Category Archives: Fast Friday Poetry Prompt

A Focused Free-Write Poetry Prompt

For today’s poetry prompt, we will try a focused free-write.

What is a focused free-write, you say?

A focused free-write is when you free-write, in longhand, with a particular passage – or in this case poem – in mind.

And if you’re not sure what it is to “free-write,” it simply means to write non-stop without lifting your pen or pencil or stopping to make any corrections to grammar, spelling, or punctuation, for a set period of time not to exceed 20 minutes.

The idea is to get your good ideas down on paper and capture your inspired thinking.

The focus of today’s free-write is Emily Dickinson’s poem “Hope is the thing with feathers,” which I discussed in an earlier blog post. The poem reads as follows:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity
It asked a crumb of me.

Your free-write can focus on any image or line from the poem or perhaps on the abstract idea of hope itself.

Later, see if you can lift a line or two from your free-write and generate a poem draft.

Good luck, have fun, and write on.




Woman, Please: A Poetry Prompt

Woman Please Prompt

From Washington State University, Fine Arts Page

Since about the mid-twentieth century, feminists and historians have gradually, and, sometimes painfully, worked to restore the voices, images, and contributions of women and reinstating them, incrementally, into history and the literary canon.

While it’s long been understood that women are as instrumental as men in the making and destroying of empires, whether domestic or of a grand scale, their contributions have consistently been relegated to dark corners and back kitchens.

In time, perhaps women’s roles will be as obvious and as representative as those of men, and to that end, I offer today’s prompt, which incorporates two distinct approaches to poetry: ekphrasis and persona.

Ekphrasis, in simple terms, is a response to a piece of artwork. Contemporary poets often stretch this tradition to include popular culture, music, television, movies, and every day objects, in addition to traditional or contemporary art.

Persona, on the other hand, is stepping into another’s shoes and telling a story from their unique perspective. This approach takes a great deal of imagination and is often tweaked to fit a poem’s purpose.

You are probably familiar with the novel, Wicked by Gregory Maguire, which explores the untold stories of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West, and Girl With the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, which reinvents the female subject of Vemeer’s painting of the same title. Both stories respond to existing works of art and both consider the perspective of withheld or otherwise down-played characters to create a compelling story.

For today’s prompt, consider works of art which were created by or feature women. Think expansively and include in your perusal everything from ancient art to modern Hulu favorites. Your piece of art may be a song, a hand crafted item, carefully prepared food, a character from mythology, or even an image as recognizable at the Mona Lisa. Don’t give up too easily; instead trust that you will know the right subject for your poem when you see it.

For further inspiration for today’s prompt, check out “Women Defending Castle With Bow and Crossbow” by Christine Stewart-Nuñez  over at Verse Daily. 


You’re Alive, Damn It: A Poetry Prompt

Misc iPhone 2015 004

It’s amazing that we are here at all.

What I mean is, we human beings are a complex mix of resiliency and vulnerabilities. We take risks dashing across busy streets, regularly travel great distances over vast oceans in planes and boats, forget and leave the oven on, encounter dozens of harmful germs and bacteria while moving through our lives, and still manage do out best to help others every day. We survive heartache, bounce back from job terminations, mourn the death of loved ones, and still, on a whole, manage to get up every morning and, more or less, do it all again.

Maybe we deal with insomnia or indigestion, maybe our cholesterol is high and our metabolism is low, maybe we get depressed, and maybe we drink too much, but were’ alive, damn it, and as long as we are, we remain determined.

For today’s prompt, write a list of every near miss you’ve had in your life. Include the time that guy in the red Corvette DIDN’T hit you when he ran the red light, or the time you THOUGHT you were drowning but really just got water up your nose. Also include those near misses you don’t distinctly remember but which likely happened, like surviving 300 consecutive days of rush-hour traffic in Los Angeles, or something like that. Get fantastical, get lyrical, and make your list long, true, doubtful, and outrageous.

Once you’ve compiled an impressive list of near misses, which may or may not have really occurred, use them as inspiration for a poem.

If you feel up to a challenge, include every singe item on your list, even though the resulting poem may feel contrived. It’s OK, you can always revise.

Otherwise, just pick and choose the most interesting, significant, or unusual instances on your list and use them as motivation to write your next AMAZING poem.

And don’t forget to revise.

When you’ve finished your draft, take a look at this finsihed poem by Laura Kasichke, which is all about “Near Misses.”

Love, Maybe: A Poetry Prompt

IMG_0769Love is hard.

Well, maybe not at first.

At first it’s all excitement and intense desire.

Fantasies and bliss.

Surrendering to pheromones and hormones.

Buying into the cultural ideal of soul mates,

and quieting insecurities.

But the day always arrives in which we view our lover, and they us, through lenses of a less rosy hue.

A time when we must discern between commitment and attraction, choice and devotion, judgment and acceptance, cute Habits and OCD, jokes and insults, and many, many moments of doubt amid general feelings of certainty.

For today’s prompt, spend 10 minutes freewriting about the early stages of love. Capture all the nuances of bliss that characterize those early feelings that so often are compared to a kind of temporary insanity. Include vivid descriptions of romantic interludes, devotional thoughts, and lusty dreams. No one will see this, so really and truly write freely. Don’t reread your freewrite until you have completed the next step.

Next, spend 10 minutes freewriting about the realities of living in a committed relationship. Your focus might include such details as kissing your partner despite garlic breath, or maybe how they tolerate your morning breath. It should also include the more difficult aspects of co-habitation, like basic cultural differences, fundamental disagreements about the way the world works, plans forgone for the sake of the relationship, or resentments that arise as a result of choosing love over your dreams.

Finally, read through your freewriting and highlight lines or images that can support a compelling  poem then get to composing that compelling poem.

Remember, the difference between a journal entry (however compelling) and a poem is REVISION.IMG_0770

For an example of how one poet approaches this subject, take a look at “The Kama Sutra of Kindness, Position 3″ by Mary Mackey over at The Writers Almanac. 




Friday Poetry Prompt

Read “Bound” by Aline Murray Kilmer at

If I had loved you, soon, ah, soon I had lost you.
Had I been kind you had kissed me and gone your faithless way.
The kiss that I would not give is the kiss that your lips are holding:
Now you are mine forever, because of all I have cost you.

You think that you are free and have given over your sighing,
You think that from my coldness your love has flown away:
But mine are the hands you shall dream that your own are holding,
And mine is the face you shall look for when you are dying.

Write an eight line formal poem that begins with “If I had love you,”


write an equally haunting poem that is concerned with war or loss.

Fun with Similes Poetry Prompt

A great big Thank You to Juan Morales for another awesome poetry prompt:

Fun with Similes

We all know metaphor and simile and sometimes take them for granted, but it does not change their obvious importance. Kim Addonizio writes “Metaphor speaks of one thing in terms of others, creating a kind of energy field, what I think of as “the shimmer….Simile does the same thing, only a bit more obviously: to say that a grain of sand is like a world would make the comparison explicit.” I can’t speak for most poets, but I usually go for the easy simile and uncover a comparison too close to the poem’s established world. Good simile and metaphor embrace the departing nature of the simile more so readers can access the grain of sand and the world simultaneously. Here’s a poem from Major Jackson’s book Holding Company that does an amazing job with simile.

How You Love by Major Jackson

Like the injured laid down at the scene of an accident
before cars collide, like cloud striations over
Fairyland Loop, like a kid’s carnival balloon
diminishing and lost to the great blue,
like bright jewels scattered in some secret cave, like two
scissor blades breaking apart, like after-party guacamole
with drips of salsa, like diamonds of light rotating over
an empty dance floor, like priests at night staring
in store windows at half-nude mannequins,
like dark earwax , like unscented candles, like Janus.

Jackson uses eleven similes in a ten-line poem with so many surprises and turns in his rendering the act of love. Even if the use of “like”softens the comparison, it works so well. The line breaks, and length of the lines, and listing also help reinforce the unpredictability too.

For today’s exercise, I want you to work with the comparison explicit. Write a poem with a seemingly simplistic title and use as many similes as possible to help establish an emotional connection. Another approach to this exercise is to start with as many random similes as possible and then select a title as the unifier.

Feel free to participate in the poetic conversation here at ZingaraPoet by adding your poetic response to this prompt in the comments section below. Go ahead, don’t be shy – make the conversation interesting!

Friday Poetry Prompt

Riffle through your old poems and pull from them a poem that has yet to find a home. Perhaps it isn’t quite finished or perhaps it is different thematically from your other work. Experiment with this poem in one, or all, of the following ways:

Write a “part two” to the poem.

Arbitrarily rearrange the words, lines and stanzas on the field of the page based on some principle that you invent. For example, perhaps words beginning with a particular letter are flush with the left margin while words beginning with a different letter are always indented so many spaces from the left margin. Maybe nouns contain extra spaces or are centered. Use your imagination.

Cut your poem up and rearrange its words. Paste the new onto a colorful piece of paper.

Most of all, enjoy the process. And feel free to post your results in the comments area below.