The Time Is Now

The Time Is Now offers a weekly writing prompt (we’ll post a poetry prompt on Tuesdays, a fiction prompt on Wednesdays, and a creative nonfiction prompt on Thursdays) to help you stay committed to your writing practice throughout the year. We also offer a selection of books on writing—both the newly published and the classics—that we recommend you check out for inspiration, plus advice and insight on the writing process from the authors profiled in Poets & Writers Magazine. And don’t miss Writers Recommend, which includes books, art, music, writing prompts, films—anything and everything—that has inspired other authors in their writing.

4.30.13

Choose a favorite or compelling line from another writer's poem, and write your own line with same number of stressed syllables and same vowel sounds. Use this line as the start of a new poem.

4.23.13

Write a Terza Rima, a poem of three-line stanzas in which the end-word of the second line in the first tercet establishes the rhyme for the first and third lines in the following tercet and so on. The poem can have as many stanzas as you’d like, and the rhyme scheme aba, bcb, cdc, ded, etc. continues through the final stanza.

4.16.13

Write a poem of fourteen lines. Instead of using the first person (I), use only the second person (you).

4.9.13

Choose a word or phrase you find yourself saying often (e.g. like, totally, hate, really, kind of) and write a poem using it as much as possible, turning it over and over, repositioning it, extending it, playing with its uses and the parts of speech into which it can be shaped.

4.2.13

Choose a poem—a classic work or something you've newly discovered—and memorize it. As you do so, note the rhythms, sounds, and structure that help you remember it. To test your memory, and in honor of National Poetry Month, consider reciting it to a friend in person, leaving a recording of it on a friend's voicemail, or sending an audio file of it to one or more friends via e-mail. 

3.26.13

Make a collage inspired by a working draft of one of your poems, using images from books, photographs, magazines, newspapers, and drawings. You may incorporate words as well. Let the transformation of your poem into another medium inform a revision of the poem on the page.

3.19.13

Collect phrases and words that you see throughout the day today. Arrange them on the page, using line breaks where they seem to naturally fall. Next, above the lines you’ve recorded, write words and phrases that are somehow related to those on the page, such as synomyms, antonyms, or words that sound or look similar. Rewrite what you’ve recorded replacing the new words with the old. Use this as the first draft of a poem and continue revising it into a finished draft.

3.12.13

Today there are fifteen lines of poetry that will present themselves to you in various ways. Some will be visual, some will be spoken. Look and listen carefully. Take the time to record them. Then refine them and use them to craft a poem. 

3.5.13

Write a poem in the form of a letter to an imaginary friend in which you ask them for help that begins, Dear Friend. Keeping the person or creature or entity you’re writing to in mind, include details and images that reveal your imaginary friend’s characteristics as you craft your entreaty.

2.25.13

As poet Ted Kooser writes in The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets (University of Nebraska Press, 2005), “When it comes to the form your poem takes, you can determine it as you write....As you work on your poem, try to see what shape the poetry wants to assume.” Following Kooser’s advice, write a draft of a poem and analyze its structure. How many lines does it have? How many stanzas? How many stressed syllables per line? Look for a dominant pattern in what you’ve written and revise the poem to fit that pattern consistently.

2.19.13

Choose two favorite lines from a working draft of a poem that needs revision. Write a villanelle, using those lines for the refrains. See the Academy of American Poets' website for more about the villanelle form, a poem of nineteen lines made up of five stanzas with three lines each. 

2.12.13

Send a line of poetry to a friend via text message or e-mail and ask her to compose a line in response. Collaborate on drafting a poem in this way, building it line by line until you both agree that it's reached its end. Using the final product as a draft, revise the poem and have your friend do the same. Compare your final drafts.

2.5.13

Using scissors, cut up one of your poems that needs revision into its lines or parts of lines. Rearrange these clippings in various combinations and create a new draft. Write a revision of your poem based on this new draft.  

1.29.13

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the death of American poet Robert Frost. To honor this day, read Frost's poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" on the Academy of American Poets' website. Analyze the poem's structure, and write a poem with the same rhyme scheme and number of lines.

1.22.13

Choose any word from the dictionary and read its definitions. Write a poem using only the language of these definitions. Try repeating them in different combinations and using line break to create unexpected phrases. Experiment with how far you can push the limits of the language you're working with. Use the word you've chosen as the title of the poem.

1.15.13

Look out your window or observe your surroundings and make a list of ten images. Choose the three that you find most compelling and freewrite about them, exploring any memories or associations they elicit. Put your freewriting exercise aside, and draft a poem that incorporates at least five of the images from your list. 

1.7.13

Think about something that you did or said to someone that you regret. Write a poem of apology, comprising five four-line stanzas, with the same number of stressed syllables in each line. Avoid sentimentality. Rely on images, rhythm, and structure to convey your regret.

1.1.13

Start the year off with one of Shakespeare’s favorite forms. Write a sonnet, a poem comprising fourteen lines that incorporates the following rhyme scheme: a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g. (For example, the words at the end of the first and third lines rhyme, etc.) Before you begin, flip through any book and select seven words at random. Use these words, or variations of them, in the poem.

12.25.12

Write a poem that is a list of people, places, and/or things that you long for. 

12.18.12

Today, write an elegy, a poem that is a lament for the dead. For more information about the poetic form, read the Academy of American Poets' description and examples of the elegy.

12.11.12

Make a list of ten words by flipping randomly through any book—a dictionary, a poetry collection, a novel, an encyclopedia–and choosing a word you see on the page. Incorporate these words into a poem made up of three stanzas composed of five lines each.

12.4.12

Make a list of the ten to twenty words you rely on most often, those that make up your personal lexicon. Write a poem that incorporates these words but use them differently than you normally would or transform the words by replacing them with related ones or with their opposites. When you've finished the poem, freewrite about why you use these words so frequently. What is it about their meaning, their rhythm, and their sound that appeals to you?

11.27.12

Take two lines you love from a poem that isn’t working. Write a new poem using one as the first line and the other as the last line. For an added perspective, try writing a second poem switching the two.

11.20.12

To mark the holiday this week, make a list of things you're grateful for. Beneath each item, free-associate a list of objects. Pick ten from your lists of objects and use them to write a poem.

11.13.12

On November 13, 1797, poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge took a walk together in The Quantock Hills in Somerset, England, and came up with the idea of writing what would become Coleridge's famous poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." In honor of this anniversary, find time for a thirty-minute walk today, ideally in a natural setting. Afterward, freewrite for ten minutes, then use those notes to compose a poem.  

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