Saturday 20 April 2013

Poetry Prompts, Nos. 20-30

How did I come to feel obligated to provide a prompt for each day of National Poetry Month this year? I don't understand it, but I feel it and persist nonetheless.

20. Sandra Lim has some splendid titles in her first collection, Loveliest Grotesque. Use one of these as the title for your own poem: "Curious This"; "The Horse and Its Rider"; "Reasoning in a Raw Wind"; "Ballad of the Last Chance"; "Year of the Gallows Birds"; "You Could Feel That Freedom Coming on Too".

21. Find a photograph or online image of the place you live from at least fifty years ago, and describe the place as though you were there now.

22. Write an ode to your favourite vegetable. For inspiration, here's Pablo Neruda's "Ode to the Artichoke."

23. Think of something unpleasant that happened to you as a child--a bee sting, an embarrassment, a natural disaster, a car accident, an illness, etc.--and write about it in third person. Don't tell us how the child feels--show it through her actions, the description of the environment, etc., and don't be afraid to fictionalize what happened for the sake of the poem.

24. Look at a poem of yours that you never finished or don't feel is really working, and choose your favourite line. Using it as the opening line, write a poem that takes on a subject or direction different from the one in the original poem.

25. If you have a pet, show, in a poem, how its behaviour influences your own. Don't say what kind of animal it is anywhere in the work. Your description can identify it, or you may prefer greater ambiguity, such that the poem might apply to a number of different creatures. 

26. In a place where you have lived before (or where you live now), list some specific names of the flora and fauna of that environment: the names of one or two birds; other animals (squirrels, coyotes, rabbits, etc.); one or two kinds of trees, plants and wildflowers. Now place yourself, as a character, in this environment, with one particular worry on your mind. In the poem, let the details of your concern intermingle with the details of the environment, and bring in other senses in addition to sight to give a stronger impression of the place.

27. Write a poem in response to a song. Argue or identify with the song's import as you describe a particular experience, whether real or fictional. 

28. Write an anti-ode about something you don't like or an action you don't like to do. Use vivid, concrete details to make your dislike palpable without saying it.

29. Write a poem about an object that belongs/belonged to one of your parents. You might find it easier to convey the object's meaning if you describe your parent using (or whatever word's appropriate) that object in a particular moment in time.

30. Remember a song you loved as a teenager. What might you have been doing as you heard it (driving, sitting on your bed, dancing, etc.)? Describe one scene involving your younger self and the song in such a way that the reader readily discerns how the song made you feel. Again, don't be afraid to fictionalize for the sake of the poem.

That's all, folks! I'd be glad to hear whether any of these prove useful.


  1. Anonymous10:20 am

    Hi Carrie,

    I'm still going so this is a first for me in terms of on-going work. Some good, some bad, I think. I will have plenty to work on through May. I'm going to use your last prompt for tomorrow.

    Take Care,


  2. Thank you Carrie for this particular group of prompts. I have got this far, only one behind, and have looked at prompts from here and there, including your own. These, although I have not yet embarked on using any of them, got me all excited! I've only just read them but there are at least half which feel right to me, useful, exciting. Thank you very much.

    1. You're most welcome, Meg! I'm so pleased to hear you found these exciting!