Prompts and Processes
Forms and Structures
Whether you’re using a regular rhyme pattern or open form free verse, knowing the overall shape of your poem will help you get started. Some poets find the discipline of metrical verse a creative stimulus.
Some Traditional Structures
The Sonnet -
Take this long-established form and re-invent it for yourself. The basic structure is:
In the Petrarchan sonnet, the sections are broken up into an octave (first eight lines) and a sestet (final six lines). In the Shakespearean sonnet, there are three quatrains (four-line stanzas or sections) and then a couplet. In both types, there’s a resolution of the theme in the transition to the final section .
Write a haiku (5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second line, 5 syllables in the last line). The traditional Japanese haiku focuses on a single perception, often of the natural world.
The sestina is a verse form most commonly consisting of six stanzas of six lines each, followed by a three-line envoi. The words that end each line of the first stanza are used as line endings in each of the following stanzas, rotated in a set pattern.
Other Ways of Creating Structure
Write a poem where each line/sentence is about one day of last week/one month/ one year
Write a poem for more than one voice - a dialogue, a debate, an argument.
Write with a friend! Agree on an approximate poem length (for instance, 16 lines). Choose someone to start by sending the first line to the other person. They then send the second line back in response. Continue until your poem is complete.
Write a poem without using the letter e.
Free Verse, Open Form and Prose Poems
Free verse or open form composition has been developing since the beginnings of modernism in the C20, notably in various European movements - Imagism, Surrealism, Expressionism, Constructivism it has also evolved via the American Beat poets and in the UK via the innovations of the 60s.
Free Association/Automatic Writing.(the classic Surrealist technique) . Give yourself an arbitrary time limit - and then just write . Keep writing and don’t stop. Don’t correct spelling, censor yourself or cross things out. Carry on writing! After your time is up, go back through and circle/highlight/underline words or phrases which you like. This is the raw material of your poem.
Rummaging in the Word Hoard! Take ten random words from the box and craft a poem around them.
Write a poem using repetition, a verbal riff (e.g Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’)
Nature, The Environment , Places and Maps
Take your poem for a walkabout, on a psycho-geographical tour, with attention to the sounds of a specific place, its images and icons, its odours and perfumes, its fragments of overheard conversations. You could also explore how your history and sense of identity are connected with the place.
It could be a real place, urban or pastoral. It could also be an imagined space, terra incognita, an exploration onto zones unknown.
What does home mean to you? Write a poem exploring it as a concept and a physical space.
Write about water. The ocean, drinking a glass of water, washing yourself or the dishes, the rain.
Write a poem about a coincidence that you experienced
Write about the body.
Write a poem about a theme or topic which is important to you (animal rights, mental health, education) without explicitly naming i