Write a poem that tells a story

In the earlier days of this site, I used to host a fast fiction exhibition. Every week I would post a prompt and people could write a very short story in response to the prompt. It was a lot of fun. A story told in 100 or 200 words starts to read a lot like poetry. All of the excess thoughts have been eliminated. There is no room for wasted words when the count is so tight. To me, that is one of the advantages of good poetry over prose. Every word matters.

A poem doesn’t have to tell a story. The pantoums that Jenn just wrote about, for example, don’t feel like a story. The use of repetition makes them feel more like a thought that simply won’t go out of your head. There are also nonsense poems, chants, list poems, imagist poems and a variety of other forms and approaches that are not about the story. Even the prose poem, which takes on the look of a story with its use of paragraphs and other prose structures, generally reflects thoughts more than story.

If you choose to tell a story with your poetry, you will find yourself looking at a narrative that winds through your poem. Events happen in succession. There are some poems in which a line or a stanza can easily be moved because the poem doesn’t progress along the lines of a plot. If the poem tells a story, however, there is generally a flow between lines and paragraphs that only makes sense in order.

People are comfortable telling stories. They do it naturally. Poets write about moments from their lives. Poets make up stories that are realistic or fanciful. They do all the things that prose writers do. They just do it in a different way.

Today’s Poetry Prompt

Write a poem that tells a story. For an added challenge, use a word count. Write four stanzas, each with 30 words.

5 thoughts on “Write a poem that tells a story

  1. Not by chance

    I went to the riverside this afternoon
    With my trusty notebook and lovely parasol
    Strolling along casually in stunning maroon
    With a red red rose in my dark dark hair

    The brilliance of the shinning sun
    Reflected clearly on the calm surface of the river
    Like the lovely blood red rose in my bun
    Appeared strikingly against my black locks

    I sat solitarily on the riverside bench
    As the sun continued its relentless marching
    Scribbling random thoughts aimlessly in romantic French
    Seemingly oblivious to everything and everyone that surrounded me

    But the red rose in my locks
    Reveals my secret as clearly as the brilliant sun
    Cos I’m not here by chance, the fickle lady
    But for you, stranger you.

  2. Sunday, Late Afternoon

    “The black room took us like a cave” – line from a poem by Anne Sexton

    We’d been having drinks on the porch but the rain was coming down in torrents.
    We moved slowly, intuitively towards the den, like animals going to the pond at sunset.
    Something was odd, off center, cold, but I was distracted by my heart’s ache.
    Like an Alzheimer sufferer, my heart daily broke at sunset.
    The pain again felt freshly inflicted: “I don’t want you in my life any longer.”
    Fiona was talking about her suicide plans again.
    I knew some day she really would take those pills, spill that wine.
    James wasn’t working to cheer her this time.
    He scared me by talking about his own proposed date with his car exhaust.
    The black room took us like a cave.


  3. I Don’t Camp

    I didn’t pack a coat or jacket
    Just a flannel shirt
    Three t-shirts
    Tennis shoes
    And two pairs of socks
    So by seven that night
    I was wearing

    The fire was more for cooking
    Than for basking
    So I crowded close
    With the other
    Smarter campers
    To keep my front half warm
    While my back half frosted over

    Instead of ghost stories
    We talked about Vegas
    Swapping tales of big wins
    Bad beats
    Negotiations with strippers
    And staggered drunken ramblings
    Like so many fish that were
    This big

    The heat in the camper was broken
    The blankets like suggestions
    I got up around midnight
    Sat in my car until I stopped shaking
    Then drove my cold ass home

  4. an artist wants to capture
    the true essence of beauty
    and so he paints what he feels inside
    an artist creates dementional imagery
    of contour contrast of exuberant triatory color
    within nature within natural elegance
    refraning emotion of love for life
    an artist is within art itself

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