Saturday, October 15, 2011

Poetry Prompt #75 – WHY?

Why? How often do we ask that question in regard to a cause, reason, or purpose? “Why?” is arguably the most common question we ask others and ourselves (and, at times, one of the hardest to answer).

Newspaper reporters begin by asking six questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Of the six questions, five may be answered easily. Think for a moment of the game (and the movie) called “Clue.” In answer to a reporter’s questions, the answers might be that (who) Professor Plum (what) 
murdered Miss Scarlet (when) early in the morning (where) in the conservatory (how) with a candlestick. The most difficult question is “Why?” because asking why calls the rational, analytical, conscious mind into action. “Why?” needs an explanation – it isn’t based on purely factual information, and there may be different, equally acceptable ways of understanding the question. For example: Why did Professor Plum murder Miss Scarlet? Why did he use a candlestick instead of a knife?  Why did he commit the murder in the conservatory? “Why?” has much to do with motive and meaning.

I know you can see where I’m going with this: the prompt for the coming week is to write a poem in which we consider an important “why?” 


Five “whys” to reflect upon before you begin to write:
  • an unanswered question in your life,
  • the reason someone hurt your feelings or the reason you hurt someone else’s feelings,
  • the cause behind your feelings about a particular person, issue, or idea,
  • how “Why me, why Not me?” fits your personal experience,
  • the reason you have avoided making a decision.

Think hard about a “Why?” experience. Remember the details of time and place. Remember other people (if any) who were part of the situation. Or, alternatively, think about a “Why?’ question that troubles you and focus on the question rather than on an experience.

Consider a light approach and make this a humorous poem (for example, a list of funny “Why?” questions).

You might even make the timeless “Why?” question – “Why is the sky blue?” –  the foundation for a poem.

Another possibility is a poem titled “Why I Write Poetry.” Or, how about a poem entitled, "Ever Wonder Why?"

Here’s the challenge: avoid becoming overly psychological or philosophical and work to create strong, effective images. Show, don’t simply tell. 


  1. Th eternal question: WHY?

    What a fantastic prompt idea to make us think and perhaps use poetry to help define and clarify the "whys" in our lives.

    Thank you, Adele!


  2. Really creative idea - one that prompts introspection, healing, and personal growth.

  3. Thanks, bob.fiorellino! So glad the prompt resonates for you.

  4. Great idea and what a lovely way to encourage awarenesses!

    Máire Ó Cathail (Ireland)

  5. Thanks, Maire! Always good to hear from you!

  6. I had fun with this prompt, mulling over why I prefer writing poetry to fiction. My effort is linked in my signature. (Always enjoy these!)

  7. Hi Violet,

    I'm so glad to see that you're working with some of the older prompts and really glad to know that you had fun with this one!