Poetry Prompts

I am hoping to finish revising my book of poetry prompts, and then I hope someone will publish it! To get myself back into the swing of it, I am turning over at least part of my blog to poem prompts.
This first prompt comes from an old hand-out I just re-discovered. I had listed great first lines, and below is the first batch, which I listed as "Starts in the Middle." Each of these beginnings sounds as if the reader is in a conversation with the poet, and there has been an exchange of information prior to the line that starts the poem. It is a powerful way to begin a poem, as a reader feels compelled to read on; after all, they are part of a conversation that is already in progress.
When I was twelve, I chose Dante’s Inferno
Diane Thiel, “Memento Mori in Middle School”
I no longer want to birth a snowman—
Ye Chun, “For Hai Zi, Who Calls Himself Son of the Sea”
Which reminds me of another knock-on-wood
Marilyn Nelson, “Minor Miracle”
In Italy, where this sort of thing can occur
Anthony Hecht, “A Hill”
I, too, sing America.
Langston Hughes, “I, Too”
And this is the way they ring
Anne Sexton, “Ringing the Bells”
He learned to breathe in German but
Bin Ramke, “Practical Linguistics”
First having read the book of myths,
Adrienne Rich, “Diving into the Wreck”
That’s my last duchess painted on the wall
Robert Browning, “My Last Duchess”
Next time, you’ll notice them on your way to work
Jared Carter, “Fire Burns in a Fifty-Five Gallon Drum”
Let us go then, you and I,
T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
Sundays too my father got up early
Robert Hayden, “Those Winter Sundays”
Use one of these starts as a start of your own, changing the original, of course. 
When I was
I no longer want to
Which reminds me of
In Italy,
I, too,
And this is 
He learned to
First having 
That's my last
Next time,
Let us go 
Sundays too
So Thiel's "When I was twelve, I chose Dante's Inferno" could become " When I was ten" or "When I lived in Indiana" or "When I eat rice." Be sure to do two things: find the whole original poem after you have a first draft of your own, and make mention of your source. Some of these are so well-known that if someone were to start a poem with "I, too," or "Let us go" without acknowledging Hughes or Eliot, that someone would look foolish. 
Also, prompts are starting points for drafts, and drafts are meant to be revised. Even if you do begin with "First having read the book of myths," by the time you revise to find your own poem, Rich's first line may be gone from your poem entirely, which is fine. 
The point of using another poem as a prompt for your own (unless you are responding directly to another poem) is to have a poem you have written that owes inspiration to the original, but nothing more. The original poet should be able to look at your piece and not recognize anything as her or his own. 
Here is a prompt I prepared for a graduate class years ago. Unfortunately, it was the semester I had to take medical leave, so I never got to give this to students.
As with all prompts, use this as a starting point. If the headline, "Fish Have Feelings, Too" makes you think of snails having feelings, and you just researched snails for your daughter's aquarium and you would rather write about snails than fish, have at it! Prompts are meant to be just what their name says: prompts to get you to write, preferably about something or in a way that challenges you.
In the News
     use actual news headlines for the title, theme, and/or first line of a poem
    below are some real headlines--use one of these or find your own
Fish Have Feelings, Too
Space Pioneer Ready to Fly
His Weapon Sucks
Hospital’s Mystery Piano Man
Pistons Pound Pacers
Do Lobsters Feel Pain?
Out of Sight: Missing Kids
Grenade Was a Threat to Bush
Life Without Raymond
Robber Makes Himself at Home
Arcadia Cancelled
Everybody Has a Story
Base Closings Maps
Why Some Homes Don’t Sell
High Price of Death
The U.S. Dollar Is Falling
Why Women Love Nascar
Seal to get Hitched
Sweet Lou Is Mighty Sour
Buddy Vest Case
Swooping Birds Attack Houston Residents

Have fun with this prompt! I am anxious to see what you come up with!


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