NaPoWriMo: 30 New Poetry Prompts for National Poetry Month

For those who don't know, NaPoWriMo = National Poetry Writing Month where people vow to write a poem a day.

Every year I list 30 writing exercises, but I realize I've posted the same writing prompts 2 years in a row, so this year, I put together 30 new writing prompts for April.

I haven't quite decided if I'm going to participate in NaPoWriMo this year since I did a similar exercise with poets in February, but I'm feeling inspired, so maybe I will.

If you want to participate, here are some writing prompts I hope inspire you and your poems--


1. Write a poem that uses at least five of these words: sizzle, calico, mumble, marrow, fossil, cinnamon, chant, arrowhead, Jupiter, Saturn, dunes. Repeat one of those words three times in your poem.

2. Open the closest book to you to page 46. Count down 7 lines. That is the first line or the title of your poem.

3. Write a poem in the voice of fictional character (literary, cartoon, fairytale, etc.) you’ve always liked, but in the poem, have that character do something that you disagree with.

4. Take a poem you’ve written but never liked and circle the best words from that poem. Have those words end the lines in a new poem you will write.

5. Write a poem to your favorite constellation.

6. Write a poem where the opening line is something you’ve recently overhead in public (i.e. “I can’t find any bananas without spots, black spots everywhere…)

7. Take a cliché and play with it until you have something surprising, make that your opening line, title, or the last line to your poem.

8. Write to something (or someone) beautiful that is no longer here.

9. Title your poem, “Self-Portrait with ___________” and start writing from there.

10. Turn on some jazz music. Write a poem to the rhythm of the song you are listening to.

11. Write a poem in sentences that are no more than five words each.

12. Write a poem without punctuation about a secret you know or wish you knew.

13. Take these six words—Anteros, crippled, 
spindles, stairwell, threshold, and whirligig—and incorporate them into a poem.

When you’re done, send the finished poem to this anthology:
thelistanthology(at) (replace (at) with @)
by May 15, 2010.

 Submissions will only be accepted via e-mail.

Visit for more information.

14. Write an ode to something you dislike or something yucky.

15. Write a poem made up completely of lies, except make one line the truth.

16. Write a hundred words about someone who is living, but no longer in your life.

17. Write a list poem using only concrete nouns. Make the title an abstract word such as: Compassion, Jealousy, Envy, Wisdom, etc.

18. Find a very small scrap of paper and write your poem on that. See if the small space changes how/what you write.

19. Write a poem about something that feels dangerous to you.

20. Close your eyes and try to type out a country or city scene you can see in your mind.

21. Write a poem where the title is longer than the poem.

22. Take one word and repeat it at the end of every other line in your poem.

23. Write a poem that contains only questions.

24. Write ten favorite words on ten slips of paper. Begin your poem with “When I found…” Without looking, pick one of the words you’ve written and use it in your poem. Now, write 9 more lines and do the same thing for each line.

25. Find some crayons, colored markers, or colored pens/pencils and draw a picture of something, anything. Now write a poem about what you drew.

26. Grab the local paper or go online and choose a headline from the science or lifestyle section of the newspaper. Write a poem with that as the title.

27. Write down 6 things you did yesterday. Write down 6 questions you have about life. Write down 6 interesting images. Choose 3 from each category and use them in a poem.

28. Write a poem on a postcard. After you type the poem into your computer, mail the poem off to a friend.

29. Write a poem with a question as the title, but do not answer the question in the poem.

30. Write a poem where your first, last or middle name features prominently.

Congrats! You finished a month of poems! Now reward yourself by buying yourself a book of poems from a favorite or new poet.

See you next year!


  1. Thanks Kelli - I can;t wait for it to begin. Of course by the 20th of April my hair will be thinning.

  2. wow! these are fantastic! i can't wait to share this link on my blog next week :)

    April is National Poetry Month. The 3rd Annual “Paws for Poetry” Contest Challenges Kids to Write Sonnets to Spaniels, Prose for Persian Cats

    Colorado Springs, CO (March1, 2010) –April marks the 14th anniversary of National Poetry Month.
    To help celebrate, budding Emily Dickinsons and Edgar Allan Poes are encouraged to participate in the 3rd annual “Paws for Poetry” Contest ( To enter, children ages 5-12 are to write a poem to, and provide a photo of, their favorite animal friend. The contest is co-sponsored by kids’ virtual field trip Web site Meet Me at the Corner ( and Flashlight Press ( ).

    Original poems of any length may be submitted in one of two categories: Group One (ages 5-9) and Group Two (ages 10-12). One grand prize winner in each category will receive a prize package worth $50.00. Two runners-up in each category will receive a $25.00 gift package. Children’s author, poet, and Iraqi war veteran Thad Krasnesky, writer of the upcoming “That Cat Can’t Stay” (Flashlight Press, 2010) is the contest judge.

    In addition to the prize packages, winning poems and pet photos will be highlighted in an upcoming Meet Me at the Corner video pod cast. The pod cast will be videotaped at New York’s Angellicle Cat Rescue Center. Local students will present the winning poems.

    All submissions should be mailed to “Paws for Poetry” Contest, c/o Meet Me at the Corner, 20 West Del Norte, Colorado Springs, CO, 80908. The contest deadline is April 15, 2010.

    For more information, rules and submission guidelines, visit

  4. Not sure offhand if I'll try the poem-a-day thing this year, and not sure about doing the poem prompts here (a few sound interesting) -- though I got curious about number 2, and picked up the book lying closest to me, actually the only one at arm's length at the moment, went to page 46 and counted down seven lines. And the line is:

    "their lives, were condemned to fly eternally like leaves or spume"

    I may try something with that one.

    (The line is in the book "Poets in a Landscape" by Gilbert Highet, about the lives of several ancient Roman poets and the places where they lived. It was originally published 1957, and has been published in a new edition this year by New York Review Books. I just started reading it today and I like it so far.)

  5. Excellent ideas! I'm going to Twitter this post right now, it's awesome!!

  6. These are great! I will definitely be making use of this list in April

  7. Kelli, thank you!! These are wonderfully creative. And much appreciated. I just printed it out to keep with my journal.


  8. Oh, thank you for these! I use your prompts every year (and share them with a friend), and I wanted to come let you know that. I do give you credit. These really are splendid.


  9. Thanks for these - I've just discovered them via Carolee's blog. I'm having a hard time with the readwritepoem prompts and these will give me some welcome alternatives

  10. some of these are great prompts. thank you so much, i am running a writers workshop today and i think i might use one! good luck this year on your 30/30!

  11. Oh wow when i set out for some writing inspiration for school i didn't expect to find a twin! You remind me so much of myself! Same first name to, spelling and every thing! xD and this really helped me, looks like my paper will be turned in on time!


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