Saturday, January 10, 2015

Prompt #212 – Whatever You Do, Don't Read the Articles

If you’ve ever written for a newspaper, you know that newspaper articles must have headlines that say, “Stop and read this article.” They have to be accessible and engaging. The same is true for poems—“stop-and-read-me” titles (and first lines that invite you in) are imperative. And, like good newspaper headlines, good poems are driven by strong verbs. This week’s prompt uses newspaper headlines as the springboard for your poems.


Pick up any newspaper (current or old) and write any headlines that “jump out at you” on a piece of paper. Whatever you do, don’t read the articles, only the headlines.

Jot down headlines that immediately flash an image for you or cause you to remember something from your own or someone else’s past.

Jot down headlines that “speak” to you either figuratively (metaphorically), creatively, or remind you of actual events.

After you’ve written 5-10 headlines, sit back and read through them slowly. Make a few notes for each one.

Now, choose one and begin to write a poem based on what the headline suggested to you. Feel free to make up the content of the poem—you aren’t limited to actual experience.

For an interesting twist, check online for a foreign language newspaper, find a translation of the headline, and see what you can do with a headline in a language other than the text of your poem.


Use the active, not passive voice and strong present-tense verbs to create a sense of immediacy.

Try working with a “first, then, next” format to give the poem a sense of chronology or sequence, possibly formatting your poem in three stanzas. Feel free to make your stanzas long and closely packed.

Consider writing a narrative poem (though this is only a suggestion and not a requirement).

Work on strong verbs and a few, well-chosen adjectives.

Watch out for “ing” endings and prepositional phrases—eliminate these wherever you can.

Work on sound in your poem—that is, concentrate on alliteration, assonance, and a few internal rhymes or anaphora to give your poem a kind of music. Read your poem aloud with each bit of editing and revision and think about how it sounds.

The exact text of the headline that inspired you needn’t be included anywhere in the poem.


Couldn’t find a single one, so please send me some!


  1. I've got a flu bug, stuck in bed, but having so much fun with this. The biggest challenge is not reading the articles. Some of the headlines are so inviting (especially in 'The Sun').

    1. Hope you feel better very soon, Jamie! I'm glad to hear that you're enjoying the prompt (and those Sun headlines)!

  2. This is great, Adele, and will work well in my classroom. I plan to bring in bunches of old newspapers for the students to use. Thanks!

  3. How about a poem that's a composite of many newspaper headlines? Not very original, but interesting to see how the headlines might be compiled into a kind of "sense."

    1. Great idea, Sandy! Kind of like the Cento form. Let us know how the idea works for you.

  4. A very interesting idea and a good way to start the New Year. Sadly, there is much in the newspapers that is sad and frightening. One might try to look for an upbeat headline or go with something less so.

  5. Masks

    We all love to play
    at being someone else
    walking in someone else's shoes
    if we can remove the mask
    and return to our regular life
    with our ordinary daily mask
    that we hide behind
    from ourselves and others
    Where is our original face?
    The one we had before birth
    The one we so desire
    to see
    to be
    Strip our phoney personas
    and be born anew

    1. Sounds like a wonderful New Year resolution—"Strip our phoney personas and be born anew."

      Well done! It's so nice to read you on the blog again. Happy New Year!

    2. Lovely, Risa! Thanks for sharing. Great to see you back on the blog!

  6. Thank you, Adele and furbaby Happy New Year and it is good to get back in the loop!

  7. Thanks, Jamie. Happy New Year. Great to be back!