Suffering from writer's block this National Writing Day? Don't worry, here at the Poetry Book Society we've been working hard to compile a list of writing prompts to get you back in the flow of your poetry writing practice. Now is the perfect time to stretch those poetry muscles, in preparation for entering our Women's Poetry and Pamphlet competitions in collaboration with Mslexia. If you want even more tips on poetry writing, have a look at How to Be a Poet by Jo Bell. Read on if you want some exciting poetry prompts to inspire you!
To begin easing your writer's block, try something short and sweet like a Collum Lune (also known as an American Haiku). A variation of a lune, it is a tercet (three line poem) with three words in the first line, five in the second line, and three again in the third line.
A poem where the title is a song / Ekphrasis
For this prompt, choose a song name for the title of your poem. You can use your favourite song or one you've never heard before - whichever works best for you. Alternatively, write an Ekphrastic poem - a vivid description of a piece of art. A famous example is 'Ode on a Grecian Urn', but an Ekphrastic poem can be about any kind of art you like. If you're stuck for ideas of what piece of art to write on, try wandering around an art museum to find inspiration.
In defence of...
What unpopular opinion do you support? Pineapple on pizza? Crocs and socks? Think of something you want to defend today, and use that as your inspiration. It could be as broad as 'In defence of winter', or as specific as 'In defence of wearing socks and sandals to a high school reunion'. Have fun with this prompt, you can tailor it to suit your mood, from silly to serious.
A poem from your daily observations
Go about your normal day, but take note of your surroundings. Have you spotted someone interesting on your commute? Is there anything unusual happening? Write an observational poem. However, you don't have to have something extraordinary happen during your day to write about it, you could also try to write creatively about something 'mundane'. Often, once you start writing, you'll discover it wasn't as mundane as you initially thought.
A poem consisting of dialogue alone
Many prompts will encourage you to include some kind of dialogue in a poem as a challenge, but here at Poetry Book Society, we challenge you to take it further. Write a poem made of only dialogue. No description, no dialogue tags. Make it as realistic as possible, or completely nonsensical, but this poem will include speech and only speech!
From ex-partners to slow walkers, find someone who has wronged you and write a poem in the form of a hex or spell against them. A fantastic example is Dry Cake Wishes and Tap Water Dreams by Rachel Wiley. This is a great one to play about with perspective, it doesn't have to be you specifically doing the cursing. If you want to get existential, you can also broaden this out as a curse against a value (freedom/injustice), the entire world, or yourself.
A 'How To' poem
Write a poem in the form of an instruction manual, recipe, or any kind of directions. Whatever the format is, you must explain how to do something. An example is 'Instructions' by Neil Gaiman.
This can be either a poem made consisting only of questions, a poem which answers a question, a poem which asks questions throughout. A fantastic example of this is 'Questions' by Rachel Richardson:
An Ode to something unusual
Another prompt where you can take the ordinary and make it something extraordinary: an ode to the HB pencil, an ode to letters, an ode to the reusable coffee cup. This is also a great opportunity to write an ode for something which most people wouldn't appreciate, either because it is controversial, gross, unheard of, unpopular. Any reason why something would be unusual to write an Ode for makes it a perfect response to this prompt.
A poem using only two vowels
This is a prompt for everyone who has come so far through this post and hasn't seen anything new or interesting yet. Pick two vowels. These two vowels are now the only ones allowed in the words you use for your next poem. This prompt is definitely a challenge, but choosing only two vowels which can be used in a poem (or one, if you really want to make it difficult!) can take you outside of your usual vocabulary, making you find new words and phrases.
Use the villanelle form
This is a prompt for all you structure lovers, and anyone else obsessed with watching Killing Eve. A villanelle is a nineteen-line poem of five tercets (three-line stanza) followed by a quatrain four-line stanza). The structure alternates repetition of the first and third lines of the beginning tercet in the following stanzas, and in the final stanza, the refrain is the poem's final two lines. Written out with letters representing lines of the poem, the structure will be like this:
A1 b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 A2.
A1 here is the first line refrain, A2 is the third line refrain. An amazing example of a poem done fantastically using this structure is 'Do not go gentle into that good night' by Dylan Thomas.
Use a news headline for your title
If you don't want to write a poem about larger more serious international news events, try looking in your local paper for smaller news pieces with interesting titles. You could also try using an ad from the 'wanted' section as a title.
Erasure / Blackout poem
Take a piece of text (a newspaper article, book, magazine, etc.) and use the words to make your poetry. Cross through all the words you don't use. This prompt forces you to get creative with the limited words you have on a page - no writing in any extra words! A play on this prompt is to take a poem you like and erasing parts of it to make your own work in response.
This could be a response to something somebody said to you, a celebrity, a tweet, another poet, anything! This final prompt from us is very open, all you need to do is respond to something or someone of your choice. If that feels too broad for you, try using the form of a letter.
We hope you've enjoyed our prompt picks, and have found them helpful. Happy writing!