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?
“...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?
“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!
"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.
“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?
“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?
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