Strategies for Writing 

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:

  • 14 lines
  • iambic pentameter
  • rhyme scheme:
    • Shakespearean: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG

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 .


The Haiku


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

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. 

  • Write a poem using commas as the only form of punctuation. 
  • Write a poem without any full stops. 
  • .Write a poem without any abstract nouns 
  • Pick a number between 5 and 100. Write a poem containing that exact number of words.


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’)

  •  Wrote a poem in prose where each sentence  is a new perception, like a camera panning across landscape or tracking a series of actions.
  • Open any book. Write a poem based on the first word which draws your attention.  
  •  Write a poem based on the first news article which comes up on your TV/phone/the internet. 

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. 


Miscellanous Prompts 


  • Pick a colour or scent. Use the senses to explore its associations . 
  • Use a myth or legend as starting point
  • Write from an animal’s perspective.
  • Write about a machine  whether it’s the Spinning Jenny or Chat GPT with its machine learning. Use metrics or open-forms, whatever works for you.
  • Write a poem which takes place in a time of transition. 
  • Write a poem about a secret. Or a mistake…
  • Write about silence.
  • Listen. What’s the most prominent sound you hear? Write about it.
  • Write about a piece of music.

    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

  • .  

Going Forward


  • If you keep a journal, write a poem based on one of your journal entries. Pick an older one (such as the entry you wrote exactly a year ago today) so that you’re a little distanced from what you were experiencing then. 
  • Keep a notebook by your bed. When you wake up in the morning write down everything you can remember about your dreams. Then write a poem based on your notes.
  • Write using a different medium. If you usually type your poems on a computer, use pen and paper instead. Or try writing on a whiteboard, in coloured marker on a huge piece of paper, using scrabble tiles, in chalk on your garden path, or on a typewriter. 
  • Make a copy of one of your favourite poems and adjust it to make it your own. Rearrange stanzas/lines, cut out words, change the layout, remove every 5th word and see what happens. 
  • Find a poem which you have written but aren’t satisfied with. Read through it, and try and figure out what you don’t like about it. Then, either pick out a line you like and use that as a starting point, or rewrite the poem focusing on its key themes/thesis.
Print | Sitemap
©Paul Green 2017