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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Write a poem that is a list of people, places, and/or things that you long for.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Select one of your poems that needs revision and transform it into a physical object, such as an imaginary map, a collage, a drawing, or a shadow box (for inspiration, check out Joseph Cornell’s shadow boxes).
Find a text that is completely unrelated to what you normally read—a how-to manual, a 1950s interior design book, an old encyclopedia, a white paper on social media— and use it as the source of an erasure poem. Read through several pages and underline words and phrases that appeal to you and that relate to each other. Using a marker or Wite-Out, begin to delete the words around those you underlined, leaving words and phrases that you might want to use. Keep deleting the extra language, working to construct poetic lines with the words you’ve chosen to keep.
Take one of your poems that you're not satisfied with and use scissors to cut it up into its lines. Rearrange the lines, omitting ones that no longer fit. With this fresh arrangement as a working draft, compose an entirely new poem.
Choose one of your poem in which you've used the first person. Rewrite it without using "I" at all. (If you don't have a poem to revise, try writing one without using the first person.)
Choose a poem that needs revising and transform it into a Shakespearean sonnet—a poem of fourteen lines, arranged in three quatrains (a rhyming stanza of four lines) and one couplet (two rhyming lines). The end of every other line in each quatrain should rhyme (or sound similar), and the end of each line in the final couplet should also rhyme (or sound similar). Visit the Academy of American Poets website and search "sonnet" for examples.
Revisit one of your poems that needs revising, especially in terms of its length. Rewrite it on a postcard, including only what is most important, using the limited space of the postcard as your guide. When you've finished, consider mailing it to someone!
Choose a poem—one of your favorites or one you select randomly—and closely analyze its structure. How many stanzas does it have? How many lines comprise each stanza? How many stressed syllables are in each line? Is there a pattern to the number of syllables per line? Once you've fully analyzed the structure, write a poem of your own using that structure.
Read up on a famous figure (living or dead) whose personality is completely different from your own. Write a poem from that person's perspective about an important event or series of events that shaped who he or she was.
Write a poem that incorporates the following words: transfer, single, impend, knot, rhapsody, revue, air lock.
Spend a day at a museum or reading an art book. Choose a piece of artwork that you enjoy or that you find thought-provoking. Rather than composing an ekphrasis that comments on the artwork itself, try your hand at writing a poem in the “mode” of the artwork. This may mean writing a poem in the poetic style that you think is reflected by the artwork, or it may mean trying to write in what you perceive to be the “tone” or "voice" of the artwork.
Write a poem that addresses a past or future version of yourself. Write in the second-person singular. Reassure a younger self, send warnings to a future self, or ask questions to which you don’t know the answers.
During the next week, take note of the various flora and fauna you encounter. Look through classification books or search online for the precise names for the animals, birds, and plants you’ve observed. Choose the most sonorous names and include two in your next poem.
In his poem “Refrigerator, 1957” (originally published in the New Yorker, July 28, 1997), Thomas Lux writes about a jar of “lit-from-within red” maraschino cherries that, as a boy, he never ate from. Write a poem about something that you longed for when you were younger, but was always off-limits.
Write a poem whose title is “Preface to________.” Fill in the blank. Is the poem a preface to a love note? A preface to a confession? Write the poem as if it were an introduction to another written work.