Poetry Writing Prompts

Instructor: Nicky Davis
From Shakespeare to the Beat Generation, poetry is a diverse form of creative writing. Keep reading for prompts to spark your creativity and help you craft a unique new poem.

Poem Writing Prompts

Poems come in a variety of forms, from the sonnet to the haiku to the ode. No matter what type of poem you're interested in writing, the prompts below can help you find inspiration to get started.

Start Here

Choose one of the phrases below, and write a poem with that phrase as the first line. See if you can use the same first line to create multiple poems that handle entirely divergent themes.

  • Once upon a laundromat…
  • It wasn't until I saw…
  • There are seven ways to describe…

For You

Choose a person from the list below, and write a poem dedicated to them or about them or your relationship with them. You can also write the poem from the perspective of this other person.

  • Someone who you grew up with
  • Someone who inspires you
  • Someone who hurt you
  • Someone who taught you something

Response Poem

Choose another poem, a song, a novel or a piece of art. Write a poem in response to that work and how it resonates with you. Your poem can be written to the artist, musician or author who created the piece, or maybe to characters within the piece. Consider how the form and structure of your piece reflects on the form and structure of the piece to which you're responding.

Word Grab

Create a poem that includes at least four of the words from the following list. Try choosing words that don't seem to go together at first. If you want you can create your own unique word list by pulling random words from a dictionary, or a favorite novel.

  • Market
  • Hyacinth
  • Leech
  • Clog
  • Buffering
  • Vicious
  • Dynastic

End on This

Choose one of the phrases below, and craft a poem that ends with that phrase. Consider the variety of meanings the words in these phrases could have. Test your creativity writing two distinctly different poems with the same final phrase.

  • But of course it wouldn't be.
  • There are never enough of them.
  • The way we always were.

Poetry Writing Tips

The most common advice for becoming a better writer is to become a better reader. The more you read, the more familiar you'll become with different styles, literary devices and vocabulary. Check out these chapters on romantic poetry and modernist poetry for an introduction to important poems and poets from major eras in the genre. Below are some more helpful tips for writing poetry.

  • Steer clear of clichés: Clichés can be overused expressions, or just turns of phrase, from 'fire-engine red' to 'dirty as a pig'. When poets use clichés, readers may disengage.
  • You don't have to rhyme: Rhyming is a common misconception about poetry. All poems do not have to rhyme; in fact, rhyming should be used with discretion. Too much overt rhyme when it doesn't suit the content can distract from the poem's intention.
  • Remember the senses: When crafting images for your poem, think about the sensory experience for all five senses in the situation you're describing. Including these specific details will help keep your language unique.
  • Read aloud: When you're working on a poem, read it out loud to yourself to hear the rhythm and sound of the language. This will help you avoid redundancy in your word choice.

And if you're looking for more guidance with your writing, you can get help with grammar, literary terminology and devices, and more technical skills from the following resources.

  • The College Composition course offers lessons in grammar and usage, as well as tips on the craft of writing.
  • The Types of Poetry chapter teaches different poetic forms with examples and lessons explaining each type's structural elements.

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