Saturday, October 30, 2010

Poetry Prompt #29 – Took from a Book

This week’s prompt is an exercise in “found inspiration” that borrows incentive from reading materials that you have at home. Take any book from your shelf (or any magazine that you’ve saved), and open it randomly. Read whatever you find on that page. As you read, create a list of 10-12 words and/or phrases from the text. After you’ve created your list, think about the words and phrases you’ve chosen. Consider:

1. Are there any possible relationships among the words?  Do they suggest a tone or mood?
2. Do any jog your memory to a specific time, place, or person? 
3. Does a particular word or phrase speak to your muse? 
4. Do any of the words suggest a “tale” that you might want to tell in a poem? 
5. Is there a hint of the fantastic in the words you’ve chosen, something that you might work into a surreal-style poem? (Read some surrealist poems by André Breton, Paul Éluard, and Charles Simic.) 

Now try to write a poem in which you use some of the words and phrases from your list. Remember that you don’t have to use all the words you selected (although you certainly may if you wish). Another approach to this prompt is to choose words and phrases from a poem or story by a writer whose work you admire. For example, here are some interesting words from “The Harvest Bow” by Seamus Heaney: harvest, silence, trust, throwaway, the unsaid, golden loops, evening, blue smoke, burnished, passage, warm. 

Keep in mind that your poem may use a few words “borrowed” from another source, but the content should be uniquely your own.


  1. I like the surrealist idea – great for Halloween week. Thanks for the season-appropriate Simic poems, and for the word choice examples from Heaney's "Harvest Bow."

  2. Thanks, Bob – I thought it might be interesting and appropriate for Halloween week.

  3. Thanks, Adele. This is interesting and a great help for those times when "writer's block" gets in the way of writing.

    Libby Jacobs

  4. I used a Janet Evanovich book and really had fun with this! (Not a good enough poem to post, but relaxing and fun to play with Evanovich's words.)