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Filtering by Tag: difficulty level 2/5

NaPoWriMo Poetry Prompt 28: It's Alive!

Sarah and Jeff Boyle

Difficulty Level 2/5

Pop culture is filled with toys coming to life. Kids’ books and movies—and horror movies, notably. Just to refresh your memory a little, there’s Corduroy, a teddy bear who lives in a department store and spends a night searching for his missing button:

There’s the Velveteen Rabbit, a book that made us cry as small children with its portrait of what makes a toy "real":

And on the other end of the spectrum, there is the horror of Chucky, a doll who is possessed by the spirit of a serial killer. No screenshots for Chucky, because that movie still freaks Jeff out and we are an all-ages blog. 

Your task today is write a poem about a toy that comes to life. Your toy may be lonely, like Corduroy or the Velveteen Rabbit. Your toy may be living a secret life, hidden from the world of people, like the toys of the “Toy Story” trilogy. Your toy could be a sinister force in the world, using its cuteness to disguise its ill intentions. Your toy could be possessed, a la Chucky. 

As you write your poem, you may want to use some of the techniques we talked about in the dramatic monologue prompt to structure the narrative of your poem. You may also want to revisit the monster poems we wrote to decide whether you tell the poem from your toy’s point of view or in the third-person, looking at the toy from a (safe?) distance.

Send us your toy poems at Take a picture of your toy, too, if you can. 

Update: See Sarah's response to this prompt here

NaPoWriMo Poetry Prompt 26: A Poem So Good You Can Taste It

Sarah and Jeff Boyle

Difficulty Level 2/5

Look in your kitchen. Is there anything there that you just cannot wait to eat? Is there something missing, something you’ve been craving all day and your family is out of it? That’s what you’re going to write about today.

True story: our son is allergic to dairy. So we don’t eat cheese, yogurt, milk or butter. None of those delicious fatty things that so many of us love. What do we use to replace those delicious dairy fats? Avocado. Our love of the avocado is deep and true.  Which is why it’s no surprise that this poem by Diane Lockward spoke so deeply to the family behind Flashbang!

Organic Fruit

I want to sing
a song worthy of
the avocado, renegade
fruit, strict individualist, pear
gone crazy. Praise to its skin

like an armadillo’s, the refusal
to adulate beauty. Schmoo-shaped
and always face forward, it is what it
is. Kudos to its courage, its inherent love
of democracy. Hosannas for its motley coat,
neither black, brown, nor green, but purple-hued,
like a bruise. Unlike the obstreperous coconut, the

avocado yields to the knife, surrenders its hide of leather,
blade sliding under the skin and stripping the fruit. Praise
to its nakedness posed before me, homely, yellow-green,
and slippery, bottom-heavy like a woman in a Renoir, her
flesh soft velvet. I cup the fruit in my palm, slice and hold,
slice and hold, down to the stone at the core, firm fist at the
center. Pale peridot crescents slip out, like slivers of moon.
Exquisite moment of ripeness! a dash of salt, the first bite
squishes between tongue and palate, eases down my

throat, oozes vitamins and oil. Could anything be more
delicious, more digestible? Plaudits to its versatility,
yummy in Cobb salad, saucy in guacamole, boldly
stuffed with crabmeat. My avocado dangles from
a tree, lifts its puckered face to the sun, pulls
all that light inside. Praise it for being small,
misshapen, and durable. Praise it for
the largeness of its heart.

(Poem originally appeared at Cultural Weekly. Reproduced here with permission of the poet.)

Notice how many ways Lockward describes the avocado. She describes its "hide of leather" that "yields to the knife." She compares the pit to a "firm fist at the center." It is "schmoo-shaped" and "purple-hued/like a bruise." And that's before she even describes what it's like to eat!

You may also have noticed that Lockward’s poem is shaped like an avocado, i.e., it’s a concrete poem. Concrete poems arrange the words on the page so they look like the object they are describing or referencing. The poem isn't just about an avocado, it embodies the avocado. 

Your challenge today is write a poem about a food. Make it come alive. Make your audience taste it, crave it, need it right now. Take a familiar food and make us taste it as if for the first time. Take an unfamiliar food and make us feel like we know exactly how it tastes even though we’ve never had it. Your possibilities here are, as they say, limitless.

Bonus Level Up Difficulty Level 4/5: Make your food poem a concrete poem. If you write about a banana, make the words into the shape of a banana. Hmm, I wonder how you could make a poem look like a bunch of grapes? If you figure it out, please send it along to us at

NaPoWriMo Poetry Prompt 24: Remix It Up

Sarah and Jeff Boyle

Difficulty Level 2/5

Remember, a week or two ago, when we made erasures? Today we're making a different kind of found poetry, the remix poem. The idea is pretty straightforward: find a text that someone else wrote. Then write a poem using ONLY the words and phrases in that text. Want to address your poem to a "you" but the text only has pronouns in the third person? Tough: think of something you can do with the words in front of you and nothing else.

Here's an example from poet Paulette Beete. She took the words from a review of Carmine Starnino's book Lazy Bastardism written by Michael Lista and Gwyneth Lewis and originally published in the April 2013 issue of Poetry, and used them to write this poem:

On Poetry

When deep within its nebulous corset
the poem dares disturb the peace
for God’s sake, do not make eye contact.
At best it’s an axe-grindy tattletale,
at worse a begloomed pilgrim wandering
the road less traveled. Poems are,
of course, notoriously short on epidermis.
Dylan Thomas used to describe a poem
as walking over glass on your eyeballs.
Unpigeonholability’s one of the forces
that makes poetry the raspberry in the face.
These vowel movements—combative,
dopamine-inducing, stabby—will help
a poet grow up, immediately make him want
to do something else.

(Poem originally appeared in Open Letters Monthly. Reproduced here with permission of the poet.)

And poet Renee Bartovics remixed this poem just for us! Here's what she started with:

And here's the poem she wrote:

Raising Night's Curtain

In the North Land
sunlight overslept-
nowhere in sight.

I awoke.
Looking outside
my eye caught it;
not a minute to waste.
Pulling up to the valley-
hanging in the woods-
parting my window curtains
and bedroom;

winding its way ahead,
running over the village
bathed in scarlet;
painted red as a fox,
a riding coat.

Already there
far up,

(Poem originally published as part of PoMoSco, a project of the Found Poetry Review, and reproduced here with permission of the poet.)

Want one more example? Cuz we've got it. Click here to see "Star Stuff" by Monica Reardon; it's based on a remembrance of Carl Sagan written by his daughter and published in New York Magazine. 

Now it's your turn: find a text to remix. It could be a couple pages out of a novel, a newspaper article, the directions and ingredients on the frozen pizza box--there's no limit to your choices. We recommend something with more words rather than fewer words, though, just so you have enough of those little words (from, by, he, they, can, have, had, will) that tie the exciting words together. Make a list of the words that catch your eye, and see how you can rearrange them to tell a new story or paint a new image. Send us what you come up with, and don't forget to include a note about the text you worked from. As ever, we're at

Our buttons for the Poem-A-Thon are sitting on the kitchen counter as you read. Come join us on Sunday from 3-5 at the East End Book Exchange to write poems, read poems, and have poems written for you. All proceeds from the event will go to Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council.