Write a poem where the each line starts with a new letter of the alphabet, from A-Z or whatever number of letters you want to include.
Examples: A Poem for S. by Jessica Greenbaum & Alphabet Street by Randall Mann & Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian Rezervation by Natalie Diaz
Write a poem where the letter on the left side spell out a word, or phrase.
Examples: A Boat, Beneath a Sunny Sky by Lewis Carroll & An Acrostic by Edgar Allan Poe
Start with a story
24 word Poem
Write a poem that tells a story in exactly 24 words. Then rewrite it using just 12 of the words. Then just 6. Try to keep the essential meaning of the poem, but see how it changes with fewer words, and possibly, slightly different shades of meaning.
Cross Out Poem
Think of a story about something that has happened in your life. Freewrite for about 10 minutes where you put as many details as you can remember.
When you are done, cross out as many unnecessary words as you can. You should end up with just the essential strong words and details. Shape it into a poem.
American Sentences are a poetry form created by the poet Allen Ginsberg. It is kind of like the American version of Haiku poems.
The challenge is to write an observation or story or scene in one sentence that is exactly 17 syllables.
Here are some examples by Ginsberg:
This is a playlist with a series of odes written by teen poets on the Get Lit YouTube channel.
This is On Ode to the Midwest by Kevin Young. It is performed by poet M. Ayodele Heath.
This is a short film featuring Kevin Coval's Ode to Footwork. The poem is performed by Kevin Coval.
Write a poem in response to an absurd question you've been asked or write a poem to an unanswerable question.
1. Brainstorm answers to these questions:
2. Read this example poem:
What Do Women Want? by Kim Addonizio
Source: YCA Blog
This is an idea from a book called The Open Door. The exercise is written by a poet named Michael McGriff.
This is a timed exercise, so open the clock app on your phone or your web browser and set it up for the times listed below. It is important to stick to the time limits, so you don’t overthink it.
List 1: Important Objects
Make a list of at least fifty objects that are important to you.
These don’t have to sound special or “poetic.” They just have to be important to you.
Be as specific as possible with your list. There are no right or wrong objects to include.
If you have more than fifty, then even better.
List 2: Memories
Make a second list for the memories associated with the objects.
List the first twenty memories that you associate with the objects on your list.
List 3: Details
Select two or memories from second list.
For each memory, make a list of as many sensory details as you can think of.
Remember, a sensory detail is a detail that pertains to how something looks, feels, tastes, sounds, or smells.
This exercise may lead to new poems. Or it may not.
The important thing is that you are processing some material that will be more available when you are writing.
Feel free to repeat this exercise or expand on the items in your first two lists you didn't write about this time.
Adapted from the book The Daily Poet by by Kelli Russell Agodon and Martha Silano
What’s the story behind your first or last name?
Were you named after a a family member, someone in history or literature?
Were you named after a place? A relative?
Is there a family story behind your name?
Were you almost named something else?
Do you wish you had a different name?
Are you really proud of your name or hate it for some reason?
Here are some 4 variations on this idea that might help to spark a poem.
1. If you are not sure about any family stores, ask your parents and some other relatives. Get a few different versions of the story and all the details and context before you start writing. How do you feel about the story in relation to who you are now or could have / should have been?
For example, if I or my brothers would have been girls, my mother was going to name us Jennifer.
Example Poems: "Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah" by Patricia Smith & "Fanny Linguistics: Nickole" by Nickole Brown
2. Look up the origins / meaning of your first and / or last name in a baby name book (go to the library!) or on the web on a site like Behind the Name. How is the origin story like or unlike how you see yourself or others see you?
My name is from Old Norse and it is derived from two words that translate as: "ever, always" and "ruler". Not exactly me.
Example Poem: "Say My Name" by Idris Goodwin
3. Do a vanity search on Google. Search for your first and last name. Make sure to put quotations around the name (e.g. "John Smith"). Wes Moore wrote a book about discovering another man named Wes Moore that grew up two blocks from him, but the two men's lives had very different outcomes.
Is there another person with your same name? Write a poem to them or about them. What do you both share? How are you different? If you can't find enough details, make them up.
When I look up my name, there is a dude with my first and last name who is a slam poet, and possibly, an actor who lives Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Example Poem: Sarah Kay & Phil Kay's "An Origin Story" talks about how they met and found they had a lot in common, including their last names.
4. Is there anything unique about your name or do people often ask you how to spell or pronounce it? Do you go by a nickname or a shortened version of your name that is different than your given name?
Example Poems: "Unforgettable" by Pages Matam, Elizabeth Acevedo & G. Yamazawa or "Choi Jeong Min" by Franny Choi.
For this week's prompt, you will create a persona poem. In persona poems, the speaker is not the author (you). You write in the "voice" of a person, object, idea, etc. and write from that perspective.
The subject / speaker of the poem could be anything or anyone. You might have to do some research and use your imagination to make it believable.
I picked up this prompt from a Young Chicago Authors workshop.
Fictional Character Inner Monologue
Your job will be to write the inner monologue for a fictional character.
Dora's Monkey Beams a Distress Call by Scott Beal
Magneto Eyes Strange Fruit by Gary Jackson
Choose a fictional character (from a book, movie, tv show, etc.)
Give a physical description of the character.
Write up an “emotional map” of your character.
Make a list of similarities and differences between you and your character.
Who does the character interact with on a daily basis?
Is the character a hero, villain, or an anti-hero?
What are things the character combats / deals with on a daily basis?
Write a poem where you talk about some aspect of the character's life from their point of view. What is that the fictional character really thinks or really wants people to know or understand about them that no one understands? These are the character's inner, private thoughts, so takes some risks as long as it makes sense for the character.
Write a poem about a drug that doesn’t exist. Give it an abstract name like “Violence” or something like “Milk Money.” What does this drug do? Is it more medicinal or something more like LSD? Is it sold legally or illegally? Can this drug save the world or ruin it? Begin the poem, That October...
Write a poem that makes you feel a little vulnerable. This can be from having certain words in your poem that you have never used or a subject you find taboo.
Six Word Story
A story about Ernest Hemingway and a bet with some of his writer friends has been around forever. Though it has never been proven to be true, it leads to an interesting exercise.
Supposedly, someone bet Hemingway ten dollars that he couldn't write a whole story in 6 words. Hemingway (supposedly) responded with this:
“For sale: baby shoes, never worn”
Some more examples are on the Six Word Stories site. Since we are creepy closer to Halloween, you might also like the Scary Stories twitter account.
Six Word Memoir
A variation on this is to write a six word memoir about yourself. Smith Magazine has a web project that has produced two books with these memoirs.
Here are a few from the teen version:
“Laughed at all the wrong moments.”
“The keys I have don’t fit.”
“Desperate to explore, yet stuck here.”
Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to write a six word story or memoir. Try to do it without repeating words. Do your best to pack as much meaning and implication as possible in those six words, just like Hemingway (probably never) did.
These are two short pieces by working poets about where to find material for writing poems. They are from the book The Crafty Poet by Diane Lockward.
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