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12 POETRY FORM PROMPTS FOR THE NEW YEAR
Ah, time! It's as arbitrary as it is sublime.
I'll be honest, I'm not a frequenter of fancy New Year's Eve parties, and my track record for midnight kisses is pathetic (I actually had to wake my husband up for five seconds, and he promptly went back to sleep). Still, I admire New Year's Day as a marker that helps us to reflect on how we're spending our time. In the words of Gretchen Rubin of The Happer Project podcast, a new year is a great cue to ask ourselves "What would I like to change about my life? How could it be better than before?" If the answer to either of those questions involves challenging yourself creatively, then grab a pen (or laptop, tablet - whatever the kids are using these days) and try out these 12 poetic forms (try writing a few throughout the month).
1. Acrostic. You may be well familiar with acrostics, which use each line's first letter to spell out a word. Well, it's about time to reimagine them. Try using this simple form in a deeper way to honor someone special in your life. Read Georgiana Augusta Keats by John Keats
2. Ode. If you had a time capsule, what item would you want future generations to know about? Why not write an ode confessing your appreciation for it? Read An Ode to Chocolate by Catherine Habbie
3. Book Spine Poetry. Go to your local library (they still have those, right) or browse through your personal collection to arrange book titles poetically. For inspiration, search #bookspinepoetry on Instagram - and follow WriteSpike while you're there.
4. Haiku. It wouldn't be a poetry form list without the haiku. Immensely popular, this poetic form generally has 3 lines composed of 5.7.5. syllables and relates to nature. Read Old Pond by Basho (the Japanese version has 5.7.5. For some reason, the English translation does not)
5. Limerick. These light-hearted five-line poems follow a set rhyme sequence. The 1st, 2nd, and 5th lines rhyme, and the 3rd and 4th lines form a couplet. Don't be afraid to get a little cheeky with this one. Listen to modern limericks on NPR; they're a regular feature on my favorite podcast, "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!"
6. Viator. This may be a new one or you. Created by a Canadian poet, a viator has several stanzas where the first line of the poem is repeated - it becomes the 2nd line of the 2nd stanza, the 3rd line of the 3rd stanza, and so on until the poem ends with that same line. Read Dover Beach Revisited by Robin Skelton
7. Jitanjafora. Have you ever tried making up your own language? This Spanish term signifies using words or expressions that have no meaning but have phonetic appeal. The beloved Dr. Seuss made up words in his rhymes, and, of course, many songs feature phonetic brilliance like We Go Together from Grease. A-womp bop a-looma, a-womp bam boom!!
8. American Cinquain. Inspired by the Japanese haiku, this five-line poem also has a specified syllable count. The lines are made up of 18.104.22.168.2. syllables. Read 28 cinquains in Verse by Adelaide Crapsey.
9. Nursery Rhyme. Mary had a little lamb, Old MacDonald had a farm. Write an imaginative nursery rhyme for a child in your life. It should have fun, grade-school level rhymes and include a moral lesson. Read Gammar Gurton's Garland by Joseph Ritson
10. Bouts-rimés. Get your poetry community involved! For this work, exchange a list of rhymed words with another poet and challenge each other to complete a poem. Jane Austen and her family often composed poems with this game.
11. Spoken Word. Performance poetry is written for the stage, rather than the page. Poems are usually under 5 minutes and are memorized. Get out to an open mic or poetry slam and share your work! Watch World Citizen by Andrea Hope (yours truly)
12. Ars Poetica. Now that you've had so much experience, write a poem about the art of writing poems. You read that right! An ars poetica, or "art of poetry", gives the author's take on how poems should be written. Read Ars Poetica by Archibald Macleish
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