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National Poetry Month

Contests, prompts, anthologies and more

April is our favorite month. Every year, the Piper Center celebrates National Poetry Month with a writing contest, daily prompts, and an online anthology of our favorite entries!

To learn more about Piper Poetry Month, you can read the anthology. You can also keep reading to view prompts from last year.

More information about Piper Poetry Month 2021 will be posted soon.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Coordinator, Outreach Programs M. McDonough at m.mcdonough@asu.edu

Piper Center Poetry Prompts

Celebrate National Poetry Month with the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing with daily prompts! Each prompt is written by a local author in partnership with the Center. Feel free to jump around or try one each day, and don't forget to send us your work and enter the contest by May 15!

To find prompts, see the numbered tabs above. 

To learn more about the contest, keep reading.  

If you have any questions, reach out to Coordinator, Outreach Programs M. McDonough at M.McDonough@asu.edu.

Submitting to the Contest

Thank you for your interest in submitting to the Piper Center's Poetry Month contest! To submit your work to the contest:

  1. Select a prompt you'd like to respond to from our list
  2. Write a poem in response to the prompt you've selected
  3. Tag us on facebook, instagram, or twitter using the hashtag #piperpoetrymonth
  4. Submit up to 5 poems in a single pdf by completing our submission form at http://bit.ly/PiperPoetryMonth.

Guidelines and Details

Please title your .pdf the title of your first poem in all lowercase without any spaces (e.g. "myfirstpoem.pdf"). No identifying information should appear anywhere in the body of the document. All submissions should be blind. In addition, all poems should identify the prompt to which they are responding by number or direct quotation. 

All submissions will receive a confirmation email from the Piper Center upon receipt. 

Publication and Prizes

Selected poems will be published in a digital anthology. All individuals who have poems selected for publication will receive a free Piper Writers Studio class of their choice. (Some exclusions may apply.)

Deadlines and Dates

The deadline for all submissions is May 15, 2020. Individuals should expect to hear back from the Piper Center regarding their submissions in early July. The anthology will be released in Fall 2020. 

More Information 

If you have any questions, please reach out to Coordinator, Outreach Programs M. McDonough at m.mcdonough@asu.edu. We can't wait to read your work!

Submit to the Contest

Poetry Prompts No. 1 - 10

Celebrate National Poetry Month with daily poetry prompts from Sean Avery, local author, One-n-Ten Writing Circle facilitator, and a Desert Nights, Rising Stars Fellow from 2020!

Each prompt references a poem, song, or other work of art by a contemporary or historical artist. Feel free to respond to the poems directly or indirectly. Try to write one each day or jump around as you please.

Don't forget to tag us on social media with #piperpoetrymonth and submit to the contest by May 15! 

To find prompts, keep reading

To enter the contest, see the "Contest" tab above. If you have any questions, reach out to Coordinator, Outreach Programs M. McDonough at M.McDonough@asu.edu

1. Words Unsaid

Sometimes, words are NOT better left unsaid. Using Morgan Parker's The President Has Never Said the Word Black as an example, write a poem of 16 lines or more that discusses the impact or implication of something unsaid by someone you deem important, either verbally, non-verbally, or both.

2. Star Jar

Yusef Komunyakka's line “The sun / fizzes like a pill in a glass / of water” (from Recreating the Scene) uses simile to capture an astronomical and grandiose image within an image that is mundane and ordinary. Following this logic, freewrite for 15 minutes or more, comparing something larger than life, or otherworldly, to something very normal, minuscule, or earthly. 


3. Abstract Animals

In her iconic “Poem #254”—“‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers / that perches in the soul”—Emily Dickinson employs extended metaphor to describe how one's hope or faith is a “bird”, outlasting tumultuous times, and singing even amidst the unknown and unforeseen. Try writing a poem with your own extended metaphor, using an abstract noun and an animal, that illustrates your relationship to, or understanding of, that abstract noun. Some examples of abstract nouns are: freedom, sadness, permission, anger, childhood, loyalty, pride, truth, etc. 

4. The Place I’m From

Home is a complicated subject for many people, whether they’re writers or not. Referencing Gil Scott-Heron's “Home is where the hatred is” (audio) vs. Elvis Presley's “Home is where the heart is” (audio), today’s prompt asks you to reflect on the place you consider home. Write a poem that answers one of these two questions: how do you feel about the place where you grew up? Or, how does the place you grew up feel about you? 

5. Avatars

“...at crucial points in my novel / my only logically option / was to transform into the wind” — Jay Electronica, Ezekiel's Wheel (audio)

What if you could become one of earth’s natural elements? What if, sometime in your past, during a time of conflict, celebration, or challenge, you could become fire, water, wood, or ice? Write a poem exploring these ideas. Feel free to determine for yourself what is an element of the earth; a quick Google search reveals multiple cultural and speculative interpretations of the elements. 

6. We Are, Each of Us, A Miracle

“everything you do is a miracle” — Danez Smith, a note on the body 

Self-love is both a trend and a tremendously necessary commitment. Today, let’s take some time to appreciate the miracle that is ourselves! Write a poem to yourselves (if it’s easier for you to write to someone else, some be it), using the following questions as starting points: how do you love your body? what does your self-love look like, feel like, sound like, taste like? when, if ever, did you first fall in love with your body? 

7. Youth

“Let’s go away for awhile / I’m a child / It’s a strange and distant land / Where we only speak the truth / Everyone understands how we play / Back in the day” — Sammus (Dr. Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo, Childhood (audio)

Take a trip back to your youth! Is there anyone, real or fictional, who you wished to be as a child? If so, why? If not, who would you encourage your child-self to look up to now? Document your reflections in a poem! 

8. Free

"Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another." — Toni Morrison, “Beloved”

When or where do you feel like you can be your fullest self, i.e. free? Conversely, when or where do you feel like you can't be your fullest self, i.e. not free? Write a poem that shares what freedom of self-expression, in relation to space and time, means to you. 

9. Preparations

“I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.” —Zora Neale Hurston, “How It Feels To Be Colored Me

In these times, it is important to remain grounded, prepared, and safe, whatever that means to you. Using poetry, detail your own process of preparation, safety, and centering. What do you do (literally, metaphorical, or symbolically) when the world around you is troubling, crumbling, saddening, infuriating, disillusioning, or traumatizing?

10. Celebrate

“come celebrate / with me that everyday / something has tried to kill me / and has failed” —Lucille Clifton, “won’t you celebrate with me

No matter who you are, there is some form of opposition or enemy against you, whether micro or macro, institutional or individual. Write a poem in celebration of the times you’ve overcome. Don’t be afraid to explore all forms of opposition, from teachers who tried to stomp out your self-esteem, to systems that try to write you out of your own life. What have you survived, and how do you celebrate your survival? Or, are you still too busy surviving to celebrate? 

Submit to the Contest

Soulful Poetry Prompts No. 11 - 20

Celebrate National Poetry Month with daily poetry prompts from Marco Piña, local author, Veterans Writing Circle facilitator, and a graduate of ASU's MFA in Creative Writing Program from 2019!

Each prompt is inspired by a soul song from the sixties or seventies. Feel free to respond as directly or indirectly as you'd like. Try to write one each day or jump around as you please.

Don't forget to tag us on social media with #piperpoetrymonth and submit to the contest by May 15! 

To find prompts, keep reading

To enter the contest, see the "Contest" tab above. If you have any questions, reach out to Coordinator, Outreach Programs M. McDonough at M.McDonough@asu.edu

11. It's So Hard to Break a Habit (The Webs: Popside 1968.)

Write about the hunger left by the void of love. 

12. Hypnotized (Linda Jones: Loma 1967)

Write about the emotional and biological pulses felt when falling for another.

13. Oh How It Hurts  (Barbara Mason: Arctic 1968)

Write about a heartbreak. Past, future or present.

14. Cross My Heart (Billy Stewart: Chess 1968)

This is for the lover in you. Write what you have to give. 

15. Hello Stranger (Barbara Lewis: Atlantic 1963) 

Write about the emotional storm the precedes or comes after a reunion. 

16. I Keep Singing (La La La Ooh) (The Lovations: Cap City 1969)

Write about moving forward after failing at love.

17. Accept Me (The Diplomats: Dynamo 1969)

Write about being urged to change for the benefit of someone else.

18. Watcha See Is Watcha Get (The Dramatics: Stax 1971)

Write about the unapologetic self.

19. Nothing But Promises (The Turnpikes: Capitol 1968)

Write about a time you broke a promise. Why did you do it?

20. Stay Away (The Turn Arounds: DeVille 1966)  

Write about a love you were warned to stay away from.

Submit to the Contest

Poetry Prompts No. 21 - 30

Celebrate National Poetry Month with daily poetry prompts from Jabari Jawan Allen, local author, One-n-Ten Writing Circle facilitator, and a Desert Nights, Rising Stars Fellow from 2019!

A number of prompts reference a poem, drawing, or other work of art by a contemporary or historical artist. Feel free to respond as directly or indirectly as you'd like. Try to write one each day or jump around as you please.

Don't forget to tag us on social media with #piperpoetrymonth and submit to the contest by May 15! 

To find prompts, keep reading

To enter the contest, see the "Contest" tab above. If you have any questions, reach out to Coordinator, Outreach Programs M. McDonough at M.McDonough@asu.edu

Photograph of Candelabra with Heads by Robert Hirshorn

Candellabra with Heads by Robert Hirshorn. Prompts 21 - 23 reference Nicole Sealey's poem of the same title from her collection The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Named (Ecco). The full text of the poem is availabe here. 

21. Bewilderment

Write a poem that is five lines long whose first and last line rhyme (but nothing else). The speaker must also encounter someone who is dead.

22

Write a poem that is 20 lines long with only three end stops (periods) whose volta or turn happens around the 15th or 16th line. The poem must also include a flightless bird. 

23

Write a poem of 12 - 14 lines that begins with a thesis question. Then, write the same lines in reverse order under the first poem so the thesis ends the poem.

24

Look at your palm. For each line there, write a line of no less than 12 syllables. The poem must also include a mythological beast from any culture except Greece.

Picture of Jonah Mixon-Webster’s “Self-Portrait in Stereotype N° 1: Negrohead Wif Nappy Hair”

Jonah Mixon-Webster’s “Self-Portrait in Stereotype N° 1: Negrohead Wif Nappy Hair," referenced by prompt 25.

25

What is a poem? Draw it for 14 minutes and title the image "Ars Poetica".

26

What part of your body hurts you the most? Write a poem of no less than 18 lines from its perspective. 

27

Write a prose poem beginning with the "A lark . . . " that is 12 sentences long. The poem must include the diet of the last bug you saw.

28

Write a poem about an encounter that is 14 lines long. When you're finished, remove the eighth and fourteenth line.

29

Write a poem centering your last dream that is 9 lines long. If you don't dream, ask a beloved about their last dream.

30. Checking In

How do you feel today, truly? Write it. It doesn't have to make sense. The poem should be four lines long for each chamber of the heart.

Submit to the Contest

 

Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference Fellow 2019 Jabari Jawan Allen

Jabari Jawan Allen

Piper Writers Studio Instructor 2020
Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference Fellow 2019

Jabari Jawan Allen, a Chicago, IL native, has received fellowships and scholarships from Tin House, Community of Writers, Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, VONA, among others. Along with Jari Bradley and Willie Kinard III, he is a member of the Black queer gospel trio The Upper Room Collective. A Pushcart nominee, Allen’s poems either appear or are forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Vinyl, Virginia Quarterly Review, Wildness, the anthology The Impossible Beast: Queer Erotic Poems, and elsewhere.

 

Photograph of Sean Avery

Sean Avery

Desert Nights, Rising Stars Fellow 2020

Sean Avery (pronouns he/they) is a rapper, poet and teaching artist from Avondale, Arizona. Their work integrates Hip-Hop music, poetry, and theater to explore how Black masculinity is projected onto their body. They strive for an authentic performance of self, hoping to inspire others to examine their own identities.

 

Painting of Marco Piña

Marco Piña

Veterans Writing Circle Facilitator 2019

Marco Piña was born in Phoenix, Arizona and he spent twelve years in the U.S. Air Force. After studying screenwriting and playwriting, he committed himself to learning and writing poetry. After graduating from Arizona State University with an MFA, he became dedicated to helping others begin to heal moral injury and trauma through writing. He teaches ongoing, private creative writing workshops.