Write a definition poem

“To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion all in one.”

John Ruskin

Reality is subject to interpretation. I have flown from Tucson to Las Vegas at least ten times. When I’ve sat by the window on the left side of the plane, I’ve seen mostly desert scrub and a glimpse of the Colorado River. When I’ve sat on the right side by the window I’ve seen Phoenix, Lake Meade and the Grand Canyon. When I’ve sat on the aisle, I’ve seen people’s heads and harried looking flight attendants. It’s the same journey, but my perspective changes dramatically based only on where I sit.

One of the jobs of a poet is to interpret reality. Every time you write a poem, you are attempting to capture a piece of reality. Even if your poem is an absurdist mix of words or a journey to a fantasy realm, you are asserting that your poem in some way reflects the world around you. Your interpretation may be that the world is completely unreal, but it is still an interpretation.

Your view of reality helps you to create your own poetic “voice”. Your voice is a combination of your writing style, your worldview, and your experiences. Many people start out imitating other poets or styles, but if you write frequently enough, your own voice asserts itself and you become comfortable with the way that you write. It is an important part of the process of becoming a poet.

Today’s Poetry Prompt

Write a definition poem. A definition poem takes a word or a concept and attempts to define it, provide perspective, redefine it, or create a definitive example of it.


A hospital is a white shell on a beach
Bleached bare and lodged in the sand
The ocean washes over it
It sometimes buries it
But a hospital remains unmoved by this
Whatever changes could occur already have
Any color it might have had has washed away
Or been ground into the sand
It shines in the sun but people walk around it
They sense that they should not touch it
They should not pick it up and add it to their collection
There is nothing wrong with a hospital
But it is a shell no one wants to own
They want to leave it

They want to walk away

5 thoughts on “Write a definition poem

  1. A definition…

    It seems to me that I wrote a definition back on day 3…
    I will repeat it here, simply because I can.
    however, I will write another later tonight..


    Procrastination, eh?
    That habit that saps away our life
    returning nothing in exchange…
    I thought, perhaps, i’d write something,
    but not just yet…

    I’ll get to it…

    maybe tomorrow..

    I don’t know….


  2. Thinking.

    What we do when nobody is looking,
    Cupping a shell to our ear and listening
    To the sound of our own being, pulsing,
    Flowing like the shores we stand unsure upon.

    Or late at night, grating out homework
    With shoveled-in sugary treats and
    The hope of warm sheets soon, somehow
    Surviving by exceeding, as culture demands

    Perhaps pausing, pondering a problem
    Before it becomes a calamity;
    Measuring the depth of reason
    And probing weak points of our personality
    So we can be who we already are at heart.

    Obsessing, trying to stop time or catch dust
    With the frantic racings of a pacing mind
    Trapped in a circus ring of flaming hoops
    Of fear and doubt, animal tension

    So many by the age of 40 are baffled, they
    Startle into sentience and think:
    Who am I? How the hell did I get here?
    Not remembering choices they never considered
    That led them to their current state;
    Be awake and aware, or surrender your fate.

  3. OK, the past ost was a filler.
    Something I penned quickly, just because at the beginning of an earlier post.
    It was a definition.
    I have, at last, a serious effort… and actual response to the propmpt. Enjoy


    The reality for young children,
    all that is left to the very old,
    it becomes the demand of impatience;
    the end of the yesterdays,
    is constrained by choices past;
    the start of our tomorrows,
    that holds the key to success
    or abject and terminal failure.

    If projected to the future becomes
    the fountain of hope untarnished,
    or a well of fear unfathomable.
    The ultimate intersection between
    the carnal and the devine,
    the breath and eternity.
    The balance where we act and think
    that shapes our very soul.

  4. National Costume

    National costume
    A symbol of understanding
    A way to see the world
    And show the world who we represent

    But what is the national costume
    For a young misfit
    A nation of barely five decades
    Made of immigrants
    With a really short history
    What constitutes history?
    What is a national costume?

    But a social construct
    An artificial symbol
    For a nation made up
    Of odds and ends
    Or perhaps just an attempt
    To create meaning

    Perhaps the question is not
    What is our national costume
    But the age-old fundamental
    Question of who we are.

  5. The Definition of Lost

    It’s this three-year-old girl
    face screwed up
    eyes and nose streaming,
    turning in frantic circles
    looking and looking and looking
    for one familiar point
    in the swirl of large legs and bodies
    noisy faces thrusting, asking,
    “Where’s your Mummy?” – as if
    that wasn’t the whole problem –
    in the strange new landscape
    of the picnic ground.

    It must have been only a moment,
    then she’d have reappeared.
    A little woman, as I discovered
    when I was much older,
    she’d been hidden, perhaps,
    by the crowd. Maybe
    I let go her hand
    and so we were separated
    briefly, but long enough.

    I always thought my ridiculous
    fear of losing my way
    in unfamiliar places
    came from that time the conductor
    put me off the tram when I was seven
    for tendering the wrong fare.
    I cried and wailed then too,
    feeling not only small
    but somehow dirty,
    until kind strangers took me home –
    at least I was well taught
    to remember my address.

    But now, in old age, exploring
    that distress, that panic,
    that wretchedness,
    I find the three-year-old,
    her terrified abandonment
    my defining moment
    of being lost.

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