Saturday, October 5, 2013

Prompt #166 – Word Chain Poem by Guest Prompter Diane Lockward

This week’s prompt is from guest blogger Diane Lockward. Diane is the author of three poetry books, most recently, Temptation by Water. Her previous books are What Feeds Us, which received the 2006 Quentin R. Howard Poetry Prize, and Eve's Red Dress. She is also the author of two chapbooks, Against Perfection and Greatest Hits: 1997-2010. Her poems have been published in numerous journals and included in such anthologies as Poetry Daily: 360 Poems from the World's Most Popular Poetry Website and Garrison Keillor's Good Poems for Hard Times. She is the recipient of a NJ State Arts Council Poetry Fellowship and has received awards from North American Review, Louisiana Literature, and Journal of NJ Poets. Her newest book, The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop, was recently released by Wind Publications. The book includes helpful tips for writing poetry contributed by 56 distinguished poets, along with 27 model poems and prompts with 2 sample poems for each. 

Please note that you can order The Crafty Poet from the right sidebar by scrolling down to the book cover and clicking on it.

Be Sure to Visit Diane’s Website:
and Her Author Page at


The following prompt is one of ten bonus prompts in my new book, The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop. While the other prompts in the book are more complex and focused on craft techniques, the bonus prompts are quick and easy. They are also inexhaustible, that is, you can use them over and over again. You should never again find yourself at the desk with nothing to say.

The Word Chain Poem

Choose one word that you like the sound of. Be sure it has at least two syllables. Suggestions: purple, silver, yellow. I like colors because they immediately bring in the visual. But don’t feel limited to colors.

Now put your word on the top line of your paper, all the way to the right.

Jumping off that lead word, quickly brainstorm a list of words with similar sounds. Avoid exact rhymes. One word per line. Each single word should lead to the next. Do not go back to the original word. If you include only words with the same initial sound, this will result in nice alliteration in the poem you write. But this is an option, not a requirement.



Try to get at least ten words.

Now write a poem consisting of as many lines as you have words. Your first line will end with the first word in your list, the second line will end with the second word, and so on. Using the above example, line 1 will end with purple, line 2 will end with plump, and so on.

You should end up with a first draft that has some promising sounds, not exact rhymes but near rhymes.

Sample Poem:

Note from Diane: The list of words above is the beginning of the list I created for my own poem, "Love Song with Plum." As you read the poem, you'll see that I stuck with all "p" words, but remember that that's an option, not a requirement. Although I did not include my entire list here, from what I did include, you can see that I didn't stick one hundred percent to the original order of the words. During revision I moved some words around. I seem to recall that I also added some words not in the original list. What I'm sure of is that I had a good time writing this poem. I hope you have a good time writing yours.

by Diane Lockward

I take what he offers, a plum,
round and plump,
deeper than amethyst purple.
I lift the fruit from his palm.
Like Little Jack Horner, I want it in a pie,
my thumb stuck in to pluck
out that plum.
I want it baked in a pudding,
served post-prandial,
drenched in something potable,
and set on fire, to sit across from him and say, Pass
the pudding, please.
Spread on our morning toast, dollops of plum preserves,
and when we grow old, a bowl of prunes,
which, after all, are nothing more than withered plums.
But today the air is scented with plumeria,
and at this particular fruit stand, I’m plumb
loco in love with the plumiest
man. Festooned with peacock plumes
and swaddled in the plumage
of my happiness, I want to stand at the perimeter
of this plum-luscious
earth, sink a plumb
line for balance, then plummet
like a bird on fire, placate
all my desires, my implacable
hunger for the ripeness of my sweetheart’s plum.

Thank you, Diane, for sharing with us!


  1. Your guest prompts are such fun and this one is a great idea!

    Word bank prompts can be run-of-the-mill, but this one is so much more sophisticated and purposeful. Great for any age group or individual. Thanks, Diane Lockward.

    1. So glad you're enjoying the prompts. Diane's prompt is definitely sophisticated and purposeful, she's a master!

  2. I've heard Diane read several times (once as part of a Gothic Literature celebration at the Carriage House in Fanwood). She's a fantastic poet (and reader, and her husband's pub serves great food)!

  3. Loved Diane Lockward's earlier blog post here (a few years ago) on food poems. I bought her book Temptation by Water after that and was dazzled by it.

    Thanks so much, Adele, for all your prompts and now these wonderful guest prompters' ideas. This is one great blog!

    1. So glad you like the prompts and that you bought and enjoyed Temptation By Water. Thanks so much for your kind words!


  4. My ten words were:



    Oh mia bambina
    cara (I called you “mia carina”)
    in dreams of you and me, Katrina,
    we’re still stuck mourning your mother Celestina
    who at morning’s break fed your pair of puppies with Purina

    then served you your Farina
    and walked you school with Tina —
    the three of you trained actresses in an arena

    long forgotten but carrying proudly time’s patina:
    Few pillars standing, and browned temples in a city called Athena.

    1. What fun, Basil! So glad you took the prompt and "ran" with it! Thanks much for sharing with us.

  5. I have no clue how to post a comment. It didn't work with Google (probably because I'm not signed up with them). I'll try this with "name."

    I just wanted to say how much I enjoy this blog. There's so much info and such wonderful prompts. Last week's essay was fantastic, your pormpts and example poems are wonderful, and I really like that you invite other poets to be guest prompters.

    Anyway, here's a big THANK YOU!

    1. Hello, Christine! Your comment came through just fine, and I thank you for your kind words. Posting under "Name" or even "Anonymous" will work if you don't have a Google account. Thanks again!

  6. I have all three of Diane Lockward's poetry collections, and she's got to be the master of suggestion and metaphor when it comes to the sensual poem (and she does it all without ever being overtly sexual). Her lyrical work is great, and I'm especially intrigued with the way she works the music in her lines. You really hear it when you read the poems aloud (which is how I most enjoy reading poetry).

    Thanks for this post. Your whole blog is very nicely done.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Carole, and for the kind words. I'll send your thoughts on Diane's poetry along to her.

  7. Máire Ó Cathail (Ireland)October 8, 2013 at 8:50 AM

    Lovely, Adele and Diane!

    With my thanks,
    Máire Ó Cathail (Ireland)

    1. Thanks so much, Maire! I'll convey your message to Diane.

  8. Has my life become a joke?
    I tie my wishes to an oak
    and listen to the tales of folk
    One day I woke
    and lifted m;y yoke
    Life is good!
    It is not joke!

  9. corrections:

    It is not a joke!

  10. no time for tears
    no time for fears
    her death mask she wears
    as the grim reaper nears
    the sparrow hears her tears
    it sits in her hair
    and stares at the air
    as mares dare
    attend a fair
    the price of which is rare

    1. I've been waiting all week for your poem and you've sent us two! Thanks, Risa!

    2. A two-for-one prompt! One of the biggest challenges of rhyming is to make sure the poem's meaning doesn't become subordinate to the rhythm or rhyme. Bravo, Risa!