"The first draft is the downdraft. Revision is the updraft." -anonymous
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Summer. What summertime adventures have you had in your life? Write a poem (or three) about them.
Write a poem for/about the summer solstice and what it means to you.
Here are three prompts from the game Metaphor Dice, created by Taylor Mali, the nephew of OPN members Bill and Georgene Marshman:
1. The past is a cryptic, brand new toy.
2. Poetry is an apologetic thunderstorm.
3. My father was a rugged midwife.
You can read more about Taylor's game, and purchase one yourself at www.metaphordice.com.
1. Start the first morning of the month by writing an aubade. Here’s a quick Wikipedia definition: “An aubade is a morninglove song or a song or poemabout lovers separating at dawn. It has also been defined as "a song or instrumental composition concerning, accompanying, or evoking daybreak". In the strictest sense of the term, an aubade is a song from a door or window ...”
2. Write a poem from the perspective of an animal.
3. You have lost your sight. Write a poem about the environment around you using only your other senses.
4. What did you give up for Lent, if anything? What should you have given up? You don’t have to be religious to abstain from excess. Write about the pros and cons of the temporary loss.
5. Write an “ode” to an Easter Lilly.
6. Write an abecedarium. Twenty-four lines each beginning with a letter of the alphabet—in order.
7. Where were you in 2002? Or 1992? Let your mind wander back to a particular year and write about whatever springs to mind.
8. Write a poem from the perspective of someone who is drunk and/or stoned.
9. Three quatrains (four line stanzas). You can even rhyme it.
10. Try a traditional form: villanelles, sonnets, sestinas. You can Google the rules.
11. Make a list. Things to do today. Groceries. What you find on the beach. Things you might find on an alien spaceship. Snakes. Write them down and see what happens.
12. A form I find useful in contemporary poetry is the anaphora which begins each line with the same word or phrase. The wording can morph (there really are no hard and fast rules in the universe of poetry!). Google Joy Harjo’s “She Had Some Horses” for an example.
13. Write an “urban” poem. What does a large city mean to you? Can you provide concrete details that put us there?
14, And, of course, you need to follow your urban poem with a pastoral one. Ah, the country. How can you make it new, make it your own?
15. Write twelve lines. Break each line in half. Begin new lines with each fragment. You have twenty four lines. If that doesn’t give you enough material to work with, then repeat.
16. Open a book by one of your favorite poets. Read and analyze one of her poems. What techniques does she use? Write a poem on the same subject and use the same techniques.
17, Pretend you are clairvoyant. What do you see in the crystal ball?
18, Here’s an easy one. Write a political rant. Get it out of your system!
19. Study the picture on your April calendar page until you have mined it of nuance. Now write.
20. Write a letter to a family member who has died. Maybe you want to update them on your life. Maybe you want to tell them how much they’re missed. Maybe you want to clear the air over something that happened. Maybe you just want to ask them the questions that you didn’t get around to when they were alive.
21. And, while we’re being a tad morbid, write your own obituary.
22. Write a humorous poem. Even if you’re not that funny, you can probably come up with a story or situation that is.
23. A dog, a star, the color green, nail polish, and the smell of fermenting apples: write a poem that contains all these elements.
24. Read a piece of nonfiction—about anything you’re interested in. Pick one detail that stands out. Write about it.
25. Write a random poem. Collect words and phrases that you hear and read all day then, in the evening (or next morning), weave them together, with or without your own words.
26. An object poem focuses on a single object and describes in detail its thingness. Use the senses. Be as literal or as far-reaching as you’d like.
27. Use rhyme and meter and at least fifteen lines on the subject of Godzilla (and you thought you couldn’t write something humorous!).
28. Write a series of haiku about what you see out your window.
29. Draw a box on a sheet of paper. Write a poem inside it.
30. Write about your worst fear.
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.
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.
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):
- Pick an element of life that has or deserves a ritual
- Decide the result you would want the ritual to produce
- Think of the actions you would take to achieve the result
- Turn the actions into steps or commands
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Use "found" language to compose a poem from lines in letters from a relative or friend, Facebook correspondence about a singular topic (or two), or from snippets of an overheard conversation. See where it takes you!
Here's one suggested during a Paul Gillie (now OPN) Workshop on Revision facilitated by the poet and Evergreen State College Professor, Suzanne Simons:
Write a poem, or take one you're not satisfied with, and copy it down starting with the last line first, working backward up the page, until you've rewritten it in reverse. Feel free to change lines or words so they continue to make sense. See what magic happens!