This is something I haven't done in such a long time - but friends and (former) students have asked me if I would, again—because they still remember the month of prompts I posted two, three years ago. So here is a list of (what will be) 30 prompts that I hope will be fun and productive. Come back to this post throughout April as I add to it.
Happy National Poetry Month, and happy writing !
1 Think of something you'd like to give to someone but can't, for whatever reason —distance, pandemic, separation, estrangement, falling out? or maybe just the ordinary silence of not having been in touch for a while. Write a poem about that.
2 I'm fascinated by words which look so much alike, but are separated in meaning by just one letter. For instance, world and word; laughter and slaughter; swarm and warm. Think of a pair and find a way to use it in a poem.,
3 There's so much in the news of late about racially motivated hatred and violence directed toward bodies perceived as "other" (black bodies, AAPI bodies). Write a poem of salve and healing for them; write a poem of shelter and care.
4 Write a letter-poem to a part of your body that you may have neglected for some time.
5 If a poem were a plant or animal that could regenerate itself, what would it be? If it doesn't exist in the world, can you imagine one and show readers what it's like?
6 In her book The Hour of the Furnaces, poet Renny Golden echoes the words of Cuban writer José Martí ("Now is the hour of the furnaces/ only light should be seen"), and uses the word acompañamiento to describe a solidarity based on the idea of "walking with" or "being with." Write a poem of solidarity without acrtually using the word solidarity; instead, find (or make up) a word or concept, image or description, that is more organic/indigenous to and respectful of what you describe in your poem.
7 I love the magic that metaphor makes happen. In part, this sense of magic is produced through a method I call surreal juxtaposition, when two or more unlike elements are brought into sharp and immediate overlay. I also see this used in surrealist art (like that by, say, Odilon Redon, Remedios Varo or Leonora Carrington). Clouds begin to float out of a wardrobe in "Mimetismo;" "The Eye, Like a A Strange Balloon, Moves Toward Infinity." Write a poem using surreal juxtaposition as a way of thinking about or showing its subject.
8 When my family and I visit Chicago (as we did two summers ago), we usually visit either the Art Institute or the Museum of Contemporary Art, or both. One work that struck me consisted simply of the phrase "time isn't real" painted across the canvas. Write a poem in which you play with time: indefinitely suspend it, advance it, slow it down, stop it, disguise it, randomize it... Open a poetry book to any page; incorporate in your own poem the line that you land on there.
9 Write a poem in which every line (or every other line) is a made-up title in an invented playlist. In the title of this poem, include what you've made such a playlist for.
10 Imagine that any one of the words we use today disappears from usage. As its curator or archivist, write a poem about some of the histories of this word.
11 Write a self-portrait poem, with some form of rescue in it.
12 Eggs are easy, a writer once told me (referring to her go-to for whipping up a fast meal out of practically nothing). What about a difficult (or complex) food? What would that be for you? Write about it.
13 Lucky, unlucky... Or just a baker's dozen? In grade school history classes, we learned about "Trece Martires" (13 Martyrs) - 13 Filipino patriots executed by the Spanish colonial government in 1896. In some countries, an end of year bonus given to government employees is sometimes called "13th month pay." Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13; and Paraskevidekatriaphobia is the fear of Friday the 13th. Write a poem on the number 13, incorporating a formal element that you might also build on the idea of 13.
14 Vintage postcards, old photographs, sepia-tinted portraits have an unmistakeable aura of "pastness" about them. Look for one such image (whether from family photo albums, or more randomly sourced). Write a poem in which you write yourself into the scene/write from inside of the image.
15. In "The Story of a Letter," Filipino writer Carlos Bulosan tells of a letter written by his brother Berto that took years to arrive at its intended recipient because the latter could not read English. The story of the letter's trajectory until its contents are finally decoded is a bittersweet reflection of the conditions faced by those who live in the diaspora. Write a letter-poem conveying some urgency you feel in the moment, even though you cannot be sure it will ever reach its destination.