Poetry Prompts

Here are poetry Prompts from four years worth of 30 Poems in 30 Days.

See More Writing Exercises and Prompts

Use the word Pattern in the first line and/or the last line of your poem.

Write a poem that begins with you waking up.

Write a poem that begins with a proclamation. If you need a phrase to get your juices going, try “I will”.

Write the final line to your poem first, and then write the poem to get to that ending. I am choosing to end my poem with “His hallucinations make him giggle” which others are welcome to use.

Pick three words that you absolutely love the sound of and set out to use them in your poem.

Use the same (or similar) words in both your first line and last line, but change the order or the meaning of the words from the first line to the last line.

Write a poem that involves an animal.

Write a list poem about things you have done in your life.

Use the word “secret” twice in your poem.

Use a letter count as a constraint for your poetry, either writing a brand new poem or rewriting an old poem to fit the new pattern. You can either count the spaces and punctuation between words as letters or count only the actual letters. Keep in mind that you don’t have to use the exact same number in every line, you can also develop at pattern such as 20-25-20-25.

Write or rewrite a greeting card poem so that is has meaning to you, or at least is funny.

A Ritual Poem takes a ritual (real or imagined) and brings a sense of meaning and reflection to the ritual it describes. Here are some steps to follow (a ritual poem ritual):

  1. Pick an element of life that has or deserves a ritual
  2. Decide the result you would want the ritual to produce
  3. Think of the actions you would take to achieve the result
  4. Turn the actions into steps or commands

Write a poem using Skeltonic Verse.

Write a poem about a specific but minor memory you have from more than five, but less than ten years ago.

Write a Tanka. Feel free to write more than one if you like.

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.

Write a poem that is set at or near where you live.

Write a poem in the form of a letter (epistle).

Write a poem that begins and ends with three single syllable words.

Write a poem that begins with a line of advice or instruction, such as don’t give up or take a left at the willow tree.

September 21st is the last day of summer in the northern hemisphere and the last day of winter in the southern hemisphere. With that in mind, write a poem in which the seasons play a role.

Write a poem in which a similar or identical phrase is repeated three or more times throughout the poem.

Write a poem using iambic pentameter. If you aren’t familiar with Iambic pentameter, it is discussed in full here.

Write a poem that begins with the word “I”.

Write a poem as that uses every letter of the alphabet at least once.

Write a poem about a natural event.

Use one of the lists of words above or pick your own morpheme and use it to add adnomination to your poetry.

Pick two or three words from your last poem use them as the first three words of this poem.

Write a poem that gets shorter with each line.

Write a poem about the end of something.

Write a poem about something you believe.

Write a poem that includes at least one description of an object that is six or more words long.

Write a poem that uses some sort of meter. If you want a challenge, attempt a meter you haven’t worked with before. For an extra added challenge, try to work in the word belly.

Write a Blues Sonnet:

  1. Write 5 thematically similar heroic couplets of iambic pentameter.
  2. In first four, repeat first line of each couplet, yielding the 14 lines of the sonnet.
  3. Then, if desired, modify middle lines, of the stanzas without disturbing rhyme or rhythm to strengthen the stanza and give variety.
  4. Get out a blues recording and have fun singing your blues song!

Write a poem about an event in your life that you have strong feelings about (it doesn’t have to be painful) without stating how you feel about the event. If you want an extra challenge, end every third line with the letter “R”.

Write a poetic parable. Feel free to play with the form. Sometimes it is more interesting when the lesson is just a bit absurd.

Write about something in your life that you do every day. If you want an added challenge, make the first and the last lines the same or similar.

Write a blank verse poem. Blank verse has meter, but no rhyme. The typical meter for blank verse is iambic pentameter, but you can try other meters as well. If you want an added challenge, include the word “line”.

Write a Pantoum. Feel free to experiment with the form until you write something to your own liking. If you enjoyed this, try a sestina or villanelle.
Write a poem that tells a story. For an added challenge, use a word count. Write four stanzas, each with 30 words.

Write a poem as if it were an entry in someone’s journal or diary or even their Twitter account. If you want an added challenge, limit your stanzas to 145 characters so they mirror the limitations of texting.

Go outdoors and get some fresh air. Find a comfortable spot and write a poem. If you want to try a tanka (or a few) go for it.

Write a poem in ten minutes. It should have at least 100 words. For an added challenge, work in the word “speed”.

Create your own found poem. If you are looking for inspiration, use Google News to find an article to your liking.

Write a poem that uses exactly the same number of characters on every line. You can pick the length, but once you start you have to stick to it. For an extra challenge, try writing about an event that has happened in the past 24 hour.

Write a poem that ends with the word “quiet”.

Either use a set of hyponyms as the structure for your poem or write a poem around the phrase, “He was blue, she was a rabbit.”

Write a poem that uses something other than traditional end rhyme.

Create a poem that uses one of the following word combinations (they don’t have to be in the same line):

  • boot, tune, fool
  • but, feet, knot
  • kit, tap, pock
  • seize, fourth, thighs

Write about something you can see from the window of your home.

Write a poem about a place you have been or a journey you have taken.

Call an old friend and write a poem after the conversation

Find an original way to describe a chair and make that the first line of your poem.

Write about the first time you did something.

Write a poem that demonstrates strong emotion without ever stating what that emotion is.

Write a poem about a contest, a win, or a loss.

Write a poem as if it were a letter to a friend.

Include the word right or rights in your poem.

Start your poem with a piece of advice.

Write a poem about your childhood. Explore an actual event that had some emotional significance to you. Avoid using any description of how you felt about the event then or how you feel about it now. Instead, try to make the emotion of the event come through in your descriptions of what happened. Feel free to post your poem in the comments or on your own site with a link back to here. This will give other people the opportunity to read your poem.

Write about an event in your life that happened within the past week. Take some time to think about the week and look for event that has some emotional meaning for you, but not so much that it would be painful for you to write about. Sometimes smaller moments have more meaning. Feel free to post your poem in the comments or on your own site with a link back to here. This will give other people the opportunity to read your poem.

Find a news or opinion article that was published on the web this week. I recommend using Google News because it can take you just about anywhere. Look for a story that has some emotional or philosophical impact on you and use that story as the basis for your poem. If you post your poem here, be sure to post a link to the original article so we can see the inspiration!

Get out of the house and write in a new place. Write about the place you choose to go to. Don’t just rely on what you see. Describe the smells, the tastes and the sounds if you can. Try to give your readers a full picture of the place you choose.

Write a persona poem that incorporates one of the past two concepts. It should either address a social issue or it should provide a strong sense of place. One great way to do the latter is to write a poem in a public place, and to observe the people around you until you find someone interesting that you can imagine a back-story for.
Take at least five minutes to meditate in a quiet room free of outside influences before you write today’s poem. Try to clear your head of stray thoughts. Once you feel like you are clear and calm, write your poem. Let the topic be about whatever comes to mind after your meditation. If you have never meditated before, simply sit in a chair with your eyes closed and try to relax.

Write a list poem that uses a single line for each item on the list. Feel free to choose one of the topics above, or use anything else that comes to mind. As always, post the poem in the comments section if you would like to share it.

Write an elegy about a person or event that is meaningful to you. You don’t necessarily have to approach the most tragic event in your life. Don’t try to take on an event that is still too difficult for you to deal with. Look for something that you can handle.

Write a poem using a specific meter. The meter can be of your own choosing or even your own making, as long as you put a pattern into place. As always, feel free to post your poem in the comment section of this post.

Write a three or more stanza poem that uses a metered style for the first two stanzas and a non-metered format for the remaining stanzas. As always, feel free to post your poem in the comments section for others to see.

Read a poet you don’t like. Try to figure out what they do that upsets you and determine whether or not this assessment is fair. Try to think of ways that you would approach the same subject matter using your style. Write a poem that addresses some of the same subject / style / tone of the poet you dislike but do it in your own style.

Write a poem using syllabic verse. You can assign length ether by line or stanza. If you are stuck for a way to begin, start with this two-word ten-syllable line: Incompatible Participation
Read a poet you don’t like. Try to figure out what they do that upsets you and determine whether or not this assessment is fair. Try to think of ways that you would approach the same subject matter using your style. Write a poem that addresses some of the same subject / style / tone of the poet you dislike but do it in your own style.

Today is a two-part assignment. The first part is to think about your method of writing poetry. The second part is to shake up your process. If you have a lot of structure, try loosening up. If you write very loosely, try adding some structure to the process. Find a new place to write or use a different tool. The change doesn’t have to be major, but if you post your poem, please tell us what you changed.

Write a poem that uses at least two different forms of repetition. Try to embrace at least one form of repetition that you don’t ordinarily use.

Write a poem that follows the three rules of the imagists.

  1. Direct treatment of the “thing”, whether subjective or objective.
  2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
  3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of the metronome.

Revisit a previous poem, perhaps one you especially liked or one you had trouble with, and write another poem following those same parameters.

Wikipedia’s Random Button is a great and magical thing. Click it and write about whatever subject comes up.

Include the words “formal” and “casual” at some point in your poem.

Write a poem that has a variable line length rather than a set meter. Use either enjammed or endstopped lines.

Write a poem that begins with a negative image or statement and ends with a positive image or statement.

Write a three stanza poem that shows a progression with each stanza. The three stanzas should serve as a beginning, middle and end respectively. It might help to picture the poem as a three act play.

Try something that scares you (just a little) and then write a poem about it.

Write a poem that discusses a real moment in your life without discussing its larger meaning or attempting to lead the reader to a conclusion.

Include a verb in every line of your poem.

Write a poem that begins and ends with the same word.

Write the first draft of your poem in paragraph form and then change it into a free verse poem. Don’t be surprised if you have to change lines, words and phrases. That is a part of the process.

Look at some old photographs and write about a memory or a thought that they give you.

Write a poem that either uses no words longer than five letters or no words shorter than five letters.

Write the final line of your poem first, then figure out a way to get there.

I feel like ending with something technical but random. Don’t include any word with a single “A” in it, but do include at least one word with two “A”s in it.

Write a poem that takes place inside a vehicle (car, truck, train, plane, boat, etc.)

Write a poem in which you use three different words for the same or a similar color.

Write a poem that uses two or more different settings / locations.

Write a poem that includes at least three different flavors and two odors.

Write a poem in which each line has six words and makes a statement or at least expresses a complete thought.

Write a poem in which every stanza either begins with a question or ends with a question.

Write a poem in the form of a joke.

Write a poem that takes place at a public gathering such as a meeting, a carnival, a sporting event or a concert.

Write a poem about building or creating something by hand.

Write a poem that involves cutting, chopping or dividing something.

Write a poem about having to defend yourself or someone else.

Write a poem in which you discuss three things that you or your persona wants.

Write a poem that repeatedly uses numbers.

Write a poem that involves a plan.

Write a poem that take place at a specific time of the day.

Write a poem that involves consequences.

Write a poem that takes place in or otherwise involves a classroom.

Write a poem about waiting for a specific event.

Write a poem about getting lost or losing something.

Write a poem about getting or sending a message (postcard, letter, phone call, email)

Write a poem that includes something that malfunctions or breaks down.

Write a poem about training for something or working towards a distant goal.

Write a poem about a person or a place that has several different names (it’s actually quite common).

Write a poem in which something gets opened or closed.

Write a poem in which something gets faked or simulated.

Write a poem about a rivalry.

Write a poem about a place that has changed considerably over time (construction, destruction, renovation, disrepair, etc.)

Write a poem that involves flirtation.

Write a poem that includes a path, a trail, or a map.

Write a poem that involves a long-term relationship (love, friendship, family, group, etc.)

2 thoughts on “Poetry Prompts

  1. (I’m folllowing the ‘letter to a friend’ prompt)

    Friend

    Dear Friend:

    much has happened since we last saw

    each other – ah, things change so quickly

    and we’re both getting old – too old for

    some things, if you ask me – but still

    I reflect on some of the things we’ve done

    I count them in my head – 1,2,3,4,5,6…..

    I could almost reach out and touch them

    the past is dead, but it haunts the present

    but we were so wild, so out there

    and now we’re so suit-and-tie

    Dionysian laughter gives way

    to an ironic chuckle

    I’ve heard about your wife

    I hope she’s feeling much better

    having kids wasn’t what we thought

    was it? – we always think it’s going

    to be different, but then the troubles

    mount – we think we can relate, but

    a wall erects itself – we’re all stuck

    in our own creations – but I see

    reason for optimism – I know it

    doesn’t seem that way, but I’m full of

    hope for the future – I know, violence and

    pollution and the spread of humanity like

    fungi on this sad rock – pessimism seems

    justified – but in my old age I find something

    glowing inside me – I want to reach out to

    other people, people I don’t know – I want

    to hug them and creep them out with

    kindness – but perhaps I’m being silly -

    I don’t know – I find myself listening to

    music more and more – I think music somehow

    contains the key to the Universe – and the rhythm

    of music, all music, is the rhythm of Existence

    itself – I’m tiring you, no doubt – please excuse the

    ramblings of an old friend – be sure to read my

    latest article in that familiar old stomping ground -

    you know what I’m talking about, don’t you? – it’s

    pretty good for what it is – do let me know what

    you’re doing and give my best to the others – they

    almost never drop a line – the circle grows smaller

    and smaller, doesn’t it? – I talk too much but say

    too little – I am, as always, your friend – when we

    meet again your hand will never escape my grip

    ha, ha

    sincerely….

    (Greg Cameron, Poem, January, 2011, Surrey, B.C., Canada – an improvisation in front of a library computer)

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