COMMUNITY COLLECTIONS: POETRY PROMPTS
Remember: The Community Collections are open permanently, so you can visit each post at your leisure to add your poem!
The AGE GROUP symbol (PB, MG, YA) appears on the bottom right of each prompt graphic and refers to the featured poem in each post. Prompts may be adapted to any age group, however.
WANT TO ADD YOUR POEM TO A COMMUNITY COLLECTION?
Click on the graphic of the prompt you’d like to respond to. This will take you to the original post.
Read the model poem and the writing prompt.
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Thank you for adding your voice!
CHOICES with MARGARITA ENGLE
Write a poem about making a choice. It can be a simple decision, or a difficult one.
Li Cheng, a character from Between the Lines, feels somewhat disconnected from her Chinese roots. Yet, in her home, there are cultural reminders, both big and small, of her Chinese ancestry. One mentioned here is the playing of mah-jongg tiles.
Except for Native Americans, everyone in the U.S.A. comes from somewhere else. Do you feel disconnected from your ancestral roots, or was there something from that culture—like a game or a recipe, for instance—that was handed down as a tradition in your home that kept you connected? Write a poem about it.
INSPIRATION with LITA JUDGE
I often feel like creating a character is like a beginning of a dialogue with a new friend or companion. Write a poem that describes a moment when you felt an inspiration come upon you. How did it feel? It can be joyful, exciting, sad … there are many emotions that come with ideas. What did it feel like to have this character or idea suddenly take up residency in your mind?
ODES with JANAY BROWN-WOOD
Is there a person or an animal you love? Or maybe an object that does not get the credit it deserves? Try writing an ode, a poem praising something like an animal, object, or person. OR, try writing a poem in a shape related to the subject of the poem. And here’s an even bigger challenge: can you write your ode in a shape poem?
SMALL COMFORTS with JANET WONG
My mother was a hairdresser. When I was a child, she owned three different beauty shops—one on 8th & Vermont in Los Angeles, another on 3rd & Alexandria, and one in San Rafael. When I was in high school, she no longer owned a shop but gave perms in our garage to Korean women from her church. Forty years ago, there weren’t very many Korean women in our town (Walnut, a suburb of Los Angeles that is now more than 50% Asian), but they all had the same short, curly hairstyle, courtesy of my mom.
WRITING PROMPT #1:
Alliteration puts some music into this poem. See how it might sound if you took some (or even all) of the alliterative words out—for instance, instead of “carefree curls,” you might say “happy curls.” Experiment! (Who knows? You might like your revised version better!)
WRITING PROMPT #2:
What makes you (or someone you know) feel happier when you are angry or frustrated? Is there something you can do—or someone you can count on—to help you “carry your load”?
FAMILIAR SONGS with LESLÉA NEWMAN
Pick a familiar song or poem and write an imitation of it, using the same form (number of lines, sentence structure, rhyme scheme if the poem has one, etc.). Take something old and familiar and make it your own.
MAKING POEMS with PAT MORA
How do you make a poem?
LIFE CYCLES with DAVID L. HARRISON
Seek to capture the life cycle of a small creature. Rhyme scheme is open but challenge yourself beyond abcb stanzas.
MAKING CONNECTIONS with CYNTHIA GRADY
Recall an encounter you have had with an animal—any animal except a pet or someone else’s pet that you know well. It could be a stray cat, like the one I encountered in the woods. It could be a fly buzzing along a windowsill. An animal at the zoo. Anything.
Next—think about a problem or change in your life that you don’t understand and are having trouble adjusting to. I chose to think about my mother before we moved her into a long-term care hospital. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a condition where people, mostly older people, have trouble with their memory, and they sometimes start doing strange things. My mother had been buying batteries.
Now – find a way to connect the two– your animal encounter to your problem.
BEING BILINGUAL with ALMA FLOR ADA
If you are bilingual, what are some of the things that knowing two languages allow you to do?
If you are not bilingual yet, why would you enjoy being able to speak two languages?
VISUAL POEMS with PADMA VENKATRAMAN
Think about something you enjoy doing, preferably an activity that involves movement, such as walking, cycling, dancing, or even playing an instrument (most instrumental music requires finger movement, and even if you sing, you are moving columns of air). Write a visual poem, paying attention to how the form of the words on the page reflects the activity you’re describing in the poem.
OBSERVATION with JEANNINE ATKINS
My poem “Circles” shows a silkworm weaving a cocoon, while Maria Merian watches and wonders what will happen next. Scientists, artists, and poets must look closely, but also imagine change. For your poem, watch an animal or plant (in life, memory, or on youtube). Describe what you see, hear, smell, or feel, then end your poem with a few lines about how that life may or did change. Does the beginning of your poem hint at the ending?
GOLDEN SHOVEL POEMS with NANCY BO FLOOD
Use my poem selection (or any poem of your choice) as the impetus to write a “golden shovel poem,” as follows:
Choose a poem.
Select a single line that speaks to you.
Write the individual words along the right side of the page, vertically.
Create your own new poem in which each line ENDS with the word on the right side.
OUR YOUNGER SELVES with ELIZABETH ACEVEDO
Write a poem from the point of view of your older self thinking of who you are now. What advice would they give? What observations would they make?
MEMORIES with DEBORAH UNDERWOOD
Write a poem about a physical object that evokes a memory or feeling.
FOUND POEMS with GEORGIA HEARD
Find a Found Poem
Pick up a scrap of paper off the floor or read a sign at a gas station or look at graffiti on the subway and find poetry in these words. Found poems are like a word collage where you take existing text, reorder and refashion it, and present it as a poem.
Scan the world and find poems hiding in a variety of sources: newspaper and magazine articles; the back of a cereal box; signs on a classroom or school wall; a dictionary; among many other places.
Read more found poems for inspiration in The Arrow Finds Its Mark: A Book of Found Poems by Georgia Heard (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan).
THE MOON with J. PATRICK LEWIS
What else? Write a poem inspired by the moon!
SPECIAL TEACHERS with KRISTINE O’CONNELL GEORGE
“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you…” –Dan Rather
Write a poem about a special teacher (or coach) who helped you and made a difference in your life. If you share your poem with your teacher, let us know what happened!
STRONG WOMEN with SUPRIYA KELKAR
Choose a strong woman from history and write a poem about her life or the event she is most known for.
CONCRETE POEMS with SUSAN HOOD
Choose any topic you want to write about and then write a concrete poem in the shape of your subject, or in a shape that recalls an image in your poem.
EARTH SPEAKS TO ITS PEOPLE with CAROLE BOSTON WEATHERFORD
Write a poem in which the narrator is a geographic location speaking to current or past inhabitants.
WHAT WE WEAR with LAURA SHOVAN
“You Are What You Wear”
Write about your favorite piece of clothing— a lucky shirt, a pair of jeans you’ve graffitied with colored pens, or your favorite fuzzy socks. What makes that thing special to you?
CHALLENGE: Try a concrete poem. Shape your poem so it looks like the piece of clothing you’re writing about.
THE LIBRARY with LEE BENNETT HOPKINS
Think about what the library meant to you as a child. What are your thoughts, feelings about that very special place?
DREAMS OF THE FUTURE with ALICE FAYE DUNCAN
When you think about the future and dreams that you want to achieve, what three actions can you take right now to make those dreams come true?
PERFORMANCE POEMS with JANE YOLEN
The four subjects poets love to write about most are love, death, nature, and writing a poem. But we disguise it as something else. In my poem “Performance” I use a play in three acts as a way to explain how nature affects me.
Your challenge is to write a performance poem in three acts about something that is your favorite subject.
BEING MISUNDERSTOOD with GUADALUPE GARCIA McCALL
Write about a time when you felt misunderstood.
ESCAPE with RENÉE M. LATULIPPE
Write about one of these things …
a time when you wanted to escape a situation
what your ideal escape looks like
what escape or freedom means for you
an adventure as means of escape/freedom
MASK POEMS with JULEAH DEL ROSARIO
I have a red teakettle that has sat on the back burner in every apartment that I’ve lived in. It is a constant in my adult life that has been, at times, unstable. I think we often have objects in our life that we project emotions onto, out of a need to feel, perhaps, a little less alone, a little more human when surrounded by stuff.
For this exercise, think about one or two objects in your everyday life, and write a poem about the emotional state these objects. What do they feel? What emotions to they project and convey? How do you react to their emotional state?
MAKING THINGS with AMY LUDWIG VANDERWATER
In second grade, as a little girl in upstate New York, I carved a soap whale (Ivory soap) for a school project. Forty years later, I cannot tell you whether I washed with that whale or threw it away, whether I gave it as a gift or lost it. However, I know for sure that my soap whale lives on inside my body and inside my heart. I was so proud of it! I still am. Such handmade things live forever.
Remember something you made with your own hands. What was the object? What did it feel like to make it? Where is this object now?
Remember an object that someone made for you with his or her own hands. How did it feel to receive this object? What lives on?
Allow yourself to travel back in time. Feel your own hands making or receiving.
What do you see? Who are you in this moment? How is it to be a maker? How is it to receive the gift of a maker?
These thoughts and rememberings will lead you to your poem.
RAISING YOUR VOICE with F. ISABEL CAMPOY
A pen is a powerful instrument for your voice. What would you use it for?
WINGS with IBTISAM BARAKAT
My wings are made of words and poems.
What are your wings made of? In other words, what helps you to fly above adversity and gives you perspective?