100 Phenomenal Poetry Prompts To Inspire Your Writing
Poetry is an expressive and compelling form of writing, but it can be hard to know where to begin. Between form, structure, and content, there are lots of factors to consider when you’re deciding how to write a poem. These poetry prompts will help you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and give you that all-important start.
These prompts are separated into 6 categories containing 15 prompts each, with one miscellaneous section at the end:
- Poetic form prompts
- Imagination focused prompts
- Nature/the outside prompts
- Media and objects as inspiration prompts
- Sentimental/reflective prompts
- Structure prompts
- Miscellaneous prompts
Sometimes coming up with a clear, exciting idea can be the hardest part of writing poetry. But luckily we’ve done it for you! So let’s get started with our poetry prompts.
Poetic Form Prompts
When it comes to writing poetry, deciding on the form you want to use is a great place to start. Whether you’re deciding between writing in free verse or using a regular rhyme pattern; wondering which era of poetry you want to reflect; or what type of poem (acrostic, sestina etc) you want to write; knowing the overall shape of your poem will help you get started. So here are some poetry prompts in the realm of poetic form.
- Write an acrostic poem using your name or that of a loved one.
- Write an ode to someone or something you love. Start with your favourite thing about them.
- Write a sonnet or rewrite one of Shakespeare’s or Petrarca’s. (Sonnets are 14 lines long and are traditionally written in iambic pentameter. But feel free to bend the rules a little; it’s your poem!)
- Write a poem in the style of, or in honour of, your favourite poet.
- Flick through a poetry book. Find a line which resonates you. Use that as your starting point and carry on from there.
- Write a poem that is also a letter. To your past or future self; to a friend; to an emotion; to a loved one who passed away.
- Write a poem in a ‘stream of consciousness’ style.
- Write in the style of a poetic era which interests you (romantic poetry, metaphysical poetry, Renaissance poetry).
- Write a sestina (an unrhyming poem consisting of 6 stanzas of 6 lines and a final 3 line stanza). To help you get started, write about the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning.
- What’s your favourite/lucky number? Write a poem consisting of that many lines.
- Write a poem listing and connecting mundane objects around you. Consider how you interact with them, and how they interact with each other.
- Write a poem without taking your pen off of the paper. Your starting point is your favourite vegetable.
- Write a haiku (5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second line, 5 syllables in the last line). For your starting point, use any word which interests you that begins with the same letter as your surname.
- Write a poem using the poetic ‘I’. Write about your day so far (feel free to exaggerate and embellish).
- Write a poem personifying whichever emotion you’re predominantly feeling right now.
Imagination Focused Prompts
Poetry is very focused on images, which means you can truly let your imagination run wild when writing it. Be descriptive, have fun, and don’t be afraid to lean into the bizarre. These creative poetry writing prompts will help you craft unique, engaging poems.
- Pick a colour. Use the 5 senses to explore and inhabit it.
- 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 a poem about a mirror.
- What was your favourite fairy tale/fable as a child? Write a poem from the perspective of a secondary character (like Little Red Riding Hood’s Mum) or the antagonist (like the wolf).
- Think of a cliché which irritates you. Write a better version of it (think ‘show, don’t tell’), and build your poem from there.
- Think about your favourite scent. Write a poem depicting the things and activities it reminds you of (fresh laundry, apple picking, the ocean, blossom on the trees).
- Write about the aftermath. Of an argument, a panic attack, crying, a break-up, a dizzy spell, the best news of your life.
- If you were an animal what would you be? Write from an animal’s perspective.
- There are flowers on a doorstep. Write a poem about them from the perspective of the sender or the recipient (or both). Are they a celebratory gift (for a birthday, promotion, engagement etc)? An apology? A thank you present? Explore.
- Think of something bizarre or ridiculous you once saw or heard about (the dream you had about a 20-foot-tall flamingo playing the violin, or your niece’s conversation about the elves who helped her with her homework) and use that as the opening to a poem.
- Write a poem which takes place in a time of transition. On the bus home, in the moment between being awake and falling asleep, the day before starting a new job…
- If you were to create your own Coat of Arms, what would it look like? Consider what animal, what kind of plant/flower, what colours etc you would include. Write a poem describing the details and what they represent.
- Write a poem about a secret.
- Think about a big decision you made. Write a poem exploring what may have happened if you’d chosen differently.
- Write a poem about a terrible birthday.
Nature/The Outside Prompts
Classical poetry is what most people think of when it comes to poetry. Lush forests, budding flowers, babbling brooks. Some may think it cliché, but it’s a classic for a reason. And a good reminder to writers to get some fresh air every once in a while. Use this as a nudge to take a break, go for a walk, and who knows; maybe a half-finished poem will come back with you. Try these nature and outdoors focused writing prompts for poetry.
- Write about the month you’re in now. What comes to mind when you think about it/this season? Draw from memories, the five senses, seasonal activities.
- Which element (earth, air) is aligned with your star sign? Write a poem exploring it.
- Look out the window or go for a walk and admire the nature around you. What draws your attention? Write about it in as much detail as possible.
- Write a poem that starts with a tree. Think about what season you want it to be and thus what it looks like (are there leaves/blossom/bare branches)? Think about where you are in relation to it (sat underneath it, looking at it from a passing car, walking up a hill towards it). See where the poem takes you.
- Write about an open window. What kind of building is it in? What’s on either side of it? How high up is it? What does it represent.
- People watch as you gaze out of the window, or look at the people across from you as you walk down the street. Make up a life/story for them in your head. Craft a poem around it.
- Write about a bonfire or a fireplace. Are you someone who loves the smell of them, and how it lingers on your clothes afterwards? Or someone who hates that the smoke gets in your eyes and you have to get really close to them if you want to escape the surrounding cold?
- Write about water. The ocean, drinking a glass of water, washing yourself or the dishes, the rain.
- Where’s your favourite place to be? It could anything from the corner of your bedroom, to a small cafe in town, to an African island. Write a poem about it.
- Write a poem about the weather.
- We always want what we don’t have. Write about the season (autumn, spring etc) you wish you were experiencing now.
- Write a poem about being snowed in or having a power outage. Explore the intimacy of being in close quarters with others or trapped alone.
- When you’re out and about, pay attention to the words around you. Write a poem based on the tail end of a conversation you overheard, the slogan on someone’s t-shirt, or the curious sign in the shop window.
- Think of any old buildings near where you live or grew up. Contemplate who might have occupied them 50/100/200 years ago. Write about them.
- Write a poem from the perspective of someone sullen and sitting alone on a park bench.
Media And Objects As Inspiration Prompts
When trying to figure out how to write poetry that is compelling and meaningful, there are many available options. In a technological world, using media as inspiration is one of the simplest solutions. Let your interests converge and use the images/messages/themes from your favourite forms of media to help you write your next poem.
- Write a poem based on the first news article which comes up on your TV/phone/the internet.
- Find a picture of you as a child. Write from the perspective of your child self. Look back at the picture from time to time as you write.
- Fill in a crossword puzzle or other word game. Write a poem using as many of the words from it as possible.
- Write a poem about your favourite book.
- Think about an item of clothing or an accessory (the t-shirt that’s worn and well loved, the dress you wore every week when you were in your 30s, the necklace that’s been in your family for generations) that means a lot to you. Write about it. Think about all the places you went and emotions you felt when you wore it. Conversely, personify the object and write a poem about what it experienced with you on those occasions.
- Write a poem about or from the perspective of one of your favourite (or least favourite!) characters from a book/TV show/movie.
- Listen to a song which you enjoy/resonates with you deeply. Dance, close your eyes; do whatever comes naturally. Once it’s finished, sit down and write whatever comes to mind. Think about a key lyric, how it makes you feel, or what your experience was like the first time you heard it.
- Pick a photo you love, your favourite piece of art, or search for interesting images online (volcanoes, Victorian furniture, classical paintings). Write a poem responding to the image.
- Watch the trailer for an upcoming film you’re eager to see. Write a poem based on an interesting moment, or in response to it.
- Think about a memorable concert, play, or fair you attended as a child. Write as though you’re experiencing it now.
- Pick a quote that resonates with you/which you admire. It could be an old adage, something your parents told you, or from a famous writer. Ponder over it for a while, and then write about or in response to it.
- What’s the oldest object you own? When did you get it? What does it mean to you? Write about it in detail.
- Write a poem set in a school. You can recall your own school experience to help you, entirely make it up, or use a scene from a TV show or film as inspiration.
- 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. Reflect. Contemplate. Use the power of hindsight.
- Spend five minutes or so on a social media or gaming app. Jot down any words or images which interest you or evoke some kind of response in you. Use them to help shape your poem.
Poetry writing can be very reflective and personal. When you’re in need of inspiration, sometimes the best place to start is your own experience. Whether you favour poetry that is sentimental and melancholy, or nostalgic and exuberant, these prompts for poetry will help you out.
- Write something that you aren’t ready to say out loud yet.
- Write about the age you are now; the stereotypes of your demographic, how comfortable you are with your current age, the joys and sorrows it has bought you.
- Think of a really happy day/experience you had in your childhood. Maybe it was when you made a new friend, or read a great book, or went on a trip to the fair. Write a poem describing your unadulterated joy.
- Write about the experience of losing something dear to you.
- Write about someone who taught you/helped you grow but who wasn’t your teacher, parent, or caregiver.
- Think about a memorable birthday you once had. Write a poem about the first one which comes to mind.
- Write a poem about a nightmare or a ‘there’s a monster under the bed’ type fear which you had as a child.
- Write a poem to/about someone, addressing the things you regret not telling them.
- What was your favourite toy/game as child? Write about the devotion you had to it. Are there any parallels between it and your favourite hobbies/passions now?
- Write about a small random thing which brings you joy (your favourite cup of tea, your cat running towards the door to meet you when you come home, the smell of a cinnamon scented candle).
- Write about a haircut/hairstyle or sense of style you once had that differs from how you present yourself today. Who was that version of you? In which ways are you different now?
- Write a poem about a theme or topic which is important to you (animal rights, mental health, education) without explicitly naming it.
- What does home mean to you? Write a poem ruminating on it as a concept and a physical space.
- Write a poem about a cultural moment which resonated with you (old or current).
- Write about a time when you were overlooked. How did you react? Would you respond differently now?
The structure of a poem is as important as the words which it contains. And it can be just as meaningful. Starting with the outline of what you want your poem to be like gives you some restrictions so you don’t feel overwhelmed by the myriad of things a poem can be about, while also giving you the freedom to explore your ideas. Here are some creative writing poetry prompts associated with structure.
- Open any book. Write a poem based on the first word which draws your attention.
- Pick a number between 5 and 100. Write a poem containing that exact number of words.
- 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.
- Using a random name generator- or just flick through a dictionary/thesaurus/book- come up with 5 random words and craft a poem around them.
- Write a poem without using the letter e.
- Write a poem with each line representing a year of your life (you can do it in calendar years e.g. 1989, 1990, 1991 etc, or in ages e.g. aged 29, 30, 31) and the key memories/emotions/experiences from that time.
- If you speak a second language, try writing a poem in that language instead.
- 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 market on a huge piece of paper, using scrabble tiles, in chalk on your garden path, or on a typewriter.
- Write a poem with nouns which start with the letter of your first name.
- 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.
- Write a poem using commas as the only form of punctuation.
- 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 any full stops.
- Pick up a pen and a paper and free write. About your day, your state of mind, anything. Set a timer for 5-15 minutes and keep writing the entire time. Don’t correct your spelling or cross things out. Just. Keep. Writing. After your time is up, go back through and circle/highlight/underline words or phrases which you like. Use one or two of them and begin crafting a poem.
- Write a poem structured as a poetic transcript of a story a loved one/relative is telling. Use spacing and punctuation to indicate pauses, and include fillers.
There are so many different types of poetry that it can be hard to define as a writing form. And hard to write prompts for, apparently! So here are some extra prompts which refused to be defined by any one category, perfect for the poet whose imagination cannot be contained.
- Write about silence. Is it eerie, peaceful, anxiety provoking? Explore.
- When was the last time you danced? Where were you? Were you alone/who were you with? How did you feel? Write about it.
- Write a poem about any traditions you have, and whether or not you’re attached to them.
- Think of an act of injustice/news story which upsets you. Write about its intricacies and why it angers/saddens you.
- Listen. What’s the most prominent sound you hear? Write about it.
- Write about a part of the body. Any one! Explore all the things about it which you take for granted and the ways in which it brings you joy (arms for hugging, legs for dancing, eyes for watching the sunset etc).
- Write a poem exploring the etymology of your name and your relationship to it.
- Do you have any physical injuries? Write a poem about how you got them and, if relevant, how they affect you now.
- Write a poem about a coincidence that you experienced.
- Write a poem about the gestures/facially expressions you frequently use and what they communicate. How do the people around you use gestures?
Using Poetry Prompts
We hope these poetry prompts give you some great inspiration for new avenues to explore with your writing. Many of these prompts can be used again and again if adapted slightly. You can use them as the basis for a brief freewriting session, to help edit or focus poems you’ve already written, or to help you develop your skills in an area of poetry you’ve been working on (maybe you’re trying to become an expert in all things sonnets). Feel free to adjust these poetry prompts in any way which suits you; we find that a shift in perspective often helps.
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