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Filtering by Category: writing prompts

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. 

NaPoWriMo Poetry Prompt 23: Viral Poems

Sarah and Jeff Boyle

Difficulty Level: 4/5

Being the technically savvy people you are, we assume you have heard of Vines. They’re 6-second video snippets that loop over and over and over. We've noticed that the finest Vines function like perfect lines of poetry.

And, look, this is a safe for school blog, but I gotta point you here: Eyebrows on Fleek. It is most definitely not safe for school, but it is undeniably poetic.

So, this prompt is a little tricky. You’ve got to come up with a line you can say in six seconds. And that line has to hold up to endless loops—it should get funnier each timeor weirder. Then you gotta film it. As you think of how to film it, consider whether you want to film yourself or a friend reciting your line of poetry or whether the words will be a voiceover with an accompanying moving image. Don't forget to post ‘em and send us the links.

Have you registered for the Poem-A-Thon yet? Sign up to write poems and raise money for the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council today! And don't forget to send us your poems for publication on this here blog:

NaPoWriMo Prompt 22: Singing the Praises of

Sarah and Jeff Boyle

Difficulty: 2/5

Let’s face it: you have rotten days. We all do. There are days when it seems like there is nothing good in your life. That said, everyone has some object of solace, which is to say, something that is undeniably awesome all the time, every day. It might be a quilt from your grandmother, the tree outside your window, your best pair of shoes, or even a pet. For Christopher Smart (b. 1722), it was his cat, Jeoffry.

There are many old, “important” poems that are hard to get at, to tease apart what exactly the author was writing about. Not this one: Chris is talking about how awesome his cat was (and, if we’re honest, how his cat is working in the service of god--but that’s extra information that is neither here nor there for the prompt). For our purposes, however, this poem is a list of awesome things about his cat.

Your assignment for today to pick one thing in your life that is always great, no matter how bad your day is, and write a poem in its praise. Like so many of these assignments, the goal to examine something you've seen a thousand times before on a level you haven't thought about. Where did this amazing thing come from? Why is it so important? What are its qualities that set it apart from other things? Have you imbued with a story it tells itself? Is it aware of its own importance?

These are the things that stick around, that we share with a select few, that we keep in case we have kids because obviously they will love it as much as we do. Sometimes things are damn important.

Excerpt from “Jubilate Agno, Fragment B, [For I will consider my Cat, Jeoffry]”
by Christopher Smart
For he can fetch and carry, which is patience in employment.
For he can jump over a stick, which is patience upon proof positive.
For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.
For he can jump from an eminence into his master’s bosom.
For he can catch the cork and toss it again.
For he is hated by the hypocrite and miser.
For the former is afraid of detection.
For the latter refuses the charge.
For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business.
For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly.
For he made a great figure in Egypt for his signal services.
For he killed the Icneumon rat, very pernicious by land.
For his ears are so acute that they sting again.
For from this proceeds the passing quickness of his attention.
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.
For I perceived God’s light about him both wax and fire.
For the electrical fire is the spiritual substance which God sends
from heaven to sustain the
           bodies both of man and beast.
For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.
For, though he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadruped.
For he can tread to all the measures upon the music.
For he can swim for life.
For he can creep.

Are you keeping up with the prompts? Do you have one you feel really good about? Or a poem you've started before and have been compelled to finish during NaPoWriMo? Don't forget to send us your poems for publication on this here blog: