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A Quick List For Poets

Today, I have the great honor of talking poetry and inspiration with high school students during JustWrite Ohio's regional competition at the University of Findlay.

There are so many resources out there; I know I'm missing gems with this list. But here's a quick taste of some key websites and a little inspiration:

Links to check out for events or connection:

Links for inspiration:

To send out submissions for publishing:

20 Creative Writing Prompts

1) Write about one or all of the four seasons. (Some ideas for brainstorming: What does the season look, feel, smell like? What memories do you associate with that season?). If the seasons were personified, who would they be? How would they look, act, talk?

2) Write a poem based on an article you read in the newspaper.

3) Write about something that happened to someone you know. Write about it as if it had happened to you.

4) Write a poem about your shadow.

5) Write a poem using words from a random book... first word on page 5, last word on page 38, the longest word on the final page. Cut out words you like from magazines and keep them in a box or envelope. Pull a few out at random and write using those words.

6) Write a poem based on a dream you had. Try to reproduce the sensations of the dream.

7) Write a poem based on your belief about life after death... or about what you WISH you believed.

8) Write a limerick.

9) Write a poem from the perspective of a character in a fairy tale.

10) Write a sonnet about your neighborhood.

11) Write a poem that tells the story of a specific love affair. Focus on settings... have the time or landscape play a big role in the story.

12) Write a message or letter to your future self.

13) Write a poem about a color. (How does the color make you feel? What things do you associate with that color?)

14) Write a poem about a place that frightens you or a place where you feel happy. Try to recreate the feeling of the place.

15) Write a poem using made-up words. Focus on sound and rhythm.

16) Write a poem about something or someone you lost.

17) Write a list poem.

19) Write a poem in the form of a lullaby.

20) Write a poem about yourself in which nothing is true.

Billy Collins’s 5 Tips for Finding Ideas for New Poems

(from Masterclass introduction)

Here are some poetry writing prompts and tips from legendary Poet Laureate Billy Collins to help you get started on your next poem or short story:

  1. Start with an object. A common creative writing prompt is choose an inanimate object close by—whether you’re in an office or a kitchen, a park or a library—and describe it. Billy has some particular advice for this exercise: “Some common object might reveal itself as a kind of symbolic or token object that reminds you of something,” he explains. Pay attention to when “the poem wants to leave the object and go beyond it into something greater.” Does the object evoke personal memories, remind you of a family member, have cultural implications, or elicit an emotion? Write a poem that starts with this object, then leads the reader into more personal memory.

  2. Use other poems as inspiration. Sometimes, the best inspiration you can find for your writing practice lies in someone else’s poetry. “Take a poem that you like—a short poem of someone else's—and just try to write an imitation of it,” Billy explains. You can use an array of techniques for your imitation, but write the poem in your own words. Transpose it into a different time or setting, use the first line and write a new poem, or rewrite the first line a few different ways and see which version leads to a new poem. Writing imitations of other poems helps you learn how other writers construct their own work.

  3. Enjoy the freedom. “There’s no chronology involved in poetry. You can go anywhere. You can be anywhere. You can fly,” Billy says. “You could go for a boat ride with Joan of Arc.”He recommends allowing yourself to harness your imagination and explore any whim you want in your poem—in other words, let your creative juices flow. Think about something you wish you could do in real life, and turn it into a poetry prompt.

  4. Open up new ground. “Many poets have moved into territories that were previously thought to be forbidden in poetry,” says Billy, “and they have opened up new ground.” Think about Walt Whitman: when his cultural context dictated that he should have been writing about nature, he wrote (in his poem “To a Locomotive in Winter”) about machinery for the first time. Thom Gunn wrote a poem about Elvis Presley when pop stars were not considered appropriate for poetry. Think of a subject that may seem outside of today’s literary decorum and write a poem about it. In choosing what to write about, nothing is too trivial to be a poem starter. Don’t censor yourself or feel that you have to be serious or even sincere. You can be playful, even sarcastic, in your poems.

  5. Combine the clear and the mysterious. “In most poems, there is a mixture of the clear and the mysterious,” Billy explains. “The poet knows when to be clear and when to be mysterious. In other words, what cards to turn over and what cards to leave face down.” Try out a writing exercise in which you make Billy’s hand-of-cards analogy concrete. Find 10 blank flashcards, think of a topic, then write a line about it on one side of each flashcard. Use a mixture of emotional detail, concrete detail, and images when writing these lines. Now, put all these cards face down in front of you and turn five of them over, face-up. What kind of poem is this? What questions remain? Experiment to find the best five cards to turn up to create a poem that is both mysterious and clear enough for the emotions to be anchored.

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