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NaPoWriMo PoetryPrompt 16: Poem as Back and Forth

Sarah and Jeff Boyle

Difficulty Level 3/5

You need a partner for today’s prompt. Go ahead, go find one. While you’re at it, find a recording device, too. You can use your phone or a computer or a micro-recorder. Anything that will record what you say so you can play it back later. We’ll wait while you get yourself in order.

Your task today is to write a poem out loud with your partner, taking turns saying one word at a time. Record yourselves while you do it, so you can go back and transcribe the poems later. It should go something like this:

Partner 1: Once
Partner 2: 1
Partner 1: sneezed
Partner 2: so
Partner 1: suddenly
Partner 2: my
Partner 1: brother
Partner 2: screamed
Partner 1: Oh
Partner 2: Why!

Today’s prompt is based on Nice Hat. Thanks. by Matthew Rohrer and Joshua Beckman. Rohrer and Beckman wanted to make poetry together, so they headed out into the park together and recorded themselves composing poems aloud, one word at a time. When they did it, they wrote two line poems:

I fell at the party.
I'm still at the party.


Bring me the bloody head
of your last boyfriend.


He heard a crash
and blamed himself.


They wrote three-line poems:

Staying out all night
they came to a ravine
where it was morning.


We're so serious
we can't even change our shoes
without crying.

(Poems from Nice Hat. Thanks. Copyright 2002 by Joshua Beckman and Matthew Rohrer. Published by Verse Press. Reprinted with permission of the authors and Wave Books.)

They wrote longer, poems, too. But today, we want you to focus on creating a series of 2-, 3-, and/or 4-line poems. Challenge yourselves to make jokes, describe something in as few words as possible, create images and juxtapositions that will surprise the reader. The trick here is to keep the poem going by saying a word that follows from the previous word but isn’t the most obvious choice. When you’re done, play back your recording, type out your poems, and send them along to us. If you’re feeling bold, send us your audio, too. We're at

Have you registered for the Poem-A-Thon yet? Sign up to write poems and raise money for the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council today! We just ordered some pretty sweet one-inch buttons that are yours for free if you play along with us. Join us in person in Pittsburgh on April 26th at the East End Book Exchange for the Poem-A-Thon Write-In and Reading