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Poetry Prompts

  1. Look up fifty-five of your favorite poems and use the third letter of the fourth word in every second line to write a sestina about loss. Make sure that every line is in reverse alphabetical order.
  2. Use each of these words at least thrice in your poem: Agastopia. Impignorate. Jentacular. Niudiustertian. Tittynope. Winklepicker. Xertz.
  3. Go through your family photo albums and cut your face out of every single picture. Note: you will only have enough photos to do this if you are the eldest child. Burn your babyface. Your poem is your family photo album with your face cut out.
  4. Write a sonnet about whichever of your children you hate the most. You could also try an ode. Have fun with it!
  5. Light a cigarette and use the burning ember to write a poem in morse code on your baby blanket.
  6. Get blackout drunk, even if you’re supposedly sober, and call every single one of your exes. Record the calls so you don’t forget. Whatever you ramble to them is your blackout poem. Transcribe it in Sharpie. Be sure not to edit this one too much!
  7. Using zigzag scissors, cut up the original copy of your birth certificate and make a found poem.
  8. Write a poem celebrating blank space. Do not title it, do not write this page was intentionally left blank. Make sure there is no text, no drawing, no speck of dirt anywhere on the page. Listen to John Cage’s 4:44 for inspiration. Submit this one to the New Yorker, the Paris Review, and the Atlantic, respectively.
  9. Scrape a piece of roadkill off the highway. Prepare for incision. Remove its skin, its bones. Peel it as much as you can. Stuff it with loose leaf diary entries ripped from composition books from when you were in middle school. Throw in a report card that says you’re failing fourth period Algebra again. Sew it back up with dental floss. Toss it back onto the highway for someone to find. This is how to write a poem embodying an animal, and also how to be a good literary citizen and introduce poetry in unexpected places.
  10. Take out a scoop of your grey matter and throw it in a mason jar. This might sound easy, but it’s almost as difficult as finishing that novel, or telling your partner you’re leaving, or getting out of bed in the morning when you have a case of the mean reds! Fill every jar in the house with matter. Empty out the olives or walnuts or jam and replace it with pieces of your stupid, chewy little brain. Add some vinegar to preserve it well. When you are feeling uninspired, screw off a lid, reach in a fist, and fingerpaint with your grey matter until you see an image that looks almost real. Write a haiku with your best synapses.

We hope these got your juices flowing! We can pretty much guarantee you that if you follow these ten simple prompts, between zero and six people will read your work over the course of your life. More than average! If you’re up for a challenge, try composing a piece mixing a few of these prompts (or every prompt in one poem). We the Editors love to see our prompts in action! If none of these prompts inspire you, why don’t you turn things on their head and write a poem about poetry prompts? Meta! Make sure to tag us on social media. We are not a paying market, but remember that we nominate for Pushcart and Best of the Net. Happy Writing!

Pepper (she/her) is a writer and teacher who hails from Texas but now calls home the mountains of Vilcabamba, Ecuador. She is currently the Translation Editor at MAYDAY Magazine. Her most recent work appears or is forthcoming in Ample Remains, Across the Margin, Olney Magazine, and elsewhere. She has a hard time writing to prompts but she needs the structure. Pepper tweets when she feels like it @pepwriteswords.

Dirt by Jeremy Snyder

And as the rocks melt on this soup skin,   in this pot left on simmer for a few million years,   these memories push up through the soft spots.     And

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