Category Archives: Poetry



In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt.

Closeup of stethoscope isolated on white table

Litany of Diseases
(and some things that are not)
by ARHuelsenbeck



Scarlet fever
Yellow fever

Chicken pox
E. coli and

Bird flu
Swine flu

Your grandma’s old credenza

Common cold
Mad cow disease
Ebola and

West Nile virus
Lyme disease
Addictive cellophonia

Cholera, mumps
Malaria and

Tetanus and



In response to The Daily Post promptthin.

Ask a Supermodel; I wouldn’t Know

What’s it like to be thin?dandelion

You’re like downy dandelion seeds:
Easily dispersed by a stiff breeze.
You don’t know what a chocolate éclair is.
You only eat lettuce and water.
Your size is never sold out.
At a party, everybody talks to you
Wanting to be your best friend
While the heavier people stand alone.
People assume you’re smarter and richer than you really are.
You always get attention when you want it.
When you don’t, you just stand sideways and disappear.

25 Poetry Prompts

25 Poetry Prompts

I would never ever have written a poem if I’d waited for inspiration. I am rarely inspired before I work.

Instead, I need a starting point. I start to write, play with the words awhile, and then the inspiration comes.

I managed to write 16 poems during April, National Poetry Month. But only 11 of them grew out of the official daily prompts. Too often I stare at a prompt and think, I’ve got nothing.


Some of my best poems come from exercises in poetry textbooks. I’ve worked through poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, and I’m currently studying The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop by Diane Lockward. I take the exercises very seriously, as if I were being graded in a college course.

My second favorite source of prompts is The Daily Post. These single words often spark an association my brain wants to explore (like those word-association activities where someone says a word and you say the first thing that comes to mind). I most often interpret these prompts in a poem, though you can use any medium. The added benefit of these prompts is, once you finish your piece (or before, but I wait until after) you can see how other people interpreted the prompt. (Click on a prompt, and choose from the linked responses.)

Poets on the Page hosts an October poetry challenge with daily prompts, and provides somewhat weekly prompts the rest of the year.

Sometimes my motivation for a poem comes from a form rather than prompt. I usually write free verse, but the poems that delight me have meter and rhyme, so I try to experience traditional forms as well. A good resource is the Poetry Types page on Shadow Poetry.


Here are 25 prompts designed by me to help you start a poem. These are just suggestions, not limitations. Feel free to let them be jumping off points for your own imagination.

  1. Metaphors—tell how one thing is like another (such as how my Mustang is like the space shuttle or my spaghetti dinner is like Medusa’s head).
  2. Symbols—explore a theme with a recurring symbol, like a knife for separation or an alarm clock for aging.
  3. Choose a color and make a list of at least 10 things that are that color. Then write a poem that connects those things by a quality other than color. (What do an apple, a rose, a barn, wine, and blood have in common other than redness?)
  4. Drawing on an incident from your childhood, what do you understand about it now that you didn’t then?
  5. Create a hero and send him on a quest. Write an epic poem describing his adventures over 40 years.
  6. Your grandchildren will never experience certain things that were common during your lifetime. Choose one of them (video rental stores, S&H green stamp redemption centers, telephone booths, boom boxes, Barney the dinosaur) and describe in minute detail.
  7. Describe a time when you suffered from culture shock. (When I was 10, we visited my aunt’s house in Germany, which didn’t yet have a flush toilet.)
  8. What is your favorite flower? Describe it to someone who has never seen it.Yellow flower
  9. Describe a place you where you used to live. How was it unique?
  10. Describe someone who was once your friend. What did you like about him or her? Why did the friendship end?
  11. What is the most important advice you could give to someone graduating from high school or college?
  12. If you had to travel across the country, which form of transportation would you choose? Extol its virtues.
  13. What is the best planet? Explain why.nasa-43566-unsplash
  14. Using all your senses, tell what it’s like to hold a newborn baby (or kitten, or puppy, or calf).
  15. What is it like to watch an elderly person deteriorate?
  16. Enumerate the steps in washing windows.
  17. Pretend you’re a sixteen-year-old choosing a prom dress. What would the ideal dress look like?pete-bellis-422421-unsplash
  18. What do you like to do that other people pay professionals to do? (Paint rooms? Change tires? Lay sod? Plan parties?) Tell about the satisfaction of a job well done.
  19. What is the best thing about early in the morning? Or about late at night?
  20. What is your favorite type of birdsong? Why?
  21. You’re on the lip of the Grand Canyon, or at the North Pole, or climbing hundreds of steps to the top of an ancient Mayan temple. Describe what you see and how it makes you feel.sam-loyd-499655-unsplash
  22. You lost your child at a crowded fairground. What do you do?
  23. What was the worst experience of your life?
  24. What was the best experience of your life?
  25. What is the greatest honor you’ve ever received?

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Did these prompts help you to write a poem? Feel free to share it with us in the comments below.


Chorus + Paint = Chaos


This poem was inspired by today’s The Daily Post prompt: rapid. My first thought was the line from the old Clement Moore poem: “More rapid than eagles, his coursers they flew.” From there it morphed to the last line of the poem below. I only had to come up with a premise and nine more lines.


Photo by R.G. Daniel.


The choral director mopped his brow.
His soprano soloist mooed like a cow.

The tenors and basses howled like hounds.
He cut them off. “You’re out of bounds.

“I want a tone that’s mellow and soft.”
The alto section yelled and scoffed.

To get his charges under restraint
He doused them with leftover azure paint.

Instead of calming, they kicked and threw.
More rabid than beagles, his choristers blue.

NaPoWriMo Day 29


Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was to choose a poem by Sylvia Plath and write a poem that responds or engages with the chosen Plath poem in some way. I chose Elm. I noticed that three of its fourteen verses started with I am,” so that phrase became the mantra on which I based my poem.

Death_to_stock woman drinking coffee on bed


by ARHuelsenbeck

I am alone
in a room full of people. I am invisible.
I am unknown.

I am a shadow
of my former self, quiet where I used to be loud,
slow where I used to be quick.

I am a memory
long forgotten, a distant past, an ancient

I am terrified
of the dark, of the things hidden inside darkness, of the dark things
hidden inside me.

I am inhabited
by thoughts, divergent thoughts, fighting to be written down before
they are forgotten forever.

I am incapable
of holding a grudge. I must forgive. I create myriad possible explanations
for behavior that initially offended me.

I am an observer.
The once unnoticed is now a specimen to be studied. The simple is intricate,
the complex plain.

I am aware
of silent songs. A hush whispers expectations. A sigh speaks
a soliloquy.

I weep in the face of beauty.
The Creator must love me, to have designed wonders for me
that no one else can see.

Youth is wrested
from my grasp. I would rather not look back.
Let me forget and move forward.

I am arthritic.
Movement is pain. Pleasure comes
only with great cost.

I yearn for peace,
for a day without obligation, without schedule, without agenda,
without purposeless hurry.

I am impatient
for the next chapter. I’ve been stalled far too long.
The familiar is contemptible.

I am ready—
ready to enter my eternal home, ready to meet my Master.
I am, I am, I am.

NaPoWriMo Day 27

NaPoWriMo Day 27

I’m not using the NaPoWriMo prompt today. When I looked at The Daily Post prompt, notable, it reminded me of notes. I used to be an elementary general music teacher, and last night I had a recurring dream: I suddenly had to go back to work, and they gave me an unfamiliar room and no class lists, and I had no lesson plans prepared, and my first class arrived…

Treble_Clef_Barnstar public domain

Note Able
by ARHuelsenbeck

Young voices singing slightly out of tune
Their fervor making up for lack of skill
Recorders blaring, grating, sounding shrill
My music teacher’s ears from harm immune

Round hand drums pounding jungle rhythms loud
Slim rhythm sticks articulating beat
The xylophones play melodies so sweet
While dancers improvise their movements proud

My chord progressions steadily keep time
While tambourines crescendo to the end
Triangles and maracas with them blend
While glockenspiels and finger cymbals chime

Not long ago these were my daily themes
But now they’re relegated to my dreams


NaPoWriMo Day 22


Today’s prompt is to choose an impossible statement to compose a poem about.

sad girl nguyen-nguyen-564338-unsplash


a circle can’t have corners
by ARHuelsenbeck

in a forgotten corner she sits invisible
observing the popular girls
talking laughing
their circle an impenetrable wall
keeping her out uninvited

in first grade they were all friends
in seventh they are not
she is excluded
whispered about

NaPoWriMo Day 21


Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a poem that plays with the myth of Narcissus.

Narcissus masaaki-komori-629914-unsplash

by ARHuelsenbeck

I hear those blasted pipes, pipes
I turn and see Pan, Pan
With his horny head, head
And his hairy legs, legs
With their cloven hooves, hooves
Grotesque, tesque

I turn away and gaze at my love, love
His handsome face mirrored in the water, ter
Why don’t you return my feelings, lings
Your eyes seek only your own face, face
Could it be there’s nothing there, there
Just a shallow reflection, tion

NaPoWriMo Day 19


I’m off-prompt today.

First Lutheran Church Washburn, North Dakota


Maundy Thursday
by ARHuelsenbeck

The last rays of light barely illuminate the stained glass windows.
It’s not a Sunday; no one is required to attend tonight.
Nevertheless, a crowd of hushed worshippers sit expectantly.
I’m blessed to be among them.
I belong here.
I’ll be ringing in the handbell choir.
The choir will sing.
The sanctuary will peal with praise.
The Good News will be proclaimed.
Six boys will experience the Lord’s Supper for the first time.
At the close of the service, we’ll each light a candle and place it in the holders on the altar.
Our prayers will rise to the throne of God.

NaPoWriMo Day 18


Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt is to revise someone else’s poem from the bottom up. I used Mary Oliver’s RiceI then moved one line to a different place and edited it some more.



Give Thanks for the Rice
by ARHuelsenbeck

Say a blessing that overflows, like mud seeping through your fingers
(Move over so you don’t get any on the tablecloth)
For the rice so recently boiling in shimmering water
Don’t eat until you’re satisfied
Get up from the table
Where the wineglass holds tiger’s blood
Return to the fields with me
The crop is ready to release its sustenance
The kernels feathery among the grasses
So slender and erect
Shaded by wild animals
Product of mud