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10 Minutes A Day: 21 Short Poetry Prompts to Start A Poetry Habit

Teen writing Poetry

We invited our former homeschooling student, Micah Ackerman Hirsch to share his wonderful techniques and poetry tips for our young poets and writers. Micah is a graduate of University of Puget Sound, an amazing liberal arts college, and is an accomplished writer with an interest in History, Children's Books, and Poetry. You can check out his review of Asian American Pacific Islander Middle Grade novels that he loves. For now, enjoy his fun, and insightful poetry tips! Contact us with YOUR poems inspired by Micah Ackerman Hirsch!

When you think about poetry, what sort of things come to mind? Lovelorn romantics waxing on and on about the moon? Lengthy epics full of faeries and swordplay? Intricate rhymes, flowery adjectives, and sudden lightning bolts of literary inspiration? 

     But if poetry is something that takes hours and hours of contemplation, or something that only comes in sudden flashes from a muse, how does anyone find the time to be a poet in our always-busy world? And how do you even get started as a poet if your muse is nowhere to be found?

     Well, the good news is that you can start a poetry-writing habit in as little as five minutes a day! The most important part of being a poet is writing - it doesn’t matter if your poem is three lines long or three hundred! Poetry is really about expressing yourself, telling stories, and observing the world around you, and short poems have been a key part of literature for as long as humans have been writing. 

As the powerful philosopher, activist, and poet Audre Lorde wrote, “Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought.”

Just check out some of these examples! 

Invisible Fish

Invisible fish swim this ghost ocean now described by waves of sand, by water-worn rock. Soon the 

fish will learn to walk. Then humans will come ashore and paint dreams on the dying stone. Then 

later, much later, the ocean floor will be punctuated by Chevy trucks, carrying the dreamers’ 

descendants, who are going to the store.

~ Joy Harjo, Muscogee Nation, 1989 CE


Joy Harjo, the first Indigenous poet to be selected as the Poet Laureate of the United States,  

In this short poem, she uses the cascading rhythm of her shorter and shorter lines to give a sense of time slowing down The era described in the poem gets closer and closer to ours. 

The poem’s short length is part of its power: it makes the reader think about the ways very distant times can actually be close together. When we drive to the store, we’re driving over the same land that so many other people and animals have lived on for millions of years. 

In a Station of The Metro


          The apparition of these faces in the crowd;

          Petals on a wet, black bough.


~ Ezra Pound, England, 1913 CE

Ezra Pound's poem packs a lot into just two lines through its repetition of sounds - it almost feels cramped! That feeling of being packed in tight makes the reader feel what the poem is trying to describe: being in a crowded subway station (like it says in the title!) and realizing how many people are all around you.

This poem has a fun vocabulary word too!  “Bough,” which sounds like "crowd", is an old-fashioned word for a tree branch.

Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound photographed in 1913 by Alvin Langdon Coburn. (National Portrait Gallery, London; public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Seeing Off Wei Ba to the West Capital


My guest came from Chang’an

Must now return to Chang’an

A gust of wind blows away my heart

Hangs it west on a tree in that sunward city

Such feeling can’t be rendered in words

When shall we meet again after this parting

I gaze till there is no trace of you

A mist rises to obscure the mountains

     

~ Li Bai, China, 749 CE

Although a little longer than the first two examples, this short poem by Li Bai, one of the most famous Chinese poets in history, is an excellent example of how everyday moments can become beautiful topics for poetry.

"In Seeing off Wei Ba," Li Bai paints a simple but eloquent picture of watching a dear friend return home after a long visit. 

There’s no need for a longer poem to drag out the idea.

His friend came, and now he’s gone away again, and it feels like such a loss that it’s as if the mist covering the mountain highway is covering Li Bai’s heart as well.


Now, It's Your Turn!

How To Get Started Writing A Poem.  


As you can see, sometimes a short poem is exactly what you need to get the job done! 

So if you or your student wants to start writing, but isn’t sure how to get started, check out these prompts for short poems to give yourself a nudge in the right direction! 

Sometimes the hardest part of writing poetry is feeling like you don’t know where to begin, but if you just start writing you’ll have more at the end than when you started, guaranteed! 

Just take ten minutes out of your morning, find a nice quiet place, and do your best to write at least until the ten minutes are up. You can even set a timer for yourself! If you write one of these every day, you’ll have been a poet for three whole weeks!

pexels olia danilevich 5088178 Small V2 scaled e1684520550101

photo by olia-danilevich on pexels.com


Getting started in just two lines:

  1. Write a 2 line poem like "In a Station of The Metro" about the last car or public transit trip you took.


Poems about you!

  1. Write a poem where you include the names of everyone in your family.

  2. Write a poem about what you want to be when you grow up, but every line has to end on the word “young.”

  3. Write a poem about your favorite breakfast food.

  4. Write a poem from the point of view of your favorite breakfast food.

  5. Write a 5 line poem from the point of view of a dog who wants to be fed breakfast - remember, write fast! The dog is hungry!

  6. Write a 5 line poem about someone whose dog won’t stop bugging them for breakfast.

breakfast

Photo by Rachel Park on Unsplash
 

Try a Haiku!

  1. Write a haiku - a Japanese poetry form with 3 lines: one 5 syllable line, one 7 syllable line, and another 5 syllable line.

  2. Write a haiku about your favorite season.

  3. Write a haiku about how you’re feeling today, using weather to describe your emotions.

Try another style:

  1. Write a cinquain - a French form with 5 lines. It starts with a 2 syllable line, and then you start adding 2 syllables per line (4, 6, 8), until you end on a fifth and final 2 syllable line! (I know, who knew poetry had so much math?)

  2. Write a cinquain about the last time you hung out with a friend.

Poems that start with the same word:

  1. Write a poem with 4 lines where every line starts with the same word.

  2. Write a poem with 6 lines where every line ends with the same word

  3. Write a poem where every line has the word alligator in it!

alligators

Photo by Ianaré Sévi on Creative Commons
 

Poems with specific numbers of lines:

  1. Write a 2 line poem - that doesn’t rhyme - about how you’re feeling today.

  2. Write a poem with 10 lines but only 3 words on each line!

  3. Write a 5 line poem about the last time you felt sad, and what made you feel better.

  4. Write a 6 line poem about the last time you helped someone else feel better! 

  5. Write a poem about what you would say to either Joy Harjo, Ezra Pound, or Li Bai if you could talk to them about their poems.

Try one last style:

  1. Write a quatrain - a poem with 4 lines where lines 1, 2, and 4 all rhyme with each other - about a ceiling fan.

So there you go! With just 10 minutes a day, you’ll have a poetry habit - and 21 poems - under your belt. And remember, these are just prompts! You can write about anything you want, and anything that’s on your mind. Beautiful things, scary things, happy things, your favorite type of whale - it’s all a part of poetry!



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