Writing poetry is no different for me than writing short stories. In fact, I often find it easier to write, as my brain works better in the short and abstract.
But I know that this is not the case for many writers. Poems can be complicated and hard to capture. As a result, I’ve complied a list of poetry prompts below. For children, I’ve made a secondary list below the main prompts, although both lists can be used by anyone!
General Poetry Prompts (from The Journal):
- Write an Anaphora poem. An Anaphora is “the repetition of a word or expression several times within a clause or within a paragraph”. In poetry the repetition of the phrase can be just at the beginning of each line, setting the tone as a meditation or a mantra, or it can be utilized more subtlety within the poem. The poem can be free verse or prose style.
- Write a free verse poem using “sparrows.”
- Write a poem that describes a walk through a house from the perspective of a child.
- Write three different impressions of “saturation” (ie: color, sound, aroma, urban-ness, etc.)
- Write a poem using the phrase “chain-link fence”
- Write a poem concerning the “absence” of something. Consider the absence as a positive, or a negative.
- Write a poem that starts with a one word title, two words in the first line, three in the next, and continues by adding one word per line. (Variation: use as a prose exercise.)
- Write a list of phrases such as “salt and pepper”, “cats and dogs”, “love and war.” Write a poem with the first stanza about the first word and the second stanza about the second word.
- As an exercise, write a solo “renga.” (Not to argue the authenticity of a renga being written by two poets – not one) A renga is a Japanese poetic form similar to haiku, but a series of stanzas linked by an idea. Please visit here and here for a full, non-confrontational definition of renga.
- Write a poem using the following start: “What good is a day…”
- Write a poem about the “ultimate” poem, or what a poem “should” do.
- Write a poem in the disguise of a postcard message. Continue by writing a reply postcard message.
- Create a poem using three trinkets. Such as, a shell, a silver charm, and a feather.
- On a slip of paper write a list of 15 “free association” words. Use the 15 words in a poem. Variation: Create and exchange a list with another person. Then use their list of words to write a poem.
- Write a poem using, “how to…”. For example, “how to write a poem”, “how to break my heart”,” how to distinguish a flower from a frog.”
- Write a poem with a seasonal theme.
- Write a poem about seasonings. For example, “Salt and Saffron.”
- Write a poem using the title, “Paradise of Strangers.”
- Make a list of your favorite lines from poetry. Use these lines in a collage or create a pocket journal that has one line per page. Memorize them. (And then, optionally, for you Mark Strand fans, eat them.)
- Write a culinary poem celebrating food.
- Write a poem that is representative of language/communication.
- Write a poem that starts at the end, moving backwards.
- Write a poem using the theme of, “x-ray”, or seeing through layers.
- Write a poem that focuses on sound.
- Write a poem in three parts about three different people and their interaction with an item that is the same. The object can be passed between them, or it can be the “same” possession and not the “actual” object the other people have.
- Write a poem that is based on a painting. (You can find many classic paintings here: http://www.wga.hu/index.html)
Poetry Prompts Specifically for Children:
- List ten items that you would buy at an auction, or tag sale. Write a poem including those items. You may chose to title your poem, “Things Found At An Auction.” Variation, have someone else create a list for you.
- Write a poem that is written in the style of magnetic poetry. For your word bank you can use one or two pages from a book, magazine or newspaper. You might want to make a photocopy of the pages and cut the words apart, or just transcribe them randomly to your word bank.
- Write a poem that begins with a description of an event, telling what appears to be happening. Then give a description of what is really occurring.
- Write a poem about a time you were really happy. What was going on, who was around, when did this happen, and so on?
- Make a list of items that around you and write a poem using this list.
- Pick an object, such as a lemon, and list all the words you can think to describe it, such as yellow, sour, fruit, and so on. Now write a poem about the object WITHOUT using any of those words.
- Write a poem about what it means to be a kid.
For more information about poetry for children and writing prompts, check out Scholastic’s great site here.