Writers are always looking for new ideas. Sometimes we look so far and wide for inspiration that we’re oblivious to what’s right in front of us.
They say, “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.” In life, we are presented with many choices, but family is not one of them. It’s pretty much luck of the draw.
That’s why family provides excellent inspiration for writing. Read more
Today’s writing exercise comes from my book, 101 Creative Writing Exercises, which takes writers on an exciting journey through different forms and genres while providing writing techniques, practical experience, and inspiration.
Each chapter focuses on a different form or writing concept: freewriting, journaling, memoirs, fiction, storytelling, form poetry, free verse, characters, dialogue, creativity, and article and blog writing are all covered.
Today, we’ll take a peek at “Chapter Seven: Form Poetry” with a poetry exercise simply called “Haiku.” Enjoy!
Although haiku appears to be one of the simplest poetry forms, it’s actually quite complex. To truly understand haiku, you need to know a little bit about the Japanese language, or more specifically, some key differences between Japanese and English. Also, traditional haiku adhere to a few pretty strict rules regarding form and content.
A haiku consists of seventeen moras or phonetic units. The word mora can loosely be translated as syllable.
A haiku is a seventeen-syllable verse. Traditionally, haiku were written on a single line, but modern haiku occupy three lines of 5-7-5 syllables.
Haiku also use a device called kireji (cutting word). This word breaks the haiku into two parts, which are distinctly different but inherently connected. The kireji is not a concept used in English, so poets writing haiku in English often use punctuation marks instead of kireji, usually a hyphen or ellipses.
The kireji provides structure to the verse and emphasizes imagery used on either side. It may not always be easy to identify the kireji in a haiku, but if you look for a word or punctuation mark that abruptly breaks the train of thought and severs the haiku into two parts, you’ve probably found it.
Another basic element of haiku is the kigo (season word). A true haiku is set in a particular season and is fundamentally concerned with nature. The kigo might be an obvious word like snow (indicating winter) or it could be vague as with a word like leaves (which can be present in any season).
There is much debate (and some controversy) over what technically qualifies as a haiku. Some poets merely adhere to the 5-7-5 syllabic and line structure and disregard the kireji and kigo elements. Purists insist that a poem is not haiku if it does not meet all of the traditional requirements.
Additionally, many modern poets do not write haiku that exclusively focus on nature. Contemporary haiku explore just about any subject imaginable.
Try your hand at writing a few haiku. For this exercise, focus on writing a poem that is seventeen syllables on three lines with the following meter: 5-7-5.
Tips: The most captivating haiku are quite lovely and use imagery that is almost tangible. Many haiku have an element of surprise or use turns of phrase that are clever, reminiscent of puns.
Variations: Write a few haiku that follow stricter, more traditional rules. These haiku are concerned with nature and include the kireji (cutting word) and kigo (season word).
Applications: Haiku remain popular and can be found in literary and poetry journals. They are also ideal for social media (especially Twitter) and are fun and quick to write. They promote clear, concise writing and can help you cultivate the art of using vivid imagery.
Give it a Try
Feel free to write a haiku and share it in the comments. Don’t forget to pick up a copy of 101 Creative Writing Exercises, available in paperback and ebook.
A poem can come out of nowhere and land on the page, fully formed, in just a few minutes. A poem can also be the result of hours (or weeks) of laboring over line breaks, word choices, images, and rhythm.
Poems are funny little things, appearing out of nowhere and disappearing for no apparent reason. Poets have to be diligent: be prepared when a poem arrives and if it doesn’t, go out and chase it down.
There are many ways to write a poem, and not all of them involve sitting at a desk staring at a glaring screen or curled up in a chair with a pen and notebook. Instead of waiting for poems to fall out of the sky, try some of these poetry writing ideas and activities, and go catch them!
Poetry Writing Ideas & Activities
Below are some poetry writing ideas mixed with activities to get poetry flowing.
- Take a poetry walk. Grab a recorder or a notebook and then set out on foot. You can use a timer and stop every five minutes to jot down a line, or take a break whenever you see something interesting or inspiring and note it. When you get home, work it all into a poem.
- Take a snapshot. Write a descriptive poem, choosing a simple subject or scene. The idea is to write a poem that feels like a picture.
- Cut and paste. Grab some old magazines, pamphlets, and junk mail and cut out the most interesting words and phrases, then tape or paste them together to make a poem.
- Get personal. Your deepest secrets, innermost desires, regrets, dreams, and fantasies are all excellent sources of inspiration.
- Write a response poem. Choose a poem that you admire or that confounds you — perhaps one that disturbs you or contains some element you disagree with. Then write a poem in response to it.
- State your positions. Write a political poem, a philosophical poem, or explore your ideals through image-rich language.
- Translate a poem into modern language. Many modern readers don’t care to read poetry that was written hundreds of years ago because the language has changed so much since then. So take one of those poems and update it into a more contemporary vernacular.
- Explore your beliefs. What do you value? Which morals do you hold dear? Share your beliefs and express your spirituality through a poem.
- Write to music. You can use a song with or without lyrics: give it words or give it new words!
- Pay tribute. Write an ode to someone you admire, respect, or love. For a more interesting twist and a challenge, write a tribute poem to someone you’re not that crazy about.
- Go big. Get large sheets of paper or use chalk on the driveway and draft a poem in huge, sweeping letters.
- Get in form. Many of today’s poets don’t experiment in form. Surprisingly, it tends to open rather than stifle creativity. It’s definitely worth a try.
- Make temporary art. Chalk and whiteboards are great for temporary poems. The idea is to create something, and then let it go. You can also write on paper and burn it, shred it, or black it out.
- Use doodles. Get a blank piece of paper and allow yourself to doodle on it as you write a poem. See if your doodles give your poem a new angle, either as part of the piece or by giving you interesting or fresh ideas.
- Get in shape. Choose a shape in silhouette form, and then fill the shape with words to build a poem into the shape: hearts, animals, people, and symbols (anything recognizable in outline form) work well.
What do you do when your poetry isn’t flowing? Do you have any poetry writing ideas or activities to share? If so, leave a comment, and keep on writing.
You know what’s great about writing prompts? On those days when you’re feeling uninspired but you want to write, they’re there for you. On days when you want to get your writing practice in but don’t particularly feel like writing, they’re there for you. Writing prompts give you a little push to kick-start a writing session, making it easier to face the ever-dreaded blank page.
I adore poetry. When I first started writing on my own, I wrote poems. The creative freedom and elusive nature of poetry captivated me, and as a music lover, I felt that writing poetry was similar to writing songs. Plus, poetry was a great way to capture and express my thoughts and feelings.
Over the years, I’ve learned that poetry is an excellent way to enrich one’s writing. Whether you’re a copywriter, storyteller, or blogger, the skills acquired through the study and practice of poetry writing will give your work flair and personality.
But where to start?
Poetry prompts are a great way to trigger creativity, and sometimes they inspire a truly wonderful piece of poetry.
Five Poetry Prompts
There are lots of different kinds of poetry prompts. Today’s prompts are word prompts.
I chose a few poems I’ve written over the years and selected five words from each poem. I thought it would be fun to take apart my art and then send pieces of it out like invitations or building blocks and see what other people would do with them.
It’s simple: you choose a list of words and then use all the words in that list to write a poem. Of course, one poem with all the words from all the lists would be fantastic! Any combination will do, really, so pluck the words from the lists below at will and use them in a poem.
|Poetry Prompts #1||Poetry Prompts #2||Poetry Prompts #3||Poetry Prompts #4||Poetry Prompts #5|
If you try these poetry prompts, feel free to post the poem you’ve written in the comments section. Have fun!
Do you have any poetry prompts you’d like to share? Post your prompts in the comments.
Today’s post features an exercise from my book, 101 Creative Writing Exercises, which is filled with exercises for various forms of writing, including fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. It will inspire you while imparting useful writing techniques that are fun and practical.
This exercise comes from “Chapter Eight: Free Verse.” The creative writing exercises in this chapter focus on free-form poetry writing.
I chose this exercise because it’s fun and inspiring. It asks you to use a song as a foundation for writing a poem. Many song lyrics are poems in their own right. This exercise focuses on rhyming, but it also shows you how to look at your writing’s musicality and encourages you to think about rhythm and meter in your work.
Give it a try, then come back and tell us what you learned. Feel free to share the poems or lyrics that you write from this exercise in the comments section.
Rock and Rhyme Poetry Writing Exercise
Rhyming poetry goes in and out of vogue all the time, except when it comes to children’s poetry, which is almost always packed with fun and clever rhymes.
Some poets take to rhyming rather easily, and sound-a-like words roll off their tongues like butter. Other poets struggle, dancing through the alphabet and flipping through rhyming dictionaries just to find a rhyme as simple as bat and cat.
Poems that rhyme may be a challenge for some, but they’re still fun to write and a blast to read (they are especially fun to read out loud). Rhyming is good practice for exploring musicality in language and experimenting with word play.
All you need is a song. A rhythmic and rhyme-y song without a lot of fancy runs. You’ll want a relatively simple tune. A short pop song will work well. Forget about classical music because most of it doesn’t have lyrics, and what we’re doing requires words. We’re writers, right?
Rewrite the lyrics but keep the rhythm and rhyme scheme intact. You don’t have to replace the rhyme ring and sing with a rhyme like thing and bling. But you do need to find another rhyming pair (like dance and pants). Your rhymes can be as strict or as loose as you want.
If you do just a few of these, rhyming will start to come more naturally to you, and your rhymes will flow with greater ease.
Try to rewrite the song on your own, but if you’re really struggling, hit up a rhyming dictionary or a thesaurus.
Tips: You might want to start with a short, three-chord pop song. Then, graduate yourself to longer and more complex tunes. If you know all the lyrics to your song, that will be immensely helpful. If not, do an online search to find the lyrics to the song you want to work with.
Variations: Here are a few variations that you can use for this exercise:
- Try it with nursery rhymes: Hey diddle diddle.
- Try it with a famous poem: Shakespeare anyone?
- Try it using a song without lyrics: You’re on your own!
Applications: Working with rhyme helps you think more carefully about word choice and points your focus to the sound and rhythm of a piece of writing. This is also an excellent exercise for anyone who has thought about writing song lyrics or children’s poems and stories.
I Rocked Some Poetry
Here’s my attempt with the first chorus from 80s one-hit wonder “99 Red Balloons” by Nena.
The Original Verse
You and I in a little toy shop
Buy a bag of balloons with the money we’ve got
Set them free at the break of dawn
Till one by one they were gone
Back at base, bugs in the software
Flash the message: something’s out there
Floating in the summer sky
Ninety-nine red balloons go by
My Attempt to Catch the Rhyme
Shoes untied at a little bus stop
Sigh and whistle a tune ’cause it’s all you’ve got
Set your feet on the tired green lawn
Tie your shoe, stretch and yawn
Five o’clock, the bus should be here
Time is precious, the deadline is near
Waiting till the bus comes by
Ninety-nine cents just for a ride
Are You Ready to Get Down?
Try it for yourself and post a verse or a chorus in the comments! If you’re looking for a song lyric resource, then check out 99 Red Balloons and 100 Other All-Time Great One-Hit Wonders, which is packed with awesome song lyrics that are ideal for this exercise.
Today’s poetry writing exercise is an excerpt from 101 Creative Writing Exercises.
The exercises in 101 Creative Writing Exercises encourage you to experiment with different forms and genres while providing inspiration for publishable projects and imparting useful writing techniques that make your writing more robust.
This poetry writing exercise is from “Chapter Eight: Free Verse.” It’s titled “Alliteration and Assonance.” This exercise covers two literary devices that make your writing more rhythmic and memorable. Enjoy!
Poetry Writing Exercise: Alliteration and Assonance
Developing a vocabulary of poetry terms and literary devices will help you better understand the writing techniques and tools that are at your disposal. It may not occur to you that you can build rhythm by repeating consonant sounds. When you know the meaning of alliteration, then this idea is more likely to influence your work.
Poetry terms, such as alliteration and assonance, show us how clever, creative word arrangements add musicality to any piece of writing, making it more compelling and memorable. These terms and the concepts they represent apply to all types of writing, not just poetry.
Alliteration is the repetition of the initial consonant sounds of words in close proximity to one another. Examples of alliteration include black and blue, we walk, and time after time.
In some cases, alliteration is used to refer to any repeated consonant sounds, even if they don’t occur at the beginning of words. An example of this would be “blue notebook,” where the b sound is repeated at the beginning of blue and in the middle of notebook.
Alliteration might also be used to describe the repetition of a consonant sound nestled in the middle or even at the end of words. Blueberry, for example, contains alliteration within a single word.
Assonance is similar to alliteration, except it deals exclusively with vowel sounds. Assonance occurs when accented vowel sounds are repeated in proximity:
Assonance allows literary writers to create fun phrases.
In the example phrase above, there are several runs of assonance. The opening a sounds in the words assonance and allows demonstrate one run of assonance. This run is marked with underlining. A second run is marked with bold lettering and occurs with the a sounds in create and phrases. Can you find a third run of assonance in the sentence?
Assonance often evokes a sense of rhyme without serving up a direct or technical rhyme. The phrase “fancy pants” is an example of this.
So, how are alliteration and assonance used for effect? Well, think about repetition in general. When you repeat something over and over, it becomes embedded in memory. Alliteration and assonance work the same way. If used correctly, these devices enhance the rhythm of a piece, making it more memorable.
Go through a piece of writing (your own or someone else’s) and look for instances of assonance and alliteration.
The material you work with can be poetry, fiction, a journal entry, or a blog post. Any form of writing will do.
Mark the runs of assonance and alliteration with bold, underlining, italics, or highlighting. When you’re done, read the piece aloud to get the full effect.
Tips: Double-check the runs you’ve identified for assonance to make sure they mark stressed (or accented) syllables. Watch out for sounds that are different but use the same letter (such as the a sounds in cat and cape).
Variations: As an alternative to identifying alliteration and assonance in a piece of writing, try writing a short piece with several runs in it. Or revise a page from an existing writing project to inject alliteration and assonance into it.
Applications: Musicality and repetition enrich any piece of writing. Too often, writers focus on content and not language. The study of poetry, poetry terms, and literary devices like alliteration and assonance reminds us to work on our language, word choice, and sentence structure.
Today’s poetry prompts come from my book, 1200 Creative Writing Prompts, which is jam-packed with ideas and inspiration for writers and includes prompts for fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction.
Some of the poetry prompts in the book ask you to use a list of specific words in a poem. Some give you a topic to write about. Some ask you to draw on your life experience. Some give you images to use as inspiration for a poem.
All of the prompts are designed to spark ideas and inspire you to write. And you don’t have to use the prompts to write poems. Use a prompt to write an essay or a blog post. If you get a prompt that contains a list of words but one of the words isn’t working in your poem, delete it from the list. If one of the images give you an idea for a story, write a story. Use the prompts in whatever way you see fit.
25 Poetry Prompts from 1200 Creative Writing Prompts
- Write a descriptive poem about a banana split: three scoops of ice cream with banana halves on either side and a big mound of whipped cream on top laced with chocolate sauce and sprinkled with chopped nuts—all topped off with a plump red cherry.
- Use all of the following words in a poem: tapestry, sings, eye, din, collide, slippery, fantasy, casting, chameleon, lives.
- Write a poem about somebody who betrayed you, or write a poem about betrayal.
- Write a poem using the following image: a smashed flower on the sidewalk.
- The hallmark of great poetry is imagery. A truly compelling poem paints a picture and invites the reader into a vivid scene. Choose an image or scene from one of your favorite poems and write a poem of your own based on that image.
- Use all of the following words in a poem: scythe, fresh, bloody, dainty, screaming, deadly, discovery, harrowing.
- Write a poem about one (or both) of your parents. It could be a tribute poem, but it doesn’t have to be.
- Write a poem using the following images: a “no smoking” sign and a pair of fishnet stockings.
- You’re feeling under the weather, so you put the teapot on. Soon it starts to scream. Write a poem about the sound of a whistling teapot.
- Use all of the following words in a poem: stem, canvas, grain, ground, leather, furrow.
- The beach, the mountains, the vast sea, and deep space are all great for tributary poems about places. Write about the city you love, the town you call home, or your favorite vacation destination.
- Write a poem using the following image: a pair of baby shoes.
- Some poems are more than just poems. They tell stories. Try writing a poem that is also a story, a play, or an essay.
- Use all of the following words in a poem: elegant, hips, fern, listless, twisting, bind, surprise.
- Write a poem about the first time you experienced something.
- Write a poem using the following image: a torn photograph.
- Although holidays have deeper meanings, we like to truss them up with a lot of decadence and nostalgia. All that food! All those presents! Oh, what fun it is…Write a poem about the holidays.
- Use all of the following words in a poem: burnt, spacious, metropolis, pacing, fiery, cannon.
- Write a poem about an inanimate object. You can write a silly poem about how much you admire your toaster or you can write a serious piece declaring the magnificence of a book.
- Write a poem using the following image: a small rowboat tied to a pier, bobbing in the water under darkening skies.
- Now that time has healed the wounds, write a poem to someone who broke your heart long ago.
- Use all of the following words in a poem: deadline, boom, children, shallow, dirt, creep, instigate.
- Write a poem about streets, highways, and bridges.
- Write a poem using the following images: a broken bottle and a guitar pick.
- Write a poem about the smell of cheesy, doughy, saucy, spicy pizza baking in the oven.
Did any of these poetry prompts inspire you to write? Which one stoked your creative flames? Did you write a poem, or were you inspired to write something else? Where do you get your best creative inspiration? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment, and keep writing!
Poetry is the most artistic form of writing. A poem can be concrete or abstract. It can be expressive or pensive. It can cover just about any subject imaginable.
But the truth is that despite what poetry can be, it is most often used as a form of emotional self-expression, especially by young and new poets. When we’re feeling sad, angry, or elated, it’s easy to sit down and mold our emotions into words. It’s cathartic.
Poets also tend toward writing about nature. Tributes, politics, religion, family, and romance are some of the most common topics that poets tackle.
Why not try something different?
Poetry Writing Exercises
Today’s poetry writing exercises encourage you to get out of your head and explore time and space. Try one or try them all. Engage your imagination, and have fun.
Poetry Writing Exercise: Out of Space
Think about the space where you exist: your room, your office, your home, neighborhood–the country in which you reside. Think about the planet you live on. Now go beyond the familiar. Write a poem set in a distant space. It could be a foreign land or a far-off planet. It could be an ode to interstellar travel or a poem about your favorite science fiction flick. The idea is to write a poem about a place you’ve never been to, a place that’s far away from your known reality.
Poetry Writing Exercise: Out of Time
Stepping out of time is, in some ways, easier than stepping out of a place. You’ve studied history in school, seen movies and books that were set in the past or in the future. Your parents and grandparents have probably told you plenty of stories about the “good old days.” Poems from the past are plentiful, but most of them were written in the past. And poems from the future are scarce. Write a poem set in the past, during a time you did not experience firsthand, or write a poem set in the future. Either way, let your imagination and knowledge about the past and present guide your thoughts.
The Time-Space Continuum
According to Wikipedia, the time-space continuum is “any mathematical model that combines space and time into a single interwoven continuum.” Are time and space separate or are they intertwined? Is it possible to move through time by traveling through space? Does time exist at all or is it just our way of understanding the way we exist and move through space? Write a poem about time and space, or write a poem about shifting through time and space.
Get More Poetry Writing Exercises
Did you enjoy today’s poetry writing exercises? I try to make my writing exercises fun and challenging. If you’d like to get more exercises like these, check out 101 Creative Writing Exercises, available at your favorite online bookstore.
Some academics argue that poetry is an intellectual pursuit, but that’s only partially true. Poetry is also artistic and emotional. Anyone can enjoy poetry, but studying it closely will help you better appreciate its nuances.
Learning various poetry writing techniques and literary devices (which are often taught in the context of poetry) can bring your writing to a more sophisticated level.
Whether you write fiction, memoirs, or blog posts, reading and writing poetry will equip you with language skills that make your writing stronger, more vivid, and more compelling.
The Practice of Poetry
The Practice of Poetry was required for a poetry class I took when I was at university. Although it was one of my college textbooks, I have always found it incredibly accessible for writers at any level of experience.
The Practice of Poetry is jam-packed with some of the best poetry writing exercises ever conceived. In fact, this book is a compilation of writing exercises that were contributed by many different writers, poets, and teachers. The subtitle is “Writing Exercises from Poets Who Teach,” and many of the contributors are published poets who are also instructors in the craft of poetry writing.
The book is well organized and carefully walks you through various approaches to poetry writing. It begins with a chapter titled “Ladders to the Dark,” which focuses on creativity and generating ideas. Next, it moves into more concrete concepts like imagery and metaphor, voice and subject, structure, and musicality. The book closes with the chapter “Major and Minor Surgery,” which examines revision and writer’s block.
I appreciate a well annotated book. The Practice of Poetry includes appendices that point to further reading and works referenced throughout the text. There is also a section that lists short bios of all of the contributors. Finally, there’s a detailed index for easy reference.
The book definitely fulfills its promise: lots of practice in writing poetry. It doesn’t teach much in terms of form, concept, and literary devices, and it only includes a handful of poems for study, but it does give you plenty of action in terms of writing.
Poetry Writing Resources
Many writers think poetry is too artistic or too convoluted. But poetry is magical and can be quite accessible. It will open your mind to new possibilities. All writers will benefit from a little poetry.
This book will stretch and flex your writing muscles and open many new doors that you never knew existed. If you want to write poetry but are at a loss for where to begin, this book will set you in motion.
“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt,
and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”
– Leonardo da Vinci
What is Art? What is Poetry?
For centuries, people have been asking the question what is art? Is art a question? An answer? An expression? A statement? Maybe it’s sheer entertainment.
It’s a question we all must answer for ourselves, especially artists and writers.
I believe the best art entertains while it provokes thought or emotion, but that’s just my personal opinion. You might seek art that makes you laugh or fills you with awe. Some prefer art that is masterfully crafted, regardless of the content or messages it communicates.
Poetry That is Felt
In the world of art, poetry is particularly tricky to define because it can be so many things. Consider Dr. Seuss’s frolicking stories written in meter versus the social-political poetry of Adrienne Rich or the tribute poetry of Robert Frost and you soon realize that poetry’s purpose is really the poet’s purpose.
When Leonardo da Vinci talks about a painting as a poem that is seen (as opposed to read), I think he’s making on observation about art, something similar to the idea that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” A single painting can express ideas and emotions that would take a thousand words or more to convey in poetry or prose.
But when he talks about poetry as a painting that is felt rather than seen, he digs into the heart of what poetry can be–text that moves people emotionally. I would expand on that to note that often poetry (and other art) provokes emotions that are difficult or even impossible to put into clear words. Sometimes you read a poem and it makes you feel or understand something, but you couldn’t possibly explain it in concrete terms, and if you could, it would take an essay–or even an entire book–to convey what the poem communicated in a few lines.
That’s the magic of art and poetry. Ultimately, it is a form of communication that is almost psychic in nature.
What does poetry mean to you? How do you define or identify art?