Tag Archives: NaPo Prompts

NaPoWriMo 2018 Day 24



Happy final Tuesday in Na/GloPoWriMo, everyone.
Our featured participant today is kavyastream, where the overheard/regional language prompt for Day 23 gives us more Texas sayings than you can shake a stick at.

Today’s craft resource is a long-ish essay by Hyejung Kook regarding how poetry can be created from absence, or in the wake of loss, and how awareness of mortality drives a desire to produce art, people, poems.

And now for our prompt (optional, as always). Today, we’d like to challenge you to write an elegy – a poem typically written in honor or memory of someone dead. But we’d like to challenge you to write an elegy that has a hopefulness to it. Need inspiration? You might look at W.H. Auden’s elegy for Yeats, which ends on a note suggesting that the great poet’s work will live on, inspiring others in years to come. Or perhaps this elegy by Mary Jo Bang, where the sadness is shot through with a sense of forgiveness on both sides.

Happy (or at least, hopeful) writing!


I loved the whiffletree from the participant poem. The practise of poetry mentioned in the craft resource is exactly what NaPoWriMo does for all of us. Puts fingers on those keys.

5ab39dd423e2c-bpfull The Poetry School Day 24

Day 24: The Gift 

There are so many brilliant ‘gift’ poems that it’s hard to restrain myself to just a handful. Off the top of my head, there’s Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Valentine’, Michael Donaghy’s ‘The Present’, Billy Collins’ ‘The Lanyard’, Robert Frost’s ‘The Gift Outright’….

But today’s example poems are by poets a little less well-known in the UK, though hugely admired in the US. Firstly, I present you ‘The Gift’ by Li-Young Lee, an American poet, born in Indonesia (whose great-grandfather was the first Republican president of China).

My second gift is Rita Dove’s ‘For Sophie Who’ll Be in First Grade in the Year 2000’. Dove is a former US Poet Laureate and is editor of the Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry (2011). Some of her classics inspired poems would also have been useful for yesterday’s prompt.

One final thing: don’t forget you can write poems about receiving a gift as well as giving one.

I struggled with this one, my most famous poem is ‘Your Gift’ and I find it hard to even read the word gift without thinking of that poem.

However, I have written an Elegy and didn’t fancy that prompt and then after the day I have had, well I thought I needed to write about potential gifts that will help me, having gone back into a full time role (for the 1st time in 5 years) I think I may print it out and keep it in my cupboard!


A recipe book
for energy, late nights and
early lark mornings,


NaPoWriMo 2018 Day 23



One week to go!

Hello, everyone! It’s hard to believe, but there’s just one week left to go in this year’s Na/GloPoWriMo.

Our featured participant for the day is Eat All the Words, where the impossible prompt for Day Twenty-Two has been transformed into a study guide!

We have a new interview for you today, with Kate Greenstreet, whose fourth book of poetry, The End of Something, is just out from Ahsahta Press. You can read some of Greenstreet’s poetry here and here, and our interview with her here.

And now for today’s (optional) prompt! Kate Greenstreet’s poetry is spare, but gives a very palpable sense of being spoken aloud – it reads like spoken language sounds. In our interview with her, she underscores this, stating that “when you hear it, you write it down.” Today, we challenge you to honor this idea with a poem based in sound. The poem, for example, could incorporate overheard language. Perhaps it could incorporate a song lyric in some way, or language from something often heard spoken aloud (a prayer, a pledge, the Girl Scout motto). Or you could use a regional or local phrase from your hometown that you don’t hear elsewhere, e.g. “that boy won’t amount to a pinch.”

Happy writing!


I found a wonderful archive of language from the region I grew up in and plan to use this sometime in the future. For now I played with a prayer and wrote a very honest poem.

… be done blue line,
as it is in films.

5ab39dd423e2c-bpfull The Poetry School Day 23

Day 23: Classics 

Salve and Χαίρετε, poets. Today I’d like you to look to the myths of ancient Greece and Rome for inspiration. You may have to do some research to find a story that works for you. If possible, try to avoid a simple retelling of a well-known legend in its entirety; make it new by doing something different. One way to do this is to explore a small, perhaps overlooked moment, in a larger legend, as Michael Longley does in his poem ‘Laertes‘, which is about the return of Odysseus to his father Laertes. Another is to switch perspectives, as Carol Ann Duffy does in her poem ‘Mrs Midas‘. Yet another is use a snippet of myth as inspiration for a poem about modern life and death, as Jack Gilbert does in ‘Failing and Flying‘, and Danez Smith does in their poem ‘not an elegy for Mike Brown‘.

NaPoWriMo 2018 Day 20



Today is April 20th, and that means we are now two-thirds of the way through Na/GloPoWriMo, 2018. Time flies when you’re writing poems!

Today’s featured participant is Summer Blues, where the simple language of the poem written for Day 19’s structured erasure prompt eases you into a subtle but satisfying resolution.

Our craft resource for the day is Alice Notley’s essay, The Poetics of Disobedience. In it, Notley advocates for a poet to “maintain a state of disobedience against…everything.” By this she means remaining open to all forms, all subjects, and not becoming beholden to “usual” methods for writing. Whenever we are sure that there is one “right” way to write, or some specific set of topics that are the “right” ones to discuss, we should ask ourselves, what part of experience are we leaving out? And why?

Our prompt for the day (optional as always) takes its cue from Notley’s rebelliousness, and asks you to write a poem that involves rebellion in some way. The speaker or subject of the poem could defy a rule or stricture that’s been placed on them, or the poem could begin by obeying a rule and then proceed to break it (for example, a poem that starts out in iambic pentameter, and then breaks into sprawling, unmetered lines). Or if you tend to write funny poems, you could rebel against yourself, and write something serious (or vice versa). Whatever approach you take, your poem hopefully will open a path beyond the standard, hum-drum ruts that every poet sometimes falls into.


From the essay I grabbed ‘a state of disobedience’ and wrote from there. I often think that the Government advice which is anything from alcohol consumption/health to weaning babies is unnecessary and a bit ‘1984’ (Orwell), so I ran with the idea of a woman who was rebelling against every legislation.

The poem itself is nonsense really but it was fun to write.

She used the low risk drinking guidelines leaflet as a beer mat,

5ab39dd423e2c-bpfull The Poetry School Day 20

Day 20: Personism 

Today I’d like you to write a poem that speaks directly to another person. It should be written so that you “could use the telephone instead of writing the poem” — or so says Frank O’Hara in his manifesto, Personism.

But what is Personism? Back to Frank:

“Personism, a movement which I recently founded and which nobody knows about… was founded by me after lunch with LeRoi Jones on August 27, 1959, a day in which I was in love with someone (not Roi, by the way, a blond). I went back to work and wrote a poem for this person. While I was writing it I was realizing that if I wanted to I could use the telephone instead of writing the poem, and so Personism was born. It’s a very exciting movement which will undoubtedly have lots of adherents. It puts the poem squarely between the poet and the person, Lucky Pierre style, and the poem is correspondingly gratified. The poem is at last between two persons instead of two pages.”

We know because O’Hara dated his work, that the poem he references here, the one he wrote ‘for this person’, was ‘Personal Poem’, and that is today’s example poem.

Note how the poem speaks directly to the addressee (casually, as if on the phone) but doesn’t mention them or discuss their relationship with the speaker. It can be tempting with this prompt to write to someone about something important in your relationship with them – a declaration of love, a long-withheld confession, an apology – and this is a perfectly valid way to go about it, but is that really what you always talk about when you get them on the phone?

NaPoWriMo 2018 Day 19



I sat in my garden after work, enjoying the last of the sun and wrote my second NaPo poem by hand. I didn’t manage to get any desk time to upload the post though.

Our featured participant for the day is clay and branches, where the “work-your-way-up-from-the-bottom” poem for Day Eighteen is an unsettling, intensive narrative.

Today, we have a new interview for you, with the poet Dan Brady, whose first book of poems, Strange Children, is newly out from Publishing Genius. Brady is the poetry editor for Barrelhouse Magazine, and the author of the chapbooks Cabin Fever / Fossil Record (Flying Guillotine Press, 2014) and Leroy Sequences (Horse Less Press, 2014). You can read some of Brady’s poems here and check out our interview with him here.

Our (optional) prompt for the day takes it cue from Brady’s suggestion that erasure/word banks can allow for compelling repetitive effects. Today we challenge you to write a paragraph that briefly recounts a story, describes the scene outside your window, or even gives directions from your house to the grocery store. Now try erasing words from this paragraph to create a poem or, alternatively, use the words of your paragraph to build a new poem.


Much as I enjoy erasure poems, I found this prompt lacked the interest of a good paragraph to begin with. I would like to use the idea in the future when the subject of the initial paragraph results in something more than a view from the window. I wrote a paragraph detailing the things I pass on my journey to work and reworked 2 erasure poems, one which only yielded one line of any worth and the 2nd poem that was just okay.

A little disappointing but some interesting phrases from the erasure side of the task.

where last summer, only a tumbledown graffitied barn stood.

5ab39dd423e2c-bpfull The Poetry School Day 19

Day 19: Coming of Age Poem 

Morning poets. Cast your minds back to that strange period at the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood. Perhaps this transition happened for you or your speaker in a single epiphanic moment or maybe it happened imperceptibly over time. This coming of age may be marked formally in a traditional or non-traditional ceremony, it might be private or public, it could be mortifying or liberating, or both, or neither, but it should ideally be formative.

Your example bildungsgedicht today are Kayo Chingonyi’s ‘Kumukanda’ and Dom Bury’s recent National Poetry Competition winner ‘The Opened Field’.



NaPoWriMo 2018 Day 18



Today’s featured participant is Oaks to Acorns, where the family anecdote poem for Day 17 powerfully evokes the sensation of a journey, and a homecoming.

Today we have a new craft resource for you, in the form of this collection of images of poets’ first drafts of their poems, complete with their crossings-out/notes. I find these particularly interesting in how they show a poet’s own evaluation of their initial thoughts – what works, what doesn’t work, what is too discursive, what is too confusing, and how certain lines/ideas can move from where they originally sat to new places to heighten the overall rhetorical effect of the poem.

Our prompt for the day (optional as always) isn’t exactly based in revision, but it’s not exactly not based in revision, either. It also sounds a bit more complicated than it is, so bear with me! First, find a poem in a book or magazine (ideally one you are not familiar with). Use a piece of paper to cover over everything but the last line. Now write a line of your own that completes the thought of that single line you can see, or otherwise responds to it. Now move your piece of paper up to uncover the second-to-last line of your source poem, and write the second line of your new poem to complete/respond to this second-to-last line. Keep going, uncovering and writing, until you get to the first line of your source poem, which you will complete/respond to as the last line of your new poem. It might not be a finished draft, but hopefully it at least contains the seeds of one.

Happy writing!

I was really excited by this prompt and couldn’t wait to try it, an original idea that I haven’t come across before.
I went digital, as printing at this time of night will make too much noise. Once I found my poem (Poetry Foundation) I copied it into a word doc and created white text revealing a line at a time. I tried to scan read to make my initial choices as I felt it was important not to know this poem before writing the reversal.
It was a brilliant exercise – I chose rather a long poem, so I am only part way through but love the idea the original is about fish and my poem is about beauty and ageing!

we all presumed we would make adulthood,

5ab39dd423e2c-bpfull The Poetry School Day 18

Day 18: Questions 

“Why does the hat of night / fly so full of holes?”

Often, the best poems don’t come from a place of certainty, but uncertainty — uncertainty is what allows exploration, surprise and novelty. One poet who resisted the urge to reach his dotage and set up a wisdom shop was Pablo Neruda, who continued to ask questions right up to his death. The Book of Questions, completed only a few months before he died, is a collection of brief poems composed entirely of questions. You can read it in its entirety here, in  the original and in English translation by William O’Davy, but I’d like you to focus on the first four as your example poems. Your poems should be made up either entirely or mostly of a question or questions. Are you ready?


Pablo Neruda is one of my favourite poets! I would like to try this prompt as I generally dislike ? in poetry and try my best to avoid any lines that include questions. I will bank it for when I have more writing time.

NaPoWriMo 2018 Day 17



NaPoWriMo 2018 Day 16



We’re now officially in the second half of Na/GloPoWriMo. Hopefully you’ve found your versical rhythm, so to speak, and you’ll find that writing poems the remainder of the month will be a snap.

Today’s featured participant is Katie Staten, whose response to the villainous prompt for Day Fifteen imagines a day in the life of Ursula the Sea Witch.

We have a new craft resource for you today, or maybe an anti-craft resource, in the form of this essay by Michael Bazzett warning against the fetishization of craft. Thinking hard thoughts about word choice, line breaks, sound, and structure can help to make a poem better, but too much emphasis on perfection can breed stale, airless verse. There always has to be room for play, and not just work, in our poems.

In this vein, our (optional, as always) prompt for the day asks you to write a poem that prominently features the idea of play. It could be a poem about a sport or game, a poem about people who play (or are playing a game), or even a poem in the form of the rules for a sport or game that you’ve just made up (sort of like Calvinball).

Happy writing!




5ab39dd423e2c-bpfullThe Poetry School Day 16

Day 16: Voice

Today I’d like you to write a poem based on voices, ideally a dialogue. This can be a formal dialogue for two voices, like John Fuller’s ‘A Dialogue between Caliban and Ariel’, or you can present just half of the dialogue and leave the other half to the reader’s imagination, as in Kathryn Maris’s ‘Darling, Would You Please Pick Up Those Books?’, or you might like to present an overheard third-person dialogue as Sharon Olds’ does in her poem, ‘Voices’.

Whatever you choose to do, the key points are that you must include speech, and two or more people’s voices (even if one is just implied).

Having already completed a two voices poem this month I decided on using the Naponet prompt on using rules of a game. I chose badminton, a game I have never played.

I started with the rules and took it from there. I wrote about playing indoors as a child (usually reading), compared to my active, sporty brothers. It became a prose poem. I am not entirely satisfied, but it is late and I have been at work all day. So I am willing to leave it. I have followed the rules of the game and as far as the prompt goes, succeeded.

She served her pages diagonally, swiped the next one open with the edge of an index finger,



NaPoWriMo 2018 Day 15



Today marks the halfway point of this year’s NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo!

Our featured participant today is ivoryfishbone, where the dream poem for Day Fourteen takes a fantastic, yet sinister turn.

We have a new interview for you today, this time with Sarah Blake, whose second full-length book of poetry, Let’s Not Live on Earth, is newly out from Wesleyan University Press. Blake’s first book of poetry, Mr. West, was also published by Wesleyan, and her debut novel, Naamah, is forthcoming from Riverhead Books. You can read several of Blake’s poems here, and our interview with her here.

And now for our prompt (optional, as always). In her interview, Blake suggests writing a poem in which a villain faces an unfortunate situation, and is revealed to be human (but still evil). Perhaps this could mean the witch from Hansel & Gretel has lost her beloved cat, and is going about the neighborhood sticking up heart-wrenching “Lost Cat” signs, but still finds human children delicious. Maybe Blackbeard the Pirate is lost at sea in an open boat, remembering how much he loved his grandmother (although he will still kill the first person dumb enough to scoop him from the waves).

Happy writing!


Going to have some fun researching villains!

I started here with Stylist Magazine. I stopped on the 4th Villain, the White Witch, Jadis from the Chronicles of Narnia (which were books I loved reading as a child).

After some character research I started by pulling out a few sentences of interest, all the while trying to imagine her ‘unfortunate situation’.

I started writing in Haiku form and then elongated the lines. My final poem ‘Not of Eve’ reads well and is just 2 stanzas long.

I feel the crackle of shame ricochet through me.

5ab39dd423e2c-bpfullThe Poetry School Day 15

Day 15: Reflections 

Today I’d like you to write a poem that features mirrors or reflections in some way. One option is a self-portrait — after Ashbery (and Parmigianino), tradition dictates these poems are called ‘Self-Portrait in an xMirror’, just like our first example poem today: ‘Self-portrait in front of a small mirror’ by Will Harris.

But you can also include mirrors (or other reflective surfaces) in plenty of other interesting ways, either overtly or subtly. Have a look at Matthew Sweeney’s prose-poem ‘Huge Mirrors’, which centres the mirror itself rather than the reflection, and Thylias Moss’s ‘Lessons from a Mirror’, which uses the mirror as a jumping off point for a dissection of a fairy tale.


NaPoWriMo 2018 Day 14



We are two weeks in! Almost at the halfway mark. Unfortunately have not had time to put pen to paper today as I have spent hours working.

I start Week 3 a little behind, but I will catch up. I particularly like today’s prompt and I am sure a little poem will come.


Today, we are two weeks into Na/GloPoWriMo. I hope you feel that your writing is humming along. And if you’ve gotten behind, don’t worry – there’s plenty of time to catch up!

Today’s featured participant is erbiage, for whom the invert-a-familiar-phrase prompt for Day 13 produced very punny results!

Our craft resource for the day is a short piece by Robert Frost, called The Figure a Poem Makes. In it, Frost argues – albeit in somewhat lyrical language (poets don’t always make the clearest prose writers!) – for wildness in poetry – language and meanings that surprise not just the reader, but the writer.

And now for our prompt (optional, as always). Dream dictionaries have been around as long as people have had dreams. Interestingly, if you consult a few of them, they nearly always tend to have totally different things to say about specific objects or symbols. Dreams, unlike words themselves, don’t seem to be nicely definable! At any rate, today’s prompt is to write entries for an imaginary dream dictionary. Pick one (or more) of the following words, and write about what it means to dream of these things:




Ballet slipper


Wobbly table



Happy writing!

5ab39dd423e2c-bpfullThe Poetry School Day 14

Day 14: The Chain (Redux)

Today’s task is a slight variation on my favourite prompt from last year: The Chain.

First, pick up a book – poetry or prose, it doesn’t matter – open it at random and pick a sentence you like the look of, then choose a word from that sentence. Your first line must include that word somewhere in it.

For your second line, you can write anything, but it must include one word from your first line (the one you’ve just written, not the one in the book). Your third line should include one word from your second line, your fourth line should include one word from your third line, and so on. In every line, you should pluck one word from the line above until your poem reaches its end. NB: the word can go anywhere in the line.

I would like to come back to the Naponet dream prompt, back in my teens I wrote a sequence of poetry based on a dream journal I kept and definitions I found in a dream dictionary. I like the idea of making one up.

I opted for The Poetry School Chain prompt today, at first I wasn’t convinced – being of the school of thought that repetition slips in and often gets edited out but… depending on the word choices you make the frame becomes less obvious. I wrote a poem called Remover.

Obstacles found a special place in his life,

NaPoWriMo 2018 Day 13



This morning NaPo has alerted me to the fact that it is Friday 13th, now I am not one for superstition but the internet connection was down this morning, it has taken at least half an hour to sort!

What I love about NaPoWriMo is the various poems you get to read. I enjoyed reading the suggested material this morning (on my Kindle whilst the laptop refused to believe in the possibility of the internet)!


Hello, all. Today is the thirteenth day of Na/GloPoWriMo, and it’s just as lucky as every day in which poetry gets written!

Our featured participant today is lady in the pines, where the haibun for Day Twelve gives this daughter of Minnesotans a taste of nostalgia!

Today, we bring you an interview with Brendan Lorber, whose first full-length book of poetry, If this is paradise why are we still driving?, will be published this spring by Subpress. Lorber’s poetry has appeared in journals including American Poetry ReviewFence, and McSweeney’s. He is the editor and publisher of Lungfull! Magazine, an annual anthology of contemporary literature that publishes rough drafts alongside contributors’ final work. You can read two of Lorber’s recent poems here, and our interview with him here.

And now for our prompt (optional, as always!), drawn from a suggestion provided in Lorber’s interview. Today, we challenge you to write a poem in which the words or meaning of a familiar phrase get up-ended. For example, if you chose the phrase “A stitch in time saves nine,” you might reverse that into something like: “a broken thread; I’m late, so many lost.” Or “It’s raining cats and dogs” might prompt the phrase “Snakes and lizards evaporate into the sky.” Those are both rather haunting, strange images, and exploring them could provide you with an equally haunting, strange poem (or a funny one!)

5ab39dd423e2c-bpfullThe Poetry School Day 13

Moore Syllabics: Day 13 

Nobody likes syllabics — not in English anyway. The free verse lot think it’s just metre in disguise; the formalists think it’s cheating. (Claire Crowther wrote an excellent essay about the whole situation, which you can read here.) But I don’t think you should dismiss it until you’ve had a go.

Syllabic master Marianne Moore’s signature technique was to write a first stanza, usually of irregular line lengths, and then use that stanza as a blueprint for subsequent stanzas. Let’s take a look at the first stanza of ‘Black Earth’: the first line is 4 syllables, the second is 6 (Moore gives ‘natural’ its full 3 syllables), the third is 13, and so is the last. The second stanza follows the same pattern, and so on until the end of the poem. This is what I want you to have a go at.

This prompt can either be used with an old stanza you’re stuck on, or you can write your first stanza especially for it. My only additional rule is that you’re not allowed to break words across lines (‘sub-/Merged’) as Moore does — there’s no challenge to syllabics if you do this.

A meaty challenge from Ali Lewis at The Poetry School today. One that needs some desk time, but is appealing as a new adventure.

I thoroughly enjoyed playing with syllabic form. It resulted in an interesting poem Keep the Light.

to stop it pestering me with its incantation.