• Carrie Etter

NaPoWriMo Prompts for 2019

The last couple years I've been running a closed group on Facebook for NaPoWriMo. I provided prompts for the month for anyone who wanted them, and we'd post about our progress (without clogging the feed with our actual poems). Last year's group had 179 members, the year before 139. When I learned my teaching load for the upcoming academic year and reckoned my other commitments, I told the group I couldn't do it a third time in 2019--but then started a file of prompts that I added now and again, so I might at least be able to offer those again as people found them so helpful. Today, returning from external examining a PhD viva at Lancaster University, I completed this year's round for anyone who'd like them. I'd be glad to know which ones prove especially fruitful, etc.

  1. Write an ode to one of the following: a favourite food; a favourite place in your hometown; or your favourite piece of furniture. Here’s Neruda’s ‘Ode to the Artichoke’ as an example:

  2. In ‘The Bees Have Been Cancelled,’ Maya Catherine Popa imagines a world without bees. Write your own poem imagining the world without a particular species.

  3. Write a haibun! Here is an introduction to the form by Aimee Nezhukumatathil ( ), and here are two short examples (,

  4. In couplets, write a poem about an object that belongs/belonged to a parent or grandparent.

  5. Write a prose poem consisting of two paragraphs: the first evokes the poem’s world before a significant event, the second after it.

  6. Write a poem using very short lines, maximum three words per line.

  7. Focusing on a specific moment in time or a single event, write a poem from a community’s point of view in first person plural (“we”).

  8. Write a poem using five of the following words: sniff, cringe, curl, shuffle, swing, limp.

  9. Presumably looking at images online, use a painting by Paula Rego or Mark Tansey as the basis for a new poem.

  10. Write a poem set in your favourite season without naming it.

  11. Write a poem based on something you overhear/have overheard a stranger say (a good excuse for browsing in shops or idling in a café).

  12. Write a dramatic monologue in which the speaker justifies having committed a crime.

  13. Write a poem in syllabics. You might decide the syllabic count beforehand (perhaps the same number of syllables per line or a stanza structure, e.g. a tercet with lines in 10, 8, and 6 syllables) or write the first line and use its syllabic count for the rest of the poem.

  14. Read Wallace Stevens’ “Anecdote of the Jar” (, and write your own short poem about either placing or finding an object in an unexpected place.

  15. Compose a short ballad (say, 3-5 stanzas). You can learn about the form and read examples here:

  16. Write a poem about something happening in the next room, that the speaker only knows about through what she hears.

  17. Write a poem in which the speaker is part of an audience—perhaps of a concert, a football match, or a children’s nativity play, etc.

  18. Write a poem set in a waiting room.

  19. Write a ghazal (pronounced “guzzle”). You can learn about the form and read examples here:

  20. Write a poem about a long journey.

  21. Write a poem that focuses on smell.

  22. Write a prose poem beginning “On the anniversary of.”

  23. Write a poem in tercets.

  24. Write a poem employing very short lines.

  25. Write an angry poem, but rather than expressing the anger explicitly, show the action prompting the anger and how the speaker physically expresses the anger they feel in response.

  26. Write a poem about a historical event outside your lifetime, focusing on a single character’s perspective or experience.

  27. Write a poem about a moment/event in a film that lingers with you or moved you. One important decision will be whether the poet as speaker appears in the poem.

  28. Write a poem about an encounter with an animal.

  29. Write a contemporary sonnet, forgoing meter and rhyme while still employing fourteen lines and a volta.

  30. Looking over the poems you’ve written this month, make a list of eight words that appear in any of the poems, and use five to compose your final poem.

#NaPoWriMo #prompts

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