Poetry writing in the post-16 English curriculum DANIEL XERRI …

Poetry writing in the post-16 English curriculum DANIEL XERRI …

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The Creative Writing Program

Creative Writing

The Creative Writing program

Literary writing has a long and distinguished history at Swarthmore College. Our offerings in creative writing, founded in scholarship and dedicated to exploration, contribute vitally to Swarthmore’s vibrant program in English Literature, and offer interested students an intriguing supplement to the English major.

The Creative Writing program has grown from single yearly workshops in fiction, poetry, and playwriting, to more comprehensive offerings—twelve courses in the English Department and four in other college departments. Advanced students have the option to pursue individual work with faculty guidance and within the Honors Program.


A sampling of Creative Writing courses offered by English Literature

At Swarthmore, the discipline of writing goes hand in hand with the study of literature. Each of the four English Department faculty members who comprise the core of our creative writing program specializes as well in a literary historical field – Old English and Medieval Studies, Romanticism and Eighteenth Century Studies, American and Ethnic Studies, Modern and Contemporary Poetry of England and Ireland. 

Courses that combine critical analysis with creative exercises

The literary expertise of our creative writing faculty permeates all of our creative writing workshops, and is especially evident in four specialized courses that combine critical analysis with creative exercises based in literary models. These courses, which are limited to fifteen participants and require no application process are ideal for students with little prior experience in creative writing but are also excellent for experienced writers who wish to contextualize their creative work and hone their skills through focused exercises.

These courses are:

Grendel’s Workshop (070D) Taught by poet and Medievalist Craig Williamson—examines the ways writers throughout history have reclaimed and re-envisioned prior existing texts, from the use Shakespeare made of his sources, to John Gardner’s re-conception of Beowulf from the monster’s point of view in Grendel, and Tom Stoppard’s decentering of Hamlet in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. The course offers students the opportunity to devise their own poems and fictions based in culturally familiar materials. 

Lyric Encounters (070E) Taught by poet, librettist, and Modernist Nathalie Anderson—explores the musical foundations of poetry through rhythm, rhyme, consonance, and formal patterning, and examines historical deployments of the lyric in expressions of love, mourning, subjective reflection, and transcendence. 

Writing Nature (070G) Taught by poet, fiction writer, and Romanticist Betsy Bolton—draws both on the historical conventions of the Sublime and the more physically grounded depictions of the natural world in biological and ecological writing to introduce students to the skills supporting poetry and non-fiction prose, and to the skills that combine the visual and the verbal in digital pieces. 

The Poetry Project (070J) Taught by Nathalie Anderson—explores avenues of research as strategies for enhancing poetic work.


Workshops

The English Literature department offers intensive workshops in fiction and in poetry—limited to twelve participants. These workshops engage students in exercises designed to develop an awareness of the multiplicitous narrative and lyric choices implicit in the writer’s craft. So more students will have the opportunity to participate, we permit individuals to take only one workshop in a single semester.

►  Playwriting is taught by the Theater department and screenwriting by Film and Media Studies.

 

Fiction Workshop and Poetry Workshop

These workshops are offered each spring semester. Students must apply for admission by submitting a writing sample for review, typically just after the Fall break.

The Fiction Workshop (070B) concentrates typically on narrative structure, point of view, and character development. The fiction workshop is led, on an alternating basis, by Betsy Bolton and visiting writers, most recently including Rachel Pastan and Gregory Frost.

The Poetry Workshop (070A) focuses on the implications of form and voice, in exercises that challenge the participants to extend their habitual approaches to their writing. The Poetry workshop is led on a rotating basis by Nathalie Anderson, Betsy Bolton, Craig Williamson, and poet and Americanist Peter Schmidt, whose interests in jazz and in spoken-word poetry infuse his classes.

By rotating responsibility for the workshops, we hope to convey, at least by implication, the variety of possible approaches to the discipline of writing.

 

Advanced Poetry Workshop and Advanced Fiction Workshop 

In alternating fall semesters, we offer advanced courses in which students have the opportunity to extend their range and bring individual projects to polished completion. 

Building from the foundation of their earlier writing courses, students in the Advanced Fiction Workshop (070H) explore narrative styles and plot trajectories of their own devising.

Each student in the Advanced Poetry Workshop (070C) completes a sequence or collection of poems presented at the conclusion of the course to the College library in a volume of their own design. 

Note: The English Literature department offers a workshop in Journalism (ENGL 005), although this course does not typically count as a Creative Writing course.


Course offerings from other departments

A number of Swarthmore faculty in departments other than English Literature are also published writers, offering students models of the literary life throughout our curriculum. Students have the opportunity to take courses in children’s writing with Donna Jo Napoli (Ling 054), in literary translation with Sibelan Forrester (Litr 070R), and in playwriting with visiting faculty in the Theater department (Thea 006 and 016). With Educational Studies, we cross-list the community-based course Creative Writing Outreach (Engl 070L/ Educ 073), a course in teaching creative writing to elementary school students, taught by visiting instructor and poet Laynie Browne.

Our students have taken courses in writing at Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and the University of Pennsylvania, as well, including courses in screen-writing and in non-fiction prose.


Creative Writing events and awards

The Department of English Literature is frequently able to bring poets and writers to campus to read their work, judge our student writing competitions, and talk with students about their strategies as writers. Typically we tie these readings to literary courses as well, to involve a larger audience. Visitors to the campus have included Nobel Prize winners, Poet Laureates, and novelists.

In addition to the William Plumer Potter Prizes in Fiction and the Lois Morrell and John Russell Hayes Prizes in Poetry, the department also awards the Morrell-Potter Summer Stipend in Creative Writing, which enables a particularly accomplished student writer to pursue an independent project in the summer between the junior and senior years.


​Swarthmore’s program in creative writing has grown substantially and matured significantly over the past forty years, and we anticipate that the next decade will be similarly distinguished. Many alumni of the College have achieved prominence as fiction writers and poets. In recent years, Swarthmore graduates have pursued advanced degrees in writing at Brooklyn, Brown, Colorado, Columbia, Cornell, Iowa, Mississippi, Oregon, San Francisco State, Syracuse, Wisconsin, and other institutions.

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The Unquiet Librarian

Buffy J. Hamilton 2016 , 2016-17 , Chestatee Academy Writing Studio 2016-17 , Poetry

Creative Writing with Color Poems

color-poetry

A few weeks ago, several readers inquired about the color poems I did with my middle school students.  The “color poem” strategy/formula is one that I learned in a class on teaching poetry at the University of Georgia; it’s one that provides structure for beginning poets but is flexible enough for more advanced writers to run with and exercise their poetic license.

Until this year, I had only used this strategy with high schoolers; they typically picked right up on the formula.  I discovered this fall that some younger learners may need more scaffolding even if you give them concrete examples that you have written and examples from other students.  I modified my handouts to include the following materials:

  • A general overview of the assignment with two examples/mentor poems/texts
  • A “writing plan” that includes some reflection questions to help the poet get started with a second page that has a modified copy of the “formula” that students can use as a template if needed
  • A reflection handout that students can complete once they have finished their final draft

All documents are downloadable as PDFs below.

Here is a sampler of poems written by my students using this strategy:

Most of my students initially found this challenging but were pleasantly surprised by the quality of their writing.   In the end, many of my students were proud of their work (as they should have been!) because this was the first poem they had ever written.

Are any of you using this strategy or a variation of it with your students?  What do you do to scaffold students who might need a little more support to get started?

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Published by Buffy J. Hamilton

I am a writing and Language Arts teacher who loves learning, literacy, stories, learning, dogs, poetry, fabulous shoes, and good lip gloss. I began my career as a high school English teacher in 1992 and then became a high school librarian and 2011 Library Journal Mover and Shaker before returning to the classroom in August 2016.
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4 thoughts on “Creative Writing with Color Poems

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this strategy. I’m looking forward to trying it with our students.
    Thank you!
    Cheryl Chase
    Teacher Librarian

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    Reply
    1. You are most welcome! I’ll have more activities and strategies posted in the next week!

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      Reply
  2. Thank you for another great idea for stimulating my kids’ creative writing!

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    Reply
  3. Pingback: 12 Sources of Creative Writing Projects for All School Levels

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About Me

Buffy J. Hamilton

Buffy J. Hamilton

I am a writing and Language Arts teacher who loves learning, literacy, stories, learning, dogs, poetry, fabulous shoes, and good lip gloss. I began my career as a high school English teacher in 1992 and then became a high school librarian and 2011 Library Journal Mover and Shaker before returning to the classroom in August 2016.

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You are here: Home / Creative Writing Prompts / 101 Poetry Prompts  Ideas for Writing Poems
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101 Poetry Prompts  Ideas for Writing Poems

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poetry prompt ideas

These poetry prompts are designed to help you keep a creative writing practice. If you’re staring at a blank page and the words aren’t flowing, the creative writing prompts for poems can be a great way to get started.

If poetry isn’t your thing, you could always use these things to inspire other writing projects. Essays, journal entries, short stories, and flash fiction are just a few examples of ways this list can be used. You may even find this list of creative poetry writing prompts helpful as an exercise to build your skills in descriptive writing and using metaphors.

Let’s get onto the list, shall we?

Here are 101 Poetry Prompts for Creative Writing

Most of these creative writing ideas are simple and open-ended. This allows you total creative freedom to write from these poetry prompts in your own unique style, tone, and voice.

If one poetry idea doesn’t appeal to you, challenge yourself to find parallels between the prompt and things that you do enjoy writing about.

1.The Untouchable: Something that will always be out of reach

2. 7 Days, 7 Lines: Write a poem where each line/sentence is about each day of last week

3. Grandma’s Kitchen: Focus on a single memory, or describe what you might imagine the typical grandmother’s kitchen to be like

4. Taste the Rainbow: What does your favorite color taste like?

5. Misfits: How it feels when you don’t belong in a group of others.

6. Stranger Conversations: Start the first line of your poem with a word or phrase from a recent passing conversation between you and someone you don’t know.

7. On the Field: Write from the perspective of a sports ball Baseball, Soccer, American Football, Lacrosse, etc. – think about what the sports ball might feel, see, hear, think, and experience with this poetry idea!

8. Street Signs: Take note of the words on signs and street names you pass while driving, walking, or riding the bus. Write a poem starting with one of these words you notice.

9. Cold water: What feelings do you associate with cold water? Maybe it’s a refreshing cold glass of water on a hot day, or maybe you imagine the feelings associated with being plunged into the icy river in the winter.

10. Ghostwriter: Imagine an invisible ghost picks up a pen and starts writing to you.

11. Lessons From Math Class: Write about a math concept, such as “you cannot divide by zero” or never-ending irrational numbers.

12. Instagram Wall: Open up either your own Instagram account or one of a friend/celebrity and write poetry based on the first picture you see.

13. Radio: Tune in to a radio station you don’t normally listen to, and write a poem inspired by the the first song or message you hear.

14. How To: Write a poem on how to do something mundane most people take for granted, such as how to tie your shoes, how to turn on a lamp, how to pour a cup of coffee.

15. Under 25 Words: Challenge yourself to write a poem that is no more than 25 words long.

16. Out of Order: Write about your feelings when there is an out of order sign on a vending machine.

17. Home Planet: Imagine you are from another planet, stuck on earth and longing for home.

18. Uncertainty: Think about a time in your life when you couldn’t make a decision, and write based on this.

19. Complete: Be inspired by a project or task be completed – whether it’s crossing something off the never-ending to-do list, or a project you have worked on for a long time.

20. Compare and Contrast Personality: What are some key differences and similarities between two people you know?

21. Goodbyes: Write about a time in your life you said goodbye to someone – this could be as simple as ending a mundane phone conversation, or harder goodbyes to close friends, family members, or former partners.

22. Imagine Weather Indoors: Perhaps a thunderstorm in the attic? A tornado in the kitchen?

23. Would You Rather? Write about something you don’t want to do, and what you would rather do instead.

24. Sound of Silence: Take some inspiration from the classic Simon & Garfunkel song and describe what silence sounds like.

25. Numbness: What’s it like to feel nothing at all?

26. Fabric Textures: Use different fiber textures, such as wool, silk, and cotton as a poetry writing prompt.

27. Anticipation: Write about the feelings you experience or things you notice while waiting for something.

28. Poison: Describe something toxic and its effects on a person.

29. Circus Performers: Write your poetry inspired by a circus performer – a trapeze artist, the clowns, the ringmaster, the animal trainers, etc.

30. Riding on the Bus: Write a poem based on a time you’ve traveled by bus – whether a school bus, around town, or a long distance trip to visit a certain destination.

31. Time Freeze: Imagine wherever you are right now that the clock stops and all the people in the world are frozen in place. What are they doing?

32. The Spice of Life: Choose a spice from your kitchen cabinet, and relate its flavor to an event that has happened recently in your daily life.

33. Parallel Universe: Imagine you, but in a completely different life based on making a different decision that impacted everything else.

34. Mad Scientist: Create a piece based on a science experiment going terribly, terribly wrong.

35. People You Have Known: Make each line about different people you have met but lost contact with over the years. These could be old friends, passed on family, etc.

36. Last Words: Use the last sentence from the nearest book as the inspiration for the first line of your poem.

37. Fix This: Think about something you own that is broken, and write about possible ways to fix it. Duct tape? A hammer and nails?

hammer poetry prompt idea
Use this hammer as inspiration for a poetry prompt idea!

38. Suspicion: Pretend you are a detective and you have to narrow down the suspects.

39. Political News: Many famous poets found inspiration from the current politics in their time. Open up a newspaper or news website, and create inspired by the first news article you find.

40. The Letter D: Make a list of 5 words that start with all with the same letter, and then use these items throughout the lines of your verse. This can be any letter, but for example sake: Daisy, Dishes, Desk, Darkness, Doubt

41. Quite the Collection: Go to a museum, or look at museum galleries online. Draw your inspiration from collections of objects and artifacts from your favorite display. Examples: Pre-historic days, Egyptians, Art Galleries, etc.

42. Standing in Line: Think of a time you had to stand in line for something. Maybe you were waiting in a check-out line at the store, or you had to stand in line to enter a concert or event.

43. Junk Mail Prose: Take some inspiration from your latest junk mail. Maybe it’s a grocery store flyer announcing a sale on grapes, or an offer for a credit card.

44. Recipe: Write your poem in the form of a recipe. This can be for something tangible, such as a cake, or it can be a more abstract concept such as love or happiness. List ingredients and directions for mixing and tips for cooking up your concept to perfection.

45. Do you like sweaters? Some people love their coziness, others find them scratchy and too hot. Use your feelings about sweaters in a poem.

46. After Party: What is it like after all party guests go home?

47. Overgrown: Use Little Shop of Horrors for inspiration, or let your imagination run wild on what might happen if a plant or flower came to life or started spreading rapidly to take over the world.

48. Interference: Write a poem that is about someone or something coming in between you and your goals.

49. On Shaky Ground: Use an earthquake reference or metaphor in your poem.

50. Trust Issues: Can you trust someone you have doubted in the past?

51. Locked in a Jar: Imagine you are a tiny person, who has been captured and put into a jar for display or science.

52. Weirder Than Fiction: Think of the most unbelievable moment in your life, and write a poem about the experience.

53. Fast Food: Write a poem about fast food restaurants and experiences.

fast food writing prompt hamburger
Do you like fast food? Write about a recent fast food experience in a poem – good or bad!

54. Unemployed: Write a poem about quitting or being fired from a job you depended on.

55. Boxes: What kinds of family secrets or stories might be hiding in that untouched box in the attic?

56. No One Understands: Write about what it feels like when no one understands or agrees with your opinion.

57. Criminal Minds: Write a poem from the perspective of a high-profile criminal who is always on the run from law enforcement.

58. Marathon Runner: Write a poem about what training you might be doing to accomplish a difficult challenge in your life.

59. Trapped: Write about an experience that made you feel trapped.

60. Passing the Church: Write a poem about noticing something interesting while passing by a church near your home.

61. Backseat Driver: Write about what it’s like to be doing something in your life and constantly being criticized while trying to move ahead.

62. Luster: Create a descriptive poem about something that has a soft glow or sheen to it.

63. Clipboard: Write a poem about someone who is all business like and set in their ways of following a system.

64. Doctor: Write a poem about receiving advice from a doctor.

65. First Car: Write an ode to your first car

66. Life Didn’t Go As a Planned: Write about a recent or memorable experience when nothing went according to plan.

67. Architect: Imagine you are hired to design a building for a humanitarian cause you are passionate about.

68. The Crazy Cat Hoarder: Write about someone who owns far too many cats.

69. Queen: Write a poem from the perspective of a queen.

70. Movie Character: Think of a recent movie you watched, and create a poem about one character specifically, or an interaction between two characters that was memorable.

71. Potential Energy: Write about an experience where you had a lot of potential for success, but failed.

72. Moonlight: Write about an experience in the moonlight.

73. Perfection: Write about trying to always keep everything perfect.

74. You Are Wrong: Write a poem where you tell someone they are wrong and why.

75. Sarcasm: Write a poem using sarcasm as a form of illustrating your point.

76. Don’t Cry: Write a poem about how not to cry when it’s hard to hold back the tears.

77. Listen Up: Write a poem telling someone they are better than they think they are.

78. Flipside: Find the good in something terrible.

79. Maybe They Had a Reason: Write a poem about someone doing something you don’t understand, and try to explain what reasons they might have had.

80. How to Drive: Write a poem that explains how to drive to a teenager.

81. Up & Down the Steps: Write a poem that includes the motion of going up or down a staircase

82. Basket Case: Has there ever been a time when you thought you might lose your mind? Jot your feelings and thoughts down in verse form.

83. Lucky Guess: Many times in our life we have to make a good guess for what is the best decision. Use this poetry idea to write about feelings related to guessing something right – or wrong.

84. Dear Reader: What audience enjoys reading the type of poetry you like to write? Craft a note to your potential audience that addresses their biggest fears, hopes, and dreams.

85. All or Nothing: Share your thoughts on absolutist thinking: when one’s beliefs are so set in stone there are exceptions.

86. Ladders in the Sky: Imagine there are ladders that take you up to the clouds. What could be up there? What feelings do you have about climbing the ladders, or is their a mystery as to how they got there in the first place?

ladder poetry prompt
Where might this ladder to the sky lead? Write about it!

87. Always On My Mind: Compose a poem about what it’s like to always be thinking about someone or something.

88. Paranoia: What would it be like if you felt like someone was watching you but no one believed you?

89. Liar, Liar: How would you react to someone who lied to you?

90. Secret Word: What’s the magic word to unlock someone’s access to something?

91. For What It’s Worth: Use a valuable object in your home as inspiration as a poetry prompt idea.

92. Coming Home to Secrets: Imagine a person who puts on a good act to cover up a secret they deal with at home.

93. Productivity: Talk about your greatest struggles with time management and organization.

94. Defying Gravity: Use words that relate to being weightless and floating.

95. Signs of the Times: How has a place you are familiar with changed over the past 10 years?

96. Sleepless Nights: What ideas and feelings keep you up at night? What’s it like when you have to wake up in the morning on a night you can’t sleep?

97. You Can’t Fire Me, I Quit: Use one of the worst job related memories you can think of as a creative writing prompt.

98. By George: You can choose any name, but think of 3-5 notable figures or celebrities who share a common first name, and combine their personalities and physical characteristics into one piece of poetry. For example: George Washington, George Clooney, George Harrison.

99. Shelter: Write a poem about a time you were thankful for shelter from a storm.

100. Cafeteria: Create a poem inspired by the people who might be eating lunch in a cafeteria at school or at a hospital.

101. Dusty Musical Instruments: Base your poem around the plight of a musician who hasn’t picked up the guitar or touched a piano in years.

There are unlimited possibilities for ways you can use these poem ideas to write poetry. Using a list like this can greatly help you with getting into the habit of writing daily – even when you don’t feel inspired to write. While not every poem you write will be an award-winning masterpiece, using these poem starters as a regular exercise can help you better your craft as a writer.

I hope you enjoy these poetry prompts – and if you write anything you’d like to share inspired by these creative poetry writing prompts, let us know in the comments below – we love to see how others use writing ideas to create their own work!

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Amanda

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Amanda

I had a wonderful inspiration from prompt number 49 “On Shaky Ground,” although it’s not exactly about an earthquake. I wanted to share it on here, so I hope you enjoy it! Title: “Shaking Ground” The ground’s shaking My heart’s aching I’m getting dizzy My mind’s crazy On shaking ground It’s like I’m on a battleground We’re all fighting for love Dirtying our white glove The ground’s shaking My body’s quaking Love is so cruel Making me a fool On shaking ground We are all love-bound Stuck in a crate Nobody can avoid this fate The ground’s shaking We are… Read more »

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7 months ago
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Celestia Caspian

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Celestia Caspian

Thank you so much for this article! I love the profundity and open-endedness of the prompts. Here is a poem I wrote, drawing inspiration from #56, “No One Understands.” I wrote this from the perspective of a psychic Arcturian Starseed in her teenage years and how the world perceives her spiritual connection; while at the same time hinting at the true meaning of her various baffling actions. Enjoy 🙂 Starseed – a poem on perspective In the snow She stands alone Wrapped in shrouds of mystery Her gentle hand gloved with giving Caressing A violet stone Math class is dismissed… Read more »

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26 days ago

Michael

Guest
Michael

#79
I don’t know why he was so mad
Did he not get his mail
Was he already mad
Or did he only get bills

He swung his arm with force
He caused a loud bang
He hurt his own hand
He left with some blood

He is the man that punched the mailbox
His hand dripped blood on it
He left it with a dent
He left it alone after that

Reply
10 days ago

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