Category Archives: Writing Prompts

A “Prayer” Poem, A “Quit What You’re Doing” Poem…

Even if, like me, you didn’t write a poem each day for the entire month of April, all is not lost. In addition to organizing an annual Poem-A-Day Challenge every April, Robert Lee Brewer has amassed a wealth of writing prompts. For the full list, go here but I’ve included some of my favorite prompts below:
And remember: “prompts” are just beginnings. Let them get your poem started and then let your poem veer into its own truth.

Writing Prompt: “Rerun That”

by Levi Mandel

This week’s writing prompt is inspired by the work of Leland Hickman, an excellent but relatively unknown queer poet, whose collected works were recently published by Nightboat Books. Without the efforts of Stephen Motika and Bill Mohr, Hickman’s work may have been forgotten altogether. To ensure that never happens, this prompt draws from Hickman’s poem “Lee Sr Falls to the Floor” which describes and reruns the scene of his father’s death.

Here’s the excerpt of the poem you will need for this prompt.

Mimic Hickman’s technique of describing a specific incident in replayed fragments. The image of Lee Sr falling is “rerun” three times in the poem’s opening and each time the falling is described in a slightly different way. (An interesting question – do the three descriptions contradict or complement one another?)

So, pick a specific scene/incident and over the course of your poem “rerun” the narrative. Give us a detail (“Lee Sr falls to the floor / his breathing unthrobs”), stop and re-describe that detail (“Rerun that / the fumes / tremble in the terrifying heat / Lee Sr falls to the floor”) and then stop and re-describe the scene again (“Rerun that / Lee Sr crumples / angular on linoleum / gasps in the kitchen glare.”) So forth and so on.

How many different ways to you tell a story? What are some of the ways memories overlap and revise themselves?

Writing Prompt: The Southern Boy’s Dictionary Entry

by Laura Fayer

This week’s writing prompt was inspired by Macnolia by A. Van Jordan. If you haven’t already read the book, stop reading this blog right now & go buy you two copies: one for yourself & one for someone who loves words as much as you do. (Go ahead. I’ll wait. This blog isn’t going anywhere.)

Okay, now that you’ve read Macnolia, you know that Jordan’s book has several poems based on dictionary entries. Who knew, for example, that you could get such a beautiful poem out of the word from? Here’s an excerpt of “From” by A. Van Jordan:

from prep. 1. Starting at (a particular place or time): As in, John was from Chicago, but he played guitar straight from the Delta; he wore a blue suit from Robert Hall’s; his hair smelled like coconut; his breath, like mint and bourbon; his hands felt like they were from slave times when he touched me—hungry, stealthy, trembling. 2. Out of: He pulled a knot of bills from his pocket, paid the man and we went upstairs. 3. Not near to or in contact with: He smoked the weed, but, surprisingly, he kept it from me. He said it would make me too self-conscious, and he wanted those feelings as far away from us as possible; he said a good part of my beauty was that I wasn’t conscious of my beauty. Isn’t that funny? So we drank Bloody Mothers (Hennessey and tomato juice), which was hard to keep from him—he always did like to drink. 4. Out of the control or authority of: I was released from my mama’s house, from dreams of hands holding me down, from the threat of hands not pulling me up, from the man that knew me, but of whom I did not know; released from the dimming of twilight, from the brightness of morning;from the love I thought had to look like love; from the love I thought had to taste like love, from the love I thought I had to love like love.

With that in mind, it’s time for you to write your own poetic dictionary entry. (The trick to this poem is picking a word that has enough definitions to give you some options. If you’re feeling up for the challenge, take on the word “run.”)

Writing Prompt: There’s No Place Called Home

by Jennifer Zwick

This week’s writing prompt is about the places we love & then leave. For me, The South is really a ghost of home that I longingly (and sometimes begrudgingly) write about. Use this prompt as opportunities to re-live & revise the idea of home, place, and origin.

Write a three-sectioned poem about your place/town of origin (however you choose to define it.)

In the first section, describe how you saw your hometown the day you left it for good. What was the image your eyes rested on before you got into your car & turned on the image? What did you notice just before you crossed the stateline or saw the sign that said “Lewisville, Texas Population: 84,499”?

In the second section, describe the first time you dreamed about your hometown after leaving it. You may have to get creative here and take some liberties. (Actually, I encourage you to take some liberties.)

In the third section, describe a part of your hometown that you find yourself craving or missing the most. There’s a tree in the park next to my mother’s old apartment that I find myself thinking about more often than I like to admit. What hometown image/item do you (surprisingly) miss the most?