Announcing Our 2010 National Poetry Month Prompt Contest

Special Prize: A Signed Copy of Monica Youn's IGNATZ.

National Poetry Month is coming up in April, and in order to mark it, the LR blog is going to be hosting our first ever Prompt Contest, made possible by the generous sponsorship of Four Way Books.  Do you think our Weekly Prompts could use some spicing up?  Do you have a favorite writing exercise that you’d like to share?  Here’s your chance to have your ideas featured in our weekly content, or even — if you turn out to be the one lucky person whose prompt we like best — to win a signed copy of Monica Youn’s new collection Ignatz!

Here’s how it will work:

1) Leave a comment on this post that includes the text of your prompt.  Entries must be posted by 11:59PM EST on Thursday, April 1st April 8th. Comments on this post will close after that time. Please leave some form of basic contact information in your comment (even if it’s just a link to the contact page on your web site), so that we can get in touch with you if you win.

2) During the first full week of April, we’ll be choosing the four prompts that we like best.  The winner and all three runners up will have their entries featured as Weekly Prompts on the LR Blog during the four Fridays from April 9th – 30th.  In addition, the winner will also receive a special prize that has been graciously offered  by Four Way Books: a signed copy of Monica Youn’s Ignatz. We will announce the runners up and winner week by week starting with the third runner-up and culminating with the winner, so keep on checking back in April to see if your entry has been featured.

3) A few ground rules: You may only enter once. Please submit only poetry prompts.  Keep all prompts appropriate: anything of a bigoted, demeaning, or nasty nature will not be considered; we’d also appreciate it if you could please try to keep your prompts somewhat PG in nature, as when choosing prompts we always try to look for flexible exercises which can be adapted for classroom use with either adults or kids.

That’s it!  Go forth and prompt-ify; we look forward to reading your entries!  And while you’re at it, please do check out Ignatz on Four Way’s site.  Many thanks to Editor Martha Rhodes, to Monica Youn, and to Four Way for their generosity.  Be on the lookout for our review of the collection next month.

14 thoughts on “Announcing Our 2010 National Poetry Month Prompt Contest

  1. Fav prompt: Giving people hand mirrors and asking them to spend 3-5 minutes just looking at themselves in it. After that time, having people write about what they see there, what is there that didn’t use to be or what is there that only you can see?

  2. Distribute titles of (lesser-known) poems that you like to the members of the class or workshop. Ask them to write a poem that goes with the title. Then follow up and compare the new poems to the original poem.

    This is a great way to discover the thematic elements of your own writing, as well as a method of finding your own intersections and conversations with other writers.

    Variations of this same prompt could include distributing sonnet titles and asking the class to write sonnets, or ghazals with ghazals, what have you.

  3. Prompt:
    Get an orange. Observe it for at least 10-15 minutes, writing down observations that draw on all of the senses. Then write down associations, memories, experiences that come to mind when you observe the orange.

  4. Open a dictionary to a random page. Close your eyes and point to a random place on a page. Write down the word you landed on. Repeat these steps 2 more times so that you have a total of 3 words. Freewrite for 15 minutes, and make sure you use all 3 words somewhere in your writing. Do not edit your writing, just freewrite without stopping your pen.

    After 15 minutes, read over what you’ve written and note if a theme, idea or phrase jumps out at you. Use this as a starting point for a new poem or story.

  5. This one is not mine originally, but it’s one of the best ones I’ve ever tried. It comes by way of poet Suheir Hammad.

    Close your eyes and think about a time in your life that was extremely difficult, maybe even the hardest it’s ever been. Focus in on the moment or event that set off the difficulty. Remember where you were, who you were with, and what your environment was like – was it a room? Were you outdoors? In a car? Was it cold? Warm? What color were the walls? What were you wearing? Imagine the scene in as much detail as possible.

    Now, holding that moment of difficulty in your mind, search the scene and find one aspect of the situation or your environment that was beautiful. It could be environment and sensory – a sound, color, texture, lighting – or it could be an insight, perspective or emotion that existed at the same time as the difficulty. It could be anything. Find one thing that was beautiful.

    Now, write about that beautiful aspect of this scene of difficulty for 15 minutes.

  6. Think about a time in your life when you faced a decision that you made that would affect your life greatly in some way. Reflect: Did your decision make you a better person today, or was it detrimental?

    Think back to the time you were making that decision. What was going on around you? Colors, sounds, smells, people, voices, feelings, even the weather. Write down every detail you can think of.

    Using what you have, freewrite for 15 minutes.

  7. Prompts:
    1) When I start to write a poem, I always…

    2) Sad news leads me to….

    3) Natural disasters convince the world to

    4) Memory–treasure or traitor?

  8. Sit down.

    Close your eyes and imagine surroundings completely different from where you actually are.
    Imagine yourself sitting perhaps on a window seat in a bedroom, or dangling your legs as you sit on a ledge of a building or cliff, many stories high. Perhaps you are sitting on a flying carpet, or a trapeze, poised as an acrobat.

    Choose one scenario and fixate it in your mind. What colors do you see, scents do you smell, sounds do you hear? What do you feel under your legs and hands? What’s the texture of what you’re sitting on?
    What people are around you, what is going on? Are you in the sky, on the floor, underground, underwater?
    Write down every single thought that comes to mind, every sensation.

    Using what you have, freewrite for 15 minutes (or more).

  9. Prompt: You meet a fairy tale character who has always intrigued you. Write a poem about this encounter. What questions would you ask him/her? What answers would you receive?

  10. Prompts from a writing circle:

    1) Pick a postcard and write what you imagine was happening in the scene / leading up to it

    2) Find a childhood toy and write about the first memory that comes to mind. Also consider the toy’s colors, textures, heft, etc.

  11. From class:

    1) Complete the phrase, “If I have one gift, it is…” Repeat for ten minutes. Encourage unconventional thoughts and strange images. Break patterns if you notice one emerging. Be brave.

    2) Rewrite a fairy tale in verse from a different character’s perspective or voice, e.g. the witch in Hansel and Gretel.

    3) Write a question on a piece of paper. Fold over. Pass it to a friend, who will provide an answer without looking at the question, write a new question, fold the paper over to obscure both answer and question, and pass it back to you. Repeat as long as you’d like. Unfold and savor the poem.

    3a) Same basic idea as 3). Write a line such that the last two words of your line spill over onto the next line. Fold the paper such that only the two words are visible. Pass it to your friend, who will complete the line that you started, and spill over two words onto the next line, which you will complete, spilling two words onto the next line, and so on.

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