friend who’s asked what you’ve been up to today.
The individual chores or errands should be typical of your life, but each one should have something unusual or eccentric about it. In this way, the reader will develop a sense of who you are and the kind of life you live.
Include the names of streets, stores, people and neighborhoods, as well as natural features, such as trees and streams, dogs and birds. You want the reader to feel as if he or she is actually right beside you moving through a day in your life.
You might want to have the whole poem one sentence so there is a quality of continuity to the journey, but don’t force the syntax. Let the language flow conversationally.
The surprise at the end of the poem can be an individual tragedy, such as the death of a loved one, or it can be a public event affecting millions.
To get you started, you might think about what you were doing when 9/11 happened, or who you were with when you realized that Trump had been elected president, or when you found out a loved one had died or… any event that looms large in your life.
Have fun!

If you write a poem from this prompt, post it as a comment underneath the prompt in the Poetry Super Highway Facebook Group.

#napowrimo #poetry

April 12, 2024: Poetry Writing Prompt from Amin Jack Pędziwiater

This poetry writing prompt submitted by Amin Jack Pędziwiater:

Returning home
Write a poem describing the way back home from a trip using public transport (bus, train, plane). What do you experience while traveling? Use the description alternately between what you perceive outside yourself and what you think within yourself. You can include what you left behind and what you are heading towards, but the most important thing is a report on your journey in the company of other strangers and the landscapes outside your window in any poetic form.

If you write a poem from this prompt, post it as a comment underneath the prompt in the Poetry Super Highway Facebook Group.

#napowrimo #poetry

April 13, 2024: Poetry Writing Prompt from Robbi Nester

This poetry writing prompt submitted by Robbi Nester:

Smell is one of the first senses we experience, along with taste, accessible before our eyes work very well. Therefore, it can give us access to the distant past, often in great detail, as taste can.
Think of a smell you may have recently experienced that had the power to plunge you back into some experience in the distant past you had all but forgotten about. What is the smell? Where and when did you smell it? Who were you with?

Use your description of the smell and place and person to show the reader how it makes you feel to experience this scent again.

If you write a poem from this prompt, post it as a comment underneath the prompt in the Poetry Super Highway Facebook Group.

#napowrimo #poetry

April 14, 2024: Poetry Writing Prompt from Jim Babwe

This poetry writing prompt submitted by Jim Babwe:

Create 99 haiku about a single subject. Note 1: I know this sounds like an unreasonably large number of poems, but the prompt provides students with important lessons about goal setting and fluency. When I was a classroom teacher, I offered this prompt as a voluntary undertaking. The students who successfully completed the task(s), found that conforming to the syllable pattern got easier with practice. Note 2: As an English teacher, I felt it was important for me to practice what I taught. When I assigned writing, I also wrote. That gave me the opportunity to show students (instead of simply telling them) how the solitary practice of writing was also (at times) frustrating for me, too. I’m stifling the urge to continue with an extended dissertation. Thank me. And thanks for reading.

If you write a poem from this prompt, post it as a comment underneath the prompt in the Poetry Super Highway Facebook Group.

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April 15, 2024: Poetry Writing Prompt from Eric Nicholson

This poetry writing prompt submitted by Eric Nicholson:

Write a serious triolet poem then substitute a nonsense made-up word in each line to form a nonsense poem. You should pay attention to the sound of the made-up words to evoke a mood.

If you write a poem from this prompt, post it as a comment underneath the prompt in the Poetry Super Highway Facebook Group.

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April 16, 2024: Poetry Writing Prompt from Jerry Garcia

This poetry writing prompt submitted by Jerry Garcia:

Write an epistolary poem to the subject of a current news report.

An epistolary poem is simply a poem that is read as if it were a letter. Form doesn’t matter, freestyle or formal is up to you.

Start by choosing a newspaper article or TV news report that interests you. The news can be either topical or human interest. (Personally, I would stay away from political stories because that could turn ugly quickly.)

Look for a victim or a hero in the story – someone you would like to praise or scold, a person who surprises you, invents something, is hard of luck. Find a person who has touched you in such a way you must write to them. Subjects for this sort of poem abound.

If you write a poem from this prompt, post it as a comment underneath the prompt in the Poetry Super Highway Facebook Group.

#napowrimo #poetry