30 Prompts for National Poetry Month
These prompts are just opportunities—not assignments. Change them to suit your own needs. Pick and choose in any order. Many people like to use a free-writing protocol that involves setting a timer for fifteen minutes then writing without any edits until it buzzes. Do whatever works for you. If you start writing to the prompt and your words go somewhere else, go with the words! Remember to have fun.
1. Write about “April showers.” You know—the ones that “bring the flowers that bloom in May.”
2. Find a short poem. Using each line as the beginning of a sentence, complete that sentence with your own words. Then delete the lines from the original poem and complete the partial sentences you have left.
3. “The last time . . .” Complete the sentence and keep writing.
4. Go somewhere you have never been. Describe your surroundings in minute detail.
5. Look at a scene you are familiar with. Describe in minute detail.
6. Write a lust/love poem without using any of the following words or concepts, “love,” “hot,” “passion,” “flame,” or “fire.”
7. Write about the land where Easter bunnies live from the rabbit’s point of view—without directly evoking Easter or rabbits.
8. Write about a past Easter, Passover, Pagan, or other spring celebration.
9. Write a sestina using the following end words, “paper,” “lie,” “easy (or ease),” “morning,” “drape,” and your choice of an animal.
10. Listen to the birds. Write down the words to their songs.
11. Write twelve nonsense lines. Use each one to begin a series of sentences. Combine and edit.
12. “In my next incarnation, I . . .” Complete the sentence and keep writing.
13. Write 7 rhymed couplets on the theme of “rawness.”
14. Write about something and its opposite (i.e., full moon/new moon, a candle lit/a candle guttered, day/night). Remove all abstractions.
15. Look at the picture on your calendar. Write about it.
16. Write a poem without invoking the sense of sight.
17. “Once, when I was . . .” Complete and keep writing.
18. Tell someone far away about today’s weather and what it means to you.
19. Many poems make statements about life. Find one and argue with it.
20. Write about new life pushing up through the detritus of the old.
21. Use the phrase, “the full moon,” five times in five four-line stanzas.
22. Celebrate your local patch of turf by writing an ode for Earth Day.
23. Ask the following question: “Is April really the cruelest month?” Now answer it.
24. Invent a new constellation.
25. “Translate” a contemporary American poem into your own words.
26. How did last winter’s weather affect this spring’s landscape.
27. Write a poem about your downtown.
28. Copy down the first five lines of a poem—except change each word to its part-of-speech. Then change each part-of-speech into an appropriate word of your own devising. Use as the beginning of your poem.
29. Write a triolet. (Google the form. It’s short but complicated). If you need a theme, defend or excoriate the slug!
30. Write a poem saying “goodbye” to April.