Tuesday 9 April 2013

More poetry prompts

To my surprise and delight, some people have been using the prompts I provided as starters for their National Poetry Month poems, and as I offered nine, I thought it time I posted some more. That is, I feel the need to continue providing such sustenance through the month. I'd be pleased to hear of people's experiences with these.

10. Write a poem in second person where the you being addressed is a specific person (rather than a general/public or reader you).

11. Remember an image that has moved you and describe it (without comment, without sentimentality) in 2-5 lines. That is the end of your poem--now write toward it.

12. Think of something you do every day, and tell someone else how to do it in step-by-step imperatives that provide close descriptive detail of the actions and any objects. Some possibilities include changing a diaper, preparing butternut squash, choosing a watermelon, and styling your hair.

13. What are you feeling right now? What are the three abstract nouns that would best describe it? Right now I might say mine would be lust, ennui, and fatigue. While the narrative of events leading to those feelings would be mundane and probably uninteresting, is there another, more condensed narrative--something that could happen in, say, ten minutes--that might convey the same combination of feelings? In a prose poem, write the narrative that helps to convey those feelings, and let the title clue the reader in to that general mood. (This was my approach with my poem 'Melancholia' in This Line Is Not for Turning: An Anthology of Contemporary British Prose Poetry.)

14. Write a poem that is an actual numbered list, and let the nature of the list come not from the title but the accumulation of details. Some possibilities include: seven regrets without named parties; five historical events I wish I'd been present for and one that I had; my experiences with everyday people in different cities I've visited.

15. Write a poem in response to something in the news, but rather than falling back on your own perspective, imagine another person's. For example, how might a former miner's child respond to the news of Thatcher's death? Or, from another angle, how might one of her advisors respond? Try to make the response nuanced, a complex of multiple emotions rather than settling for the predictable, simplistic one. 

16. Write a poem that uses two or three beats/stresses per line. If unsure what to write about, take the view out of a window, starting at a distance and becoming increasingly more detailed and intimate. If you need more inspiration, dip into Basil Bunting's Briggflatts (http://carrieetter.blogspot.co.uk/2009/07/basil-buntings-complete-poems.html); it's not in two-beat lines but conveys the idea of such a poem well.

17. Consider a news item you'd like to write about, and find a good-sized article about it online, preferably in a quality newspaper or journal. Take five phrases from the article that seem to sum up different points or events involved. In your poem these will be in quotation marks or italicized, and your work is to write between them.

18. Use five of the following six words in a poem: dirt, hand(s), path, tree (or a kind of tree), sky, weight.

19. Remember someone you knew now dead, and remember one of their interests or hobbies (i.e. my father was obsessed with the weather and cycling; my mother watched medical dramas and house restoration programs and used to sew). In a poem, talk to the person about it, and end with a question. 

I hope these prove useful.


  1. Thanks for your encouragement last night which led me to write a draft of questions to my grandmother whom I've never met. The inspiration carried on till this morning where I wrote more Sleepy Questions, which I posted on my blog here for fun. It's at peypeyoh.tumblr.com if you feel like seeing it, so poem for day 8 and poem for day 9 done!Your prompts all look great, much gratitude.

    1. Thanks, Pey! Some good questions there!

  2. Wonderful, Carrie! Thank you. I'm really enjoying this month, lovely to be writing for fun and surprise.

  3. Thank you Carrie, lots of ideas firing up the brain...just need to get some time to write them down! Enjoying this poetry month.

  4. You're both most welcome!