Poetry Prompts

These prompts first appeared in The Journal Newsletter.

Writing Exercise: Poetry – This exercise can be done by listing, or by prose writing.

Study the motion of an object of nature or a machine. Make notes of your observations. At first use only objective description. Then write down your subjective observations. After making your notes, trim phrases down to words.

Consider writing haiku, or haiku-like poems, about your subject. A haiku style poem tries to capture an instant objectively, like a photograph. Good haiku will convey the emotion experienced without using metaphor.

Poetry Exercise – Write an Anaphora poem. An Anaphora is “the repetition of a word or expression several times within a clause or within a paragraph”. In poetry the repetition of the phrase can be just at the beginning of each line, setting the tone as a meditation or a mantra, or it can be utilized more subtlety within the poem. The poem can be free verse or prose style.

Poetry Exercise – Write a free verse poem using “sparrows”.

Poetry Exercise – Phonetically, or by what the words look like, interpret the following foreign language poem. If you know French, you may choose to use a poem in a different language, or try not to let it influence your interpretation. For example, the German word “Kussen”, could be translated to cousin, cussing, cushion, cruising. “Herz” could be hurse, horse, hers, hurts. Or you can define it to mean something not sound related such as “Herz” to mean train, storm, stove. Your poem can be serious or humourous, just follow through on your first impression.

Dans Les Ruines D’Une AbbayeSouls tous deux, ravis, chantants!
Comme on s’aime!
Comme on cueille le printemps
que Dieu seme!
Quels rires etincelants
Dansces ombres
Pleines jadis de fronts blancs,
De coeurs sombres!

On est tout frais maries
On s’envoie
Les charmants cris varies
De la joie.

Purs ebats meles au vent
Qui frissone!
Gaite que le noir couvent

On effeuille des jasmins
Sur la pierre
Ou l’abbesse joint les mains
En priere.

(Les tombeaux, de croix marques,
Font partie
De ces jeux, un peu piques
Par l’ortie.)

Poetry Exercise – Write a series of questions and answers to compose a poem.

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem that describes a walk through a house from the perspective of a child.

Poetry Exercise – Write three different impressions of “saturation”. (e.g.: color, sound, aroma, urban-ness, etc.)

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem using the prompt: “chain-link fence”

Poetry Exercise – Take an existing poem, either one of your own or a favored/unfavored poet (your choice), and make two copies of the poem. For the first copy; cut the poem into strips of single lines. Examine (critique) each line for its own strength or weakness. Ask yourself if the line actually says something deliberate or if it is just filler. Identify those lines that have substance. Play with the placement of each line, switch them around. Make a pile of the weak lines and a pile of the strong lines. Toss the weak ones. For the second copy, cut the poem into single words, evaluate each word on it’s own. Eliminate any words that are not provocative or meaningful. Take each word and write a new single line on a strip of paper. After you have a new line for each word, play around with arranging them together.

Poetry Exercise – Write a three part poem using “metronome”.

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem concerning the “absence” of something. Consider the absence as a positive, or a negative.

Poetry Exercise – List ten items that you would buy at an auction, or tag sale. Write a poem including those items. You may chose to title your poem, “Things Found At An Auction”. Variation, have someone else create a list for you.

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem that starts with a one word title, two words in the first line, three in the next, and continues by adding one word per line. (Variation: use as a prose exercise.)

Poetry Exercise – “This and That”- Write a list of phrases such as “salt and pepper”, “cats and dogs”, “love and war”. Write a poem with the first stanza about the first word and the second stanza about the second word.

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem based on the concept or idea of a “Mobeus strip”.

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem that begins with a description of an event, telling what appears to be happening. Then give a description of what is really occurring.

Poetry Exercise – As an exercise, write a solo “renga”. (Not to argue the authenticity of a renga being written by two poets – not one) A renga is a Japanese poetic form similar to haiku, but a series of stanzas linked by an idea. Please visit these pages for a full, nonconfrontatational definitions of renga:

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem using, “paper and chalk”.

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem using the following title: “Another Language”, or “Translation”.

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem using the following start: “What good is a day…”’

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem about the “ultimate” poem, or what a poem “should” do.

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem in the disguise of a postcard message. Continue by writing a reply postcard message.

Poetry Exercise – Create a poem using three trinkets. Such as, a shell, a silver charm, and a feather.

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem using the phrase “a foreign language”.

Poetry Exercise – On a slip of paper write a list of 15 “free association” words. Use the 15 words in a poem. Variation: Create and exchange a list with another person. Then use their list of words to write a poem.

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem using, “how to…”. For example, “how to write a poem”, “how to break my heart”,” how to distinguish a flower from a frog”.

Poetry Exercise – Write three shaped-verse poems. Shaped-verse poems are a form of “pattern poetry”, where the letters, words, and lines of the poem are arranged to form a picture/outline of the subject of the poem. An example is a poem in the shape of a Christmas tree discussing your thoughts about Christmas itself, family traditions, and so on.

Poetry Exercise – 1. Write a poem that repeats a selected word in each line. Consider using foreign translations of the word. (cat, gato, catze).

2. Write a poem with a seasonal theme.

3. Write a poem about seasonings. For example, “Salt and Saffron”.

Poetry Exercise – 1. Write a poem using the title, “Paradise of Strangers”.

2. Write a poem using, ” Between Silences”.

Poetry Exercise – 1. Write a poem using “Writers Anonymous” as your title. (Or, “Hi My Name Is …”)

2. Transitory -Write a poem based on transitory things.

Poetry Exercise – 1. Make a list of your favorite lines from poetry. Use these lines in a collage or create a pocket journal that has one line per page. Memorize them. (And then, optionally, for you Mark Strand fans, eat them.)

2. 2. Write a Tercet. Examples:

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem about something that “spirals”.

Poetry Exercise – In honor of Julia Child write a culinary poem celebrating food. Write a poem that is representative of language / communication.

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem about a very small object.

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem using images of things that are connected, such as “paperclip(s)”, or “trains”.

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem that is about the “un-truth”.

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem about things that are transparent.

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem that starts at the end, moving backwards.

Poetry Exercise – Write a villanelle, or a terzanelle.

A 19-line poem of fixed form consisting of five tercets and a final quatrain on two rhymes, with the first and third lines of the first tercet repeated alternately as a refrain closing the succeeding stanzas and joined as the final couplet of the quatrain. (from http://www.dictionary.com)

A terzanelle is a poetry form which is a combination of the villanelle and the terza rima. It is nineteen lines total, with five triplets and a concluding quatrain. The rhyme scheme is as follows: Ending Type 1:fAFA’ (fromhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terzanelle)

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem using the theme of, “x-ray”, or seeing through layers.

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem that focuses on sound.

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem about playing Jacks, Hopscotch, or another such game.

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem in three parts about three different people and their interaction with an item that is the same. The object can be passed between them, or it can be the “same” possession and not the “actual” object the other people have.

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem that uses the style of a devotion and prayer.

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem that is written in the style of magnetic poetry. For your word bank you can use one or two pages from a book, magazine or newspaper. You might want to make a photocopy of the pages and cut the words apart, or just transcribe them randomly to your word bank.

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem that is based on a painting. (You can find many classic paintings here: http://www.wga.hu/index.html)

Example: Pieter Brueghel, The Fall of Icarus
Poetry Prompt – 1. Write a poem that refers to “Romeo and Juliet”.

2. Write a poem using the title, “Lines of Conversation”.

Poetry Prompt – Write a poem using the title, “Love Poem Number 137″.

Poetry Prompt – Write a poem using the title, “You Need to Have a Plan”.

Poetry Prompt – Write a parody of a Robert Frost poem. For example, “Whose socks these are I think I know…”

Poem Exercise – Write a poem using the title “Math Poem”

Poem Exercise – Write a poem using the title “What You Need to Survive”

Poem Exercise – Write a poem using the title “Results are In”

Poetry Exercise – Write an Acrostic poem for Halloween.


Writing Exercises

These Writing Exercises are a collection of prompts originally published in The Journal Newsletter. The prompts include journaling prompts, prose prompts, poetry prompts, free writing prompts, and memoir prompts.

Or jump to the complete list of exercises you would like to see:

The exercises are updated each month, after the newsletter is published.

Unless otherwise specified, all prompts Copyright © by Susan Michael and David Michael.