Saturday, March 22, 2014

Prompt #181 – Literary Locations: Places You've Never Seen

The challenge this week is to write a poem about a place from literature that you’ve never seen. The place may be real or imaginary, filled with real or imaginary details, and peopled with made-up or actual persons. The goal is explore the significance and possibilities of place in a poem.
The only requirement is that you must write about a location that’s highlighted in a literary work and, if it’s an actual place, it must be one you’ve never visited.
1. Write about any famous literary location that never existed in reality (Lilliput, Wonderland, Avalon, Camelot).

2. Based on a work of literature such as “The Idylls of the King” by Tennyson, you might want to place yourself in a different historical period. For example, you might want to write about medieval times. You can include a castle, knights, peasants, and then get into the nitty gritty of what life was really like back then: no indoor bathrooms, no running water, no wash-and-wear fabrics, no washing machines, more serfs than aristocrats, no easy means of long distance communication, etc.
3. After choosing an actual literary place to write about, research that place online or perhaps even use Google Maps.
4. Using the text of a myth or legend (may be found online), write about a mythological or legendary place (i.e. Valhalla, Asphodel Meadows, Elysian Fields, Mount Olympus, Tír na nÓg).

5. Write about places such as James Joyce’s Dublin; Anne of Green Gable’s Prince Edward Island; or Florence, Italy (the setting for  E.M. Forster's A Room with a View and Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady).

6. Here are some more literary locations that you might consider “visiting” in your poem:

Atlantis (noted in Plato’s writings, an island with an advanced civilization that was lost in preclassical times and never found.

Camelot (cited in various works of literature as the place of King Arthur’s court).

El Dorado (from Spanish legend, the name of a Native American chieftain and the city and city he ruled; a metaphor personal fulfillment).

Faerie (from various European fairy tales and folktales, the magical realm of fairies and related “beings”).

Gotham City (the home of batman).

Hogsmeade Village (from the Harry Potter novels, inhabited exclusively by magical beings).

Middlemarch (the setting from George Eliot’s Middlemarch, a fictional town in 19th century England).

Neverland (from J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, an idyllic land that serve as a metaphor for escapist thinking and eternal childhood).

Shambhala (a mythical and ideal hidden kingdom in Central Asia).

Shangri-La (a paradise from James Hilton’s novel Lost Horizon).

Utopia (from Sir Thomas More’s allegorical novel Utopia about an idealized society).

Xanadu (from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan,” an idealized place of lavish grandeur).

1. Be sure to identify the literary work that inspired your place poem. You may do this in the title, subtitle, within the poem, or in a note at the end of the poem.

2. Treat the place you’re writing about as if it were a “main character” in your poem.

3. Write about what the place means to you (and what it might mean to others).

4. Think about how your literary location might be a metaphor for something else.

5. What might this location teach you and your readers?

6. What theme and universal truth does your chosen literary location hold?

7. Avoid clichés and hackneyed expressions in describing the place you’ve chosen.

8. Think and write about the significance of place.


For a comprehensive list of poems about places visit


  1. Brilliant, Adele! I especially love your prompts that are like little lessons -- this one a lesson of place. Thank you!

  2. I am a student writing from India. I find your blog most helpful in my writing and deeply enjoy the quality and content you offer. I send you my thanks.

    Ajita Bhatti

    1. Thanks so much, Ajita, for taking the time to comment. Your kind words are much appreciated.

  3. How do you come up with these fantastic ideas? Another to take to the classroom. Thanks, Adele.

  4. Thanks, Rich! I really work hard on the prompts, and it's wonderful to know that you find them useful. I hope your students like this one.

  5. Well done, Adele! Another really great idea.

  6. Neverland

    Michael Jackson
    What are you doing in Neverland?
    Where's Peter?
    We can dance, you and I,
    but I want to fly!
    never land!
    I want to be like Tinkerbell
    like a butterfly
    and simply fly
    not be earthbound
    never land

    1. This is wonderful, Risa -- great "characters" in it from Michael Jackson to Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, and butterflies. (And even the OMG that remembers a previous prompt.) Thanks for sharing. (I missed seeing you among the comments last week.)

    2. Wonderful play on the words "never" and "land!" Thanks so much for sharing, Risa! Jamie's right —we missed you last week!

    3. Thank you, Adele and Jamie! I must have gone through a time warp or black hole or something, but....I'm back on track.

    4. Nicely done, Risa. I used your poem as an example in my classroom, and got into a discussion about Peter Pan and Never Land. The students wrote some really wonderful poems. Adele, you might like this: one students wrote about never land from the point of view of Captain Hook.

  7. What a fun idea -- educational too with all those place names and the literary works from which they came. I don't always comment, but I enjoy your blog every week. Thanks so much, Adele!

    1. Thanks, Marie, I'm so glad you're enjoying the blog.